Ylva Author Panel Discussion #2 - Women of Color in Lesbian Fiction

Ylva Author Panel Discussion #2 – Women of Color in Lesbian Fiction

We’re a small publisher focusing on lesbian fiction and women’s literature. We publish German and English novels and short stories.

hi everybody my name is Andy Marquette and I am moderating this panel that we have assembled a group of authors to discuss the inclusion of women of color and fiction in general and lesbian fiction specifically we are going to conduct an open thoughtful respectful conversation our goal is to foster a meaningful discussion this is an ill bill offer hanel discussion men mo many of us on this panel are not ill the authors but that's fine because we are all about sharing the love and building community so I'm going to introduce our panelists first up and this is in alphabetical order no particular other order joke Bell lives and writes in the Portland Oregon metro area she is the author of several short stories and novels including the job love and devotion and indelible she has a novella collection out as well uncommon romance when joke is not writing chasing her kids around or doing marketing for ilva publishing she co administers the popular blog site women and words next up we have her name s she is a former teacher in Philadelphia where she still resides and rights she is the author of several short stories in such publications as a piece of my heart a lesbian of color anthology and maca dysphoric Jukes contemporary writings by queers of African descent her latest novels include the rules leaves an absence and the butterfly moments Renee is dedicated to writing and the writing the lives of African American lesbians Linda Sandoval is joining us from Casey upstate New York Linda sure all right upstate New York she's an award-winning author who has published some 30 books with such houses as HarperCollins Avon houghton mifflin Simon & Schuster Harlequin Kensington and Griffin she has also published as the Santos EDS be bold strokes books she has edited books by such authors as Melissa Braden Jennifer Lavoie Susan xmega rachel Spangler and Amy Dunne linda has quite a varied career background she's a former cop a European tour guide and a bouncer at a comedy club you can contact her and ask her about her other job if you would like currently she writes edits and excited animal hospital and she owns and operates a yoga studio and joining us also is katie williams she is a stub her and former nomad dwelling in the Midwest East Coast and finally New Orleans over the years she is a Katrina survivor displaced in North Carolina but found her way back to nola where she lives with her partner and several weird dogs and cats katie loves her some geek stuff superheroes to video games she started writing as a team her first novel forever mine wanna Goldie in spec Vic her latest novel blurred lines will be available in February from ilva publishing the sequel crossing lines is out in April so welcome everybody thanks for joining us at this panel discussion hi hi so what we're going to already do this is all going to post questions and then I will I will call on you respectively to like to do this conversation this combo about women of color in lesbian fiction so let's let's just get it rolling here's the first first question will discuss from your observations esteemed panelists are you seeing an increase in representations of women of color in fiction and in authors who identify as women of color writing it if you are seeing this can you talk about some of the factors that might be contributing if you aren't if you can provide our listeners with the factors that might be contributing to that let's start off with KD Williamson eight my answer is still going to be no concerning that I feel that if it's not readily available right there at my fingertips I don't feel like there's an increase does that make sense yes okay Renee did you want to jump in yes um it's my perception that there are more books being published that are written by lesbians of color and feature lesbians of color as characters and the reefs um of the reasons I think our first of all it's a boom time and publishing novels written by lesbians you just have to think of the post that you sent out yesterday and Iran via women and words with November's published books it was a huge list huge um not to sound like um the gentleman from New York is running for president when I say no on that list I am guilty of not examining it for any books written by or about lesbians of color however because it is a boom time I think it has included authors who are lesbians of color there are one or two publishers of color who are putting out books right now one that I can think of is fire and ink young woman lives I believe in Maryland historically and the older I get the words did i enter history but historically about every 30 years there's a long time in production of art and produced white people of color going back to the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement more recently and now i think i'm gay men and lesbians are producing work both in the plastic arts as well as the literary arts why that happens i'm not sure but it seems to run every 30 35 years or so we see that trend something that's helping women especially who are not published is the self-publishing movement um I think it's made producing books on more accessible to everyone so it is my perception um I agree with KD that sometimes you can't put your finger right on a book um but you just need to do a quick Google search or internet search and you'll see that there are books that are coming out two years ago on the woman who runs the website sisters on the shelf and um 100 I think it was 153 book reviews now they were not all books that were written in 2013 because she has gone back and and access books that were written before then but it's just sort of proof that um we are publishing books we are