This isn’t going to be a rehash of… brown people on the cover of a book means no sales. I can’t answer that. I don’t think that it’s true but I also don’t have any evidence one way or another to speak about it with any sense. So… I’m going to leave that to the side.
What I have noticed is the discussion about the Asians in my books and how some people view them. I’ve heard for years Asian men are read as “feminine” by US readers and to some extent, I guess? I don’t know about that either. I usually try to make sure I hit the cultural notes of writing an Asian character and I have noticed one thing… if the character is depicted as Asian on the cover, this impression seems to carry through.
Case in point… two very different characters; Cole McGinnis and Miki St. John.
Both of them are mixed. Literally half Asian and half European. Both of them actually don’t have an Asian upbringing although Miki has more Asian influences from living in Chinatown but neither one of them is culturally Asian. Cole is depicted as more Anglo-featured on the covers whereas Miki is more Asian looking. This was done because of choices available and well, how they appear. Cole is bulkier and there was only one stock model that came close to what Miki could look like. Don’t get me started on trying to find Asian men in stock photography.
Now, if I had to talk about which one of these characters I would not want to meet in a dark alley while pissed off, it’s hands down Miki. While he’s probably more broken than Cole, he’s a hell of a lot more street smart and well, can be as mean as junkyard dog. Okay probably meaner since he literally has a junkyard dog named Dude and that pupper is very sweet.
Cole’s more of a white knight and well, is cowed by a tiny black cat so there you go there. Cole would save you from Miki. And probably break his nose while doing so.
So here comes the discussion, what leads to this “femme” impression on an outwardly Asian character? Or at least a main character depicted as Asian on a cover but isn’t written as being culturally Asian.
Cole’s lover, Jae-Min, is also framed in these terms and he’s very culturally Korean. So let’s toss that into the mix.
I think a lot of it has to do with someone’s idea of what masculine is. That a man can’t be emotive or reflective in any open way without having his masculine identity taken from him. We see this all the time in how writers and film makers treated the “pansy” stereotype of a gay man in the past and to some extent, this transfers to the Asian man because often times, their body shape is less bulky, less hairy and definitely not fitting into the archtype of a manly man as seen by the West.
Mind you, this is spaghetti against the wall talk. I have no idea. I’m trying to make some sense of it only as a way to see someone else’s perspective because I don’t see any of these characters as feminine. I see them as people I’ve created who have different ways of reacting to things.
Am I offended by someone calling my character feminine? Truth? No? Yes? I don’t know. I think it does minimize the character, shoving them into a gender box no man should belong in. So much of today’s society really could use a little bit of what traditionally is called feminine energy but in reality, it’s just being human.
Men shouldn’t cry. They shouldn’t show emotion. They shouldn’t hug. Or care for another man as a friend. Their relationships should be couched in grunts and manly hugs. The only time tenderness should be shown is if it’s to their kid and only when it’s small because hugging your grown son is just weird.
I’m guilty of thinking this. I have in the past. It’s hard to change what we’ve been taught and I’m not even a guy so I can’t even begin to imagine how fucking hard it is to deal with being told you can’t do these things that show how you feel just because you have a dick. Women are now being told it’s okay to be strong. Well, guys… it’s okay to be strong and cry. Or laugh. Or hug. (Preferably with the consent of whomever you’re hugging).
So… what’s your take on this? Think on stuff and let me know. I’d like some opinions. Mostly because I really want to hear other people’s perspectives on this. Phone lines are open. Keep it civil and most of all, decide if you want ketchup on your eggs or not. But… if someone does and you don’t, just pass them the bottle.