I read a lot of reviews. Not just for my books, but reviews in general. I find them interesting. One review I read recently mentioned that the author had introduced some great new characters and some were finally non-whites. Okay, I admit I don’t notice this sort of thing very often when I read. Usually if the characters are fleshed out and “real” I don’t care if they are white, black, Asian, or whathaveyou unless it happens to be pertinent to the story somehow. When I’m done with a book, I almost always have to look up the NAME of the main character. It doesn’t occur to me to look up whether they were a certain ethnicity. In short, I simply don’t care. If the character fits the story, I don’t notice.
I sometimes will notice if character(s) are of a certain religion. It’s noted in passing because religious affiliations can determine some actions or personality. For example, if I’m reading about an atheist I wouldn’t expect him to run to a church for protection. If someone is described as Jewish, I expect various eating and/or ceremonies to correctly depict the upbringing (or at least mention deviations from it). I don’t expect a Jewish character to start attending Catholic Mass halfway through the book, at least not without a reason.
But here’s the thing. One review I read suggested that to be a perfect series, the writer needed to include gay/lesbian characters next and also some disabled characters. Huh? Why? I’ve nothing against any character, but the idea in writing a book or series is not to cover every religion, every ethnic background and every pet topic of every reader. We can’t. We probably don’t WANT to. Most of us aren’t trying to be “fair” or politically correct. We don’t set out to give equal time to every topic under the sun. And in truth, not every neighborhood happens to have one Canadian, one Italian, one white guy, a dog, a cat and a hamster.
So why should every series worry about whether every group gets equal page time? We’re depicting some segment of life at a given place and time. And what might be “handicapped” in real life, might be depicted as a magical “handicap” in an urban fantasy (I’m not like the other children. Everyone else clicks their fingers to make magic work, but I have to sing before my magic works). So does that count as disabled or do we have to cater to every known handicap known to man? Does a gay vampire mean we’ve covered two minorities or just one?
Sure, some writers are more skilled at including a broad range of characters. This is a bit easier if the setting is LA or London or New York. It’s not so easy if the setting is rural Colorado or backside of nowhere, Texas. It may not be PERTINENT to include a bunch of unnecessary characters just to meet a quota.
I love to read. I love to write. But I don’t read to keep score, nor do I write that way. I don’t want to read a book and tally up the sheet that says, “Okay this writer gets one less star because he did a good job overall, but he has only ever written dogs as the pets. I happen to like zebras and dang it, he just isn’t covering my favorite topic.”
Everyone reads for different reasons, and if you look hard enough, you can find a book on any topic you love, depicted nine or ten different ways. If you’re looking for a particular type of book, find that type, but don’t expect the topic/area to be covered in every series.
I love to analyze books, but I hope I always remain “color blind” especially when reading.
And don’t think this review influenced me. It’s completely unrelated that my next main character is a fat, gay Jewish Indian who owns a three-legged sheep. He was a former drug addict, but he’s moved to Texas to join the rodeo. His best friend is a Catholic nun who is secretly a single mom.
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