writing our books we always have um it's difficult sometimes to access them but if you're interested in doing that you can do the search and find them and I probably that when you answers will be walking shorter maybe nobody listening to you you've been in publishing a long time what's your perception I do think there's more I don't think there's enough and I don't think that it's um maybe accessible enough for one but but um integrated enough necessarily they're like 4 i'm recording heterosexual romance world there are certain imprints that do just african-american romances there used to be certain imprints that did just Latino latina romances um but those frittered away so I think that it needs to be when i first started publishing for with silhouette harlequin silhouette you I mean the all the characters were white and if there was a character that was not white then the book was like held out like here's this book cmi you can you know and almost like people wouldn't necessarily pick it up and read it they'll be like well I'll wait until the author writes um characters that are white because I don't understand those other characters um weird kind of weird I mean I used to write I wrote one book under one name and one book under another name and um one of some lady came to me at a book signing she's like well which of the books doesn't have Latino characters because I don't really know anything about them I'm like by all means then don't pick up a book and read about them because that would be too enlightening I'm sorry it's our concern so um when you know what I mean I think that there a perception of yes there are books out there but I don't think that everybody is accessing her reading them necessarily they still think they're a separate entity instead of just a romance about people falling in love who happens a la blah so okay Joe what's your sense well i'm i'm i'm offended by the person who doesn't know about Latinos I just because people are in a mystery they're just people oh yeah so I apologize because I'm sure that was a white person that said that to you and um I wonder though you know you were saying that there's less the the houses that specialize in and Latino latina publishing that those imprints are disappearing or have disappeared do you think that change when the US government decided that I'm those little race questionnaires that you know Latinos are if you're Hispanic you are actually white so who the hell the publishers went oh never mind just a theory yeah i don't know i don't know i think that uh huh from my perspective when they when they started publishing specifically these particular romances they did them in spanish and english initially in the same volume and then they split the spanish in the english and that the thought process behind it was good it was like you read it and then you share it maybe with another generation back and maybe they'll read it in Spanish whatever but it didn't pan out it made the books too expensive and um people who read in one language or the other that you know so it was good when they split it out but i think i don't know i think that it became too much of a a it's like they were separating the books it was like a lesser lesser kind of a situation do you know what I mean yeah and it is so it didn't work so people are like oh sure we'll pick up the books but we're not gonna pick up those books because you know they're other in our experience Latinos don't read type of thing I think you know I think that happened yes a little bit and the Latino man in the u.s. is a gardener clearly for sure for sure um what let's let's talk about that actually what what responsibility of any do author's writing characters of color have to actively combat stereotypes and memes in the culture and has that question ever actually impacted your writing Renee why don't you start us off on that one um total responsibility and no it's never been an issue with me because I've just never created characters who have embodied any kind of stereotypes although my main characters are african-american lesbians um there's always diversity in my books all kinds of diversity not just ethnic and racial but in terms of the professions that my characters have where they live what kinds of relationships they've been in so i I've never had to deal with it as a writer I had to do with it as a reader and and I've never enjoyed those books just like I would there are certain films that I don't enjoy watching because they simply perpetuate stereotypes the TV programs I don't watch for the same reason but as a writer I've never had to deal with it Katie how about you I think we have a total responsibility um because when you look at the serial type types of no black people in TV and writing and things of that nature you have the angry black person or my favorite the angry black woman you have um you know when you do have a lesbian individual it's usually you know somebody that maybe more on the more masculine side that may be uneducated may wear their pants a little bit low you know things of that nature and then you just have the strictly uneducated individual you know that that are portrayed sometimes so I think we do have a responsibility even to do research to depict people you know in a more in a better way in a more sensitive you know way to to the point where it's more realistic as opposed to you know having this person be you know just these pair of pants and just this anger so to speak Katie you said in the past that one of the things that really gets you writing your characters is if there is someone like an angry black woman that you want to know what made her angry because actly she's angry because of something right could you talk a little bit about that well it's you know um there's always background there's always some characterization that leads up to this person you know this character leading up to who they are so there may be a reason behind why this