I am currently working on Book 25 in my Haunting Danielle series. One segment of the story has to do with race relations in the 1920s in Oregon. The story idea came to me long before the tragic death of George Floyd, and it wasn’t written in response to the current racial tension in our country.
That being said, I want to move the topic for a moment to book reviews. Last year I received what I consider an annoying review on Book 22 in the series, The Ghost and the Halloween Haunt. At this writing, that particular book has 160 reviews at Amazon with a 4.9 out of a 5-star average.
It was not annoying because the reviewer left me two stars—it was annoying because she said: “Definitely written by an elderly white lady.”
My response to that? WTF? Damn whipper snapper.
Yes, I think I made a blog post about this review before. But you will have to excuse me, us elderly white ladies have memory issues.
The reviewer also wrote: “…is the author afraid to write an inclusive book featuring some people of color? Heck, the author doesn’t even feature a token person of color!”
First, I don’t do token. Personally, I find that offensive. Second, the reviewer has obviously not read the other books in the series. I have had a number of people of color in my books—pivotal characters. They were not just added to the stories to garner politically correct brownie points. I get why authors should be more inclusive, yet it has to be natural. My series takes place in Oregon, and the black population of Oregon is 3%.
That being said, it seems I did commit a racial faux pas.
In The Ghost and the Christmas Spirit—one of the books in the series I am most proud of, I did a horrible thing. I did not know it was a horrible thing, and I still don’t really understand.
I described one of my black characters as having skin the color of coffee with a touch of cream. But before you lambast me, understand I saw that no different than an author saying a white person has peaches and cream skin. Personally, I would not use peaches and cream, but not because I see it as racist, but because it is cliché.
I won’t be removing that bit of description from the book. I think that would be disingenuous. BUT, I will never ever again discuss black skin tone. Ever.
I am not making this promise because I finally “get” why it is racist. I sincerely do not understand. I honestly don’t get the difference between that and peaches and cream. But if my black readers honestly find that type of description offensive, then I will not use it again. My desire is to entertain my readers with my Haunting Danielle series, not offend them.
And you know what? It is not necessary for me to understand why something is racist for it to be racist. If something makes another person feel bad, why in the world would you want to keep doing it?
Umm….and I would appreciate future reviewers leave off that elderly crap. Seriously.
Photo: Yes that is me. A photo I took last month. And I confess, I am 65. But elderly??????
*** Edit, I was not clear. It was not so much describing skin color, but using food as a comparison–like peaches and cream.