woman is angry may be a reason behind why this butch you know character wears their pants so low I mean you know could be a myriad of reasons so you know it's me high honors right she's trying to ever exactly there you go but it could be you know um maybe this person is trying to fit into their community you know maybe this person feels like you're locked into a certain community you know so do you have to look the part you know that let's explore all of that instead of just having you know oh you know this person looks like this and and not have that that background that goes with it on a gentle to Linda because Linda you said you've also said recently that when you're writing your characters that that what you're trying to do is capture the fact that they are people and that sort of speaks to what katie is saying sure if there's an angry black woman well why is she angry so can you talk a little bit about how you create your characters and and dispel stereotypes well the interesting thing is and I'm sure that everyone will agree with me but when you're writing from within your own experience as a human being I don't look around and see Latino stereotypes you know what I mean I see my family and so I think that it's difficult to say from your own perspective that you're not writing stereotypes cuz you don't really I mean sure you see the stereotypes that are portrayed in the media and so forth but from your experience you see for me myself I say the Latino culture as wide and varied you know there are as many people who may be fit the stereotype from the surface from an outside perspective as there are people who completely don't um so when I create my characters I don't you know i'm looking i'm creating a story okay so we're looking at it from a story perspective i need a character who fits the story i'm trying to tell the deep personal human being inside that is going to walk through this story that at the outset has nothing to do with it has to do with them like their deepest core needs and feelings and so forth and around that core then i create who this person is on the outside from from like society's perspective who they might see so um it's so much more personal to me than just you know their last name where they grew up how they grew up it's it's more than that because you can look at any one of us and we all feel like we know each other to some to some extent but we don't know the true inside that person that's living in your head and talking to you nobody knows that that you that so I try to create that person i come from of that person for you know that perspective to create my characters and what they send out to the world may be completely different from what's inside and some of it has to do with race and culture and some of it has nothing to do with race and culture except that their perspective on the on the world is poured through this filter of who they are as a person and raising culture are part of that so I like that image and it's so easy just kidding right yeah but the filter I like an image don't what don't what is your experience what what responsibility do author's writing characters of color have to combat stereotypes um well I think the first thing we need to recognize is the fact that stereotypes exist for a reason because you people do often I mean there are large groups of people who meet see it the same basic criteria they exist because we see it the the bad part is when we assume that that's the only thing that we have a caricature who is the stereotype without all the depth I think one of the examples that Linda gave us last time we recorded this when if we didn't record it and it was about her large Latino family eating a meal and how relatable that is to everybody so when I think of a large boisterous family eating a meal I think of my very white family eating Sunday dinner and Linda thinks about her latino family and you know I can picture a black family doing the same thing I can picture a Greek family doing the same thing picture an Italian family picture an age and family so even though you know in our minds we can add whatever it is that makes that experience a stereotype it's still a universal experience and we can all put ourselves in that position so as far as our responsibility though I think this is really interesting because I don't want to say that every every person of color who's writing should write about and represent their their particular group of people in a responsible way is I don't think it's as simple as that because I think that if we just rely on the black community to write about black people and to educate the rest of us about black people or if we just rely on the Latino community to write about Latinos and educate the rest of us then we're going to be missing something I as a white person also have an obligation to go out and do the research and figure out how to write a convincing Latino or a convincing black woman or a you know there are all sorts of things that are outside of my realm of experience and I do the research and and this is just another one of those things that should fall in the category of research if I don't know the answer if I don't know the experience then I should go get it I should figure it out so yeah I'm obligated damn it I was a really long rambling he did you want to add anything uh no going back to what she said about research um I think if we is as writers if you're writing about a vast array of characters like she's like I think Renee said you know we look at our own experience and we look at the people we know and we draw all that in but what we don't know we shouldn't just assume raineesha do that research we should you know ask those questions of you know role not necessarily I doing this right but am I doing this to point where um it shows what though it needs to that can get tricky though because if you're like I grew up in southern Idaho which is probably the widest states in the country set for maybe Arkansas like they're very white light airy a good arkansas right so it's it's very why it's great on circle erotic and if you don't if you don't know any black people is there are lots of Latinos in southern Idaho I had all sorts of subject matter there I had lots of lots of latino friends but you don't know any black people how do you make that that can be very intimidating to think okay I want to write about this character but I don't know anybody how do you get that experience and that can be that can be intimidating to think about approaching somebody that you have no experiencing with and experiencing experience with and say hi I've noticed that you are a person of color would you mind answering some questions for me right so kind of like you know dude is this the peoples of food that your people eat well oh my god yeah let's bring you much Renee and kiss Renee you you've had you've dealt with an author who asked you to read her manuscript have you not yes I did the within this past year um I consider her not only a writer colleague but also a friend and so I very willingly read her manuscript and enjoyed it and just made maybe not more than 3 or 4 comments things that I questioned on in terms of the authenticity of one of black characters um I didn't look at it as an onerous task to do I did think how good that she felt comfortable to ask me to do this but sort of have said that you get to be in your 30s and 40s and don't really have experiences with the other so that this comes under the realm of research because um I think what it gets down to is one of the sad episodes in our country makes the saddest makes it difficult for people to know each other you know there's some um yeah I'll go back maybe about 10 15 years ago when my partner's mom was ill and needed on him and care and I was observing that this is the first time my partner's mother is having any kind of a relationship other than me with me with a person of color and that is replicated so many times in our country people just don't know each other and it is here I think of the other and and its best tragic to me if I wanted to write a book and have a Native Alaskan person as one of my main characters I would be in the same position because to my knowledge I don't know any Native Alaskans and that would be that would be a tragedy or it is a tragedy but what's bigger is on that my neighbor across the street from me who is Caucasian hmm until I'm sorry I know you don't want that word I'm push um wait a minute and Joe note that we don't really know through that well you know the fact that um in this country we have ba ma the American Medical Association we have to have a parallel group for black positions the National Medical Association you know there is a natural dental association we're always running parallel lives there is a conference and a group called fire and ink for african-american lesbian and gay writers and that runs parallel I guess to land a literary or GCL s so it comes down to the fact that we've missed opportunities very human opportunities and we continue to miss opportunities and I i wish the heck that would not be but it looks like it still is this is infinity and I'm I'm glad for this opportunities existence and and I would hope that readers on both sides of the parallel would cross over and read each other's work that would be great then we wouldn't even need a discussion like this and you're all saying we are the world all right Johnny been commended past this is white my gentleman I'm still I'm still dreaming about that I guess I don't want to you mentioned about the last time we talked you were talking about and you sort of talked about it in this conversation we're so you have the category of romance but yet within that category there are sub genres yes that's equal romance black romance and I we could call lesbian fiction as a sub-genre of romance so in terms of representation and agency um how useful would it be to sort of just say it's it's a freaking romance people just get over it with that sort of do you think help people sort of get past these issues or does it help people to know that they can go to a category that is specific to you there what they perceive as their experience I mean that strikes me as sort of a double-edged kind of Grady alleged because yes I mean we all want to see ourselves in fiction right and it's sure you can read any romance you can read a lesbian romance you can read a gay romance you can read a heterosexual romance and you can superimpose yourself in that that's why we read right we read to live through that experience yes you can put yourself in there but you do want to see people that feel familiar to you right it's just the way it is so I think it's important that people know that those books are out there and can go to them but I think it's also important to for other people to realize that you don't need a decoder ring right it's a book about people and you can read it and you'll be justly fine so I don't know it sticks it's difficult I mean I think the people who are never going to read a book about a character of a different ethnicity than them are just never going to read a book about a character with a different ethnicity right you know and um you know Donald Trump is never going to invite a Mexican to his table I'm sure that's that's true uh mom photo wat right yeah um I don't know I it's it's one of those walking an edge kind of a thing like when the big boom when when Ricky Martin was on the grammys and everyone's like oh my god super cute who's this brand new to the music scene guy even though he was the hugest guy in Latin America ever knew to him to you know the US and that's cool but when that happened and all those Latino latina books came around and then suddenly they wanted to have like a category of awards for those books because they in a lot of people's minds were a different category they weren't you know ok there's let's look at the awards is our to be a long contemporary romance short contemporary romance erotic romance young adult new adult historical blah blah blah okay fair level I'm up paranormal yes all of those categories can feature prepare yourselves of a different culture okay and there's still not that should be the categories the category should be then and Hispanic romance it just doesn't and that doesn't sit well with me I don't know it's almost like whoa yours years now since panic character so it can't compete in the categories with my life other I don't know that's just utter bullshit frankly so um so we fight that we fight if we separate our books out we fight having them you know ghettoize put in the barrio kind of thing you know what we find out if it is yet you know like want people to know the books are out there I don't know I think that it's like a tightrope so to read a book from the book barrio you have to wear like a like an oxford shirt with only the top button does but I ok i just read it the internet because its key its key i want to make sure preparing than ever in that situation yeah yeah make sure d-did you could you have anything to add to that I think what Linda is saying is very accurate I was always thinking if she was talking okay that it is a very much a double-edged sword because you wanted if you want to read a romance you just want to read a romance I mean you know we all fall in love the same way you know well most of us do I don't you know maybe so beautiful I going to do something different I don't know but I mean it's universal but um also I mean you know there may be something like oh you know i wanna i want to see that represent representation of myself as well I mean so it's a tightrope you are walking but it romance is a romance is a romance all the time every you know even though every you know all romance novels have their own little that make them different it still has the same formula the universal it has the same formula the f-word oh my god the f-word I know Joe did you did you have anything to add from your experiences working not only as a writer but in editor and a end with the publisher and emotional capacity yeah so um a few weeks ago one of my associates from ova went to etown prior to women's week and she went into the various places there that sell lesbian fiction dit sal literature and she went into one store that was the the straights bookstore and the straight bookstore owner and said hey how would you feel about selling some of these books because she know she has a section of lesbian fiction right and the owner of the store gave her the longest lecture about how the covers didn't look lesbian enough ah so then the lesbians wouldn't know how to find the books because the lesbian section of the bookstore wasn't obvious enough I don't know and this is be paraphrasing somebody else's experience I wasn't there but I think that's very key to what we're talking about is that you know on the one hand we want the visibility we want the accessibility I want to know you know is there like like Katie said earlier if she doesn't see it readily than it doesn't exist right so I want to know that there's um fiction about lesbians of color at a glance I just want to see that but at the same time do I really should I really have to see it am I marginalizing something if I do that it's very very tricky the trick it's a it's a sticky wicket uh-huh Renee did you have anything that I'm not really i agree with what everyone has said so far about this that it is sort of a slippery slope that you do want to know what books would attract you on the other hand you don't want to be pigeonholed so it's it right I had nothing to add really it's something that we grapple with so I want to go back to this idea of research and if you're writing a character as writers if you're writing a character who is not someone that you've know that you generally write about say in my case it would be probably a character who is not white I do tend to write characters that are not white but yet how would I go about learning more in order to be as respectful and accessible and true to whatever experience I think Linda you have some you've commented on this in the past about the universality of all of us forget there are still certain filters that people have in terms of cultures and experiences in the u.s. especially can you can you speak to that about how we would go about quote unquote researching something like us sure and I'm sorry if you can hear my stomach growling because it's loud okay um yeah I mean okay for example this week Jove needed a seemed vetted that it was in satna yoga studio in the yoga world as you heard there's no yoga happening in Jones world possibly some wine but no yoga um and so she was like can you just read over the scene it was three pages this is the way you need to do research about things that you don't know we you need to write the scene that you need to happen in your book to serve your plot arc your story arc right the scene first right at how you think it should be send it to someone to vet it after that and and say is there anything that sticks out here that that you that you should change so Joe sent me the scene is that a little dog over your shoulder the cutest thing ever oh I could get home anyway so she said this it was like this Indian the yoga stuff you know not lib it is it with is there something you would change and there wasn't it was great that's the way you research like you can't ode arson and you say can you tell me everything there is to know being Latino in America the answer is always going to be no because nobody knows all the things about being a certain you know ethnicity or culture or whatever in the United States right you're seeing right you're seeing the way you need it to be then send it to someone that you trust be respectful and be like we're in this scene of my an idiot can you point those out to me perfect that's the way it works and it creates the idea the notion in the readers mind that you have a PhD and awesome for going and doing all this massive research when really you put enough little spices in there creates away for it the verisimilitude so that the world seems real oh my god so you want to pick up from there uh it sounds like what happened between my friend and me happen the right way she finished her manuscript what was willing to edit and take things out add things before she said it to me so I'm glad about that um can you think of a situation in which the writer would spend some time with a person and then write the scene and then get back is that a model that's ever used I think that is complete especially teenagers listen you know because yes there are these you get past a certain age especially if you don't have kids like me and then you're there these scary entities that you know throw Solo cups in your front yard whatever so I think if you but if you spend time with them they're just people they're people who are who's you know frontal lobe isn't fully fully formed yet so if you you know if you want to say well do teenagers do this these days it's gonna it's the same thing as naturally whether it be like well it depends on the teenagers in it you know so I think that if you spend time with people who maybe you don't have full access to or full knowledge oh that's the very best way but be careful about then thinking all black people in this way all the trips are this way you know all teenagers are this way so it takes a little bit of common sense I know that's really scary but it just takes a little bit common sense you know to create a unique character with cultural details that are accurate both for your story and the character and respectful of people at large even in case is a lot if the characters humanity that is most important thing yeah there is sort of a window dressing in a way absolutely Katie Did you want to jump in here after you got your dog squared away yes my feet right now oh it's uh I think also like well then do the same about you know meeting somebody being around them and then going for I as well I think um there's also a level of fear I think some people can have to and that's when it it calls her you know that right are often to be fearless and sensitive as well you know to the subject matter I mean you know why cuz yeah you don't want to you know to say okay I'm writing about this but I don't want to send anybody you know by going to them and happy I didn't think I'm stupid I me because i don't know i mean you know so it's like you can either stay there or you can move forward and say okay I'm going to do it I'm going to do this research either way I'm going to do it you know whether it's going to write my scene and then ask about it or or you know do some you know personal research first and then go about it so it does take I think a lot for a person to do that I'm because this is it can be a scary thing because you may not have that experiences messing with that with it culture you know with you know so it can be a scary thing ah nice kitty yes look don't you wanted you want to jump in your healthy i turn on stop I I do and so am i I've made it very publicly known that I hate research it's like my least favorite part of writing hate to do research but I love a human experience and I love talking to people what am I I make a point to be friends with people I don't agree with it to be friends with people who lose life experiences and their beliefs and their viewpoints are completely different than mine is that's where I have the best conversations we don't have to agree it's not required we need to be respectful we need to understand that we're not here to change each other's minds we're just here to have a conversation and maybe have a little bit of understanding so do i think is the the whole research thing yeah you gotta do it but i think that you know with linda i know enough about Linda to know that I could send her a yoga story and say can you look at my yoga and make sure I'm not an idiot but if I hadn't had that conversation with her I wouldn't know that and I'd much rather have the conversation and get to know somebody as a whole and figure out what our similarities are and what our differences are and how those differences don't define um a barrier that we can't get over I think it's really really important that we that we are willing to talk to people who don't agree with us or whose life experience is outside of our own and my my neighbor the Reverend dr. Bradley Harper and family right that sounds like that title sounds scary and the guy teaches theology at loma bible college so he sounds like this very conservative whatever but he's actually socially far more liberal than i am but because of you know if we were so afraid of one another and that we didn't have those conversations it wouldn't know i love to talk to people about things that about their lives that are different than mine I answer the question or that I don't like around the question yeah that sounds like research you're doing research is just in your typical but kind of way I think of research as the the historian go into the archives and picking up this joint phone that's too hmm that make you happy I hate that too I hate that research too I hate it I can't that does the thought of that even the thought of like I the book I'm working on one of my characters is Romani and what the hell was I thinking do you know how hard it is to find information on people from that culture it's so hard and everything is all stereotypes and tropes and it's so are defined information what is wrong with me so this is my call there's any Roma people out there listening to this and people please give me a call I'd love to ask you some questions hang out I'll buy you a beer I'll buy que dia beer the great you know you know what I think the problem is for those of us who hate that kind of research job is that you don't it's like you're researching too much and you don't know what specifically you're looking for and so it's overwhelming and you're like I just I don't want to spend all my time gathering all this info that i might not need which is why i do it in reverse all right my scene or my book or whatever and then go research the specific things that i need to know because it's more manageable it's not so horrifyingly 8th grade yeah when you're plowing through this this huge amount of information and trying to find like the one quintessential thing that makes this character black or that makes this character Latino or makes page and white and I'm pretty sure there isn't like one thing if we can all vote and agree on it like I'm going to say that all white people like green eminence now on if you write about any white people they have to light green eminem's and thats a trigger yes fine that's the sign in your book yeah thank you something so lay off totally off topic that's hilarious okay so occasionally certain authors of mine that I edit they'll know that a like will haven't completely not related to books conversation Rachel Spangler and then something funny will happen and she's like oh my god for the next three books i'm totally throwing that phrase in randomly and she does and it's hilarious when i get to it because I'm like she did it so Braden does it take yeah okay carry on I'm gonna start all right um do that today did you have anything to add um I don't like to do research either um and I'm glad to hear that these three ladies don't because I thought I was perhaps the laziest writer in history um I feel so good about myself right now thanks to you guys well Joe um like wrote a book with romani characters and I remember we're talking about doing a lot of research you might want to tap her brain ring for some help I will either that or I'm gonna change my character and she's just gonna be quirky not sure okay katydid would you like to jump in again no I don't have anything name I think hey so basically folks the upshot is talk to people talk to each other and it doesn't necessarily involve going to the archive to do your research but talk to your colleagues and your friends and and learn that's really what this is about moving along I want to talk about about privilege what what does privilege mean and and how might that be reflected in writing let's start with kitties well as a favor for I think overall it just means you know not just me it's more of a chance more more more success more people of the pie you know then other people may get I mean you know because you know as as a black woman i know i have to work harder at certain things been you know say my supervisor at work does and you know who happens to be white you know so if this means more everything you're just you get more of war temptin more you know more of everything that makes life great so to sleep you know it came in like that like that as well so mm-hmm and I also privileged can shift it in different circumstances uh being safe for some of us you are a lesbian in certain circumstances that is gay a privilege and others not so much right so ranae why don't you talk to us about about what privilege means well I look at privilege um as being a negative thing for writers of color depending upon the writers goals I think for the general readership to know that a book is about african-american characters or african-american lesbians and or written by an african-american lesbian and then to decide not to buy it not to read it to discount it certainly has an economic impact on the writer and the publisher of that writer but more than that it's sort of sad to make the assumption that the story and the characters aren't simply going to be humans with human problems and human conflicts and so to reject the book at a thing is to really remain ignorant of that fact and and the continued ignorance without even realizing that it's a continued ignorance that is one of the appearance of privilege to me to not really care that your remaining ignorant I don't know if this is an appropriate slot to insert this but when I went to my first ecls conference I had self published my first book leave of absence with Porter's personal publishing I had written second book and submitted it to two of the publishers who were going to be at the conference um one publisher rejected it and just sent back a form email to me the other publisher at least um was kind enough to tell me in person what she thought the problems were with the foot and suggested that i could get ahead of those problems and maybe resubmit her her chief editor however agreed to take a meeting with me which meant i'm sitting next to her at the sunday brunch and she told me that no one frankly would be interested in reading a book about the life of an african-american young lesbian um I was crushed of course but i think i don't know that i telegraphed crushed as much as shocked and determination and somebody passed by and watched me as that conversation was going on and then later held me over to her table one gave me some advice about were invited me really to submit my manuscript to regal press and suggested that it might have a home there i got two things out of that interaction with that editor one was a determination to continue writing because i knew that there were some people in this world who would be interested in reading about an african-american young lesbian but now i have to tell you ten years have passed and i look at my book sales and i think yeah she was right there aren't that many people who are interested in reading books about african-american lesbians um or i have not found my market yet because as much as lesbian fiction is she's a sub-genre african-american lesbian lit is even a smaller sub genre and it is hard for us to find their audience it's hard for us to get our readership um my books don't belong in the earth and lit category where there's a much bigger readership so that sort of makes me smaller also but you know I have to say sadly that woman was rapping so I'll give her props for that and that's it so I don't even know it that answer answered your question Andy I don't know if it was germane to what we're talking about what I just needed to get that in because I'm finally at peace with that person who said that to me and I'm and even further than that I want to say it's okay you know if you want to you the reader want to remain um unknowing about me and my characters I'm fine with that I want to come back to that let me get Linda in on this um what privilege means well I think data in a global world kind of a way I know that um there are some people okay there's there's been a lot of press about the conflicts between young black men and place right and I was expressing some outrage over the situation and one of my friends who happens to be white was like but why do you care it doesn't affect you but doesn't it affect us all like that level of misunderstanding and hate and over over aggressive response to situations doesn't that affect us all and that to me is just privileged showing its ugliest face like it doesn't matter to me and then the radio that when this last hurricane was going to hit Mexico the guy on the rave the DJ on the radio station he said something that I understand in a way what he was saying but he didn't even realize that he had this level of privilege show and he's like yeah that's scheduled to hit Mexico and it's scheduled to hit where the tourists are so it's even more important like you know kill off all the Mexicans that's fine but since there could be some Americans down there vacationing with their umbrella drinks then it becomes an issue privileged all over the place he didn't even I'm sure he didn't even care what he said um so it's that in relation to two books and publishing absolutely it's the the UM you know if you want to write an authentic character from your life from your perspective and you have to weigh whether letting that information out there is going to affect your book sales it has an in mind you know sometimes um one of the first books I wrote for silhouette is like one of my favorite books ever that I've ever written um but it was at a time it was in the window that smile I can't even remember but anyway it was at a time when there weren't very many overtly Hispanic characters in the silhouette books and so when people would read that there were on the back cover copy if you let that little nugget out there um they would've hurt your sales because i like to do i don't want to read about you know latino that it's creepy I don't know it's weird so um I know you have to make the decision like Renee said you have to make the decision to be okay with the fact that are you writing authentically for you the kind of characters you want to write and if so are you okay with maybe some people not wanting to read those characters it's their loss you know they don't pay the mortgage though this is Jo Jo uh so this is a this is probably the the part of this conversation that I think affects me the most because you know I I live with the benefits of that privilege but the interesting part is that many people who live under the umbrella of white privilege don't even recognize it you often hear you know the the disgruntled middle-aged white man who James affirmative action for the fact that he can't find a job or you know things along those lines but in reality even though you know this part this poor dude can't find a job right now he still lives in a world with with white privilege he doesn't walk down the street and have you know little ladies lock their car doors because he's near them that that doesn't happen and for me personally I grew up I grew up very very poor I've said this repeatedly because i did in southern Idaho which is a very very white part of the country and in that little pocket of the world I didn't experience privilege and it took me growing up and being removed from that that isolated experience to understand what that really means and that yes even when I was there I still benefited from it I just didn't feel it and I didn't know it and I didn't recognize it so we have to we white folk need to figure it out and actually recognize that we do benefit from it and it doesn't once we recognize it we can have an honest conversation about it but if we're busy denying the fact that it exists and that we cherish it and cling to it and use it as a weapon to meet other other cultures and races up with until we're willing to admit those things we're never ever ever going to get past it is this going to be this giant barrier between us all and one of the best examples that I've seen recently that really illustrates privilege and the concept of whitewashing right I love that term whitewashing it was the the mcgraw-hill textbook thing where mcgraw-hill is a a textbook manufacturer publish or whatever and they issued seventh and eighth grade social studies or history depending on which closet is textbooks and they listed slaves their migration pattern as there were immigrant workers and were immigrant laborers and that's why they came to this country and and then so the idea is that let's make it sound a little softer so maybe we protect our young people's they don't hear hard things about our history but then they miss out on the fact that there was a huge amount of brutality around slavery a huge amount of brutality and how do you how do you grow as a people how to make better choices how do you become more respectful if you're not willing to recognize the fact that we abuse that privilege in a horrible horrible way and mcgraw-hill issued that the textbooks thought everything was fine and didn't do anything about it until they had one one kid went home to his mom and said hey mom look at this textbook I so does this mean that you know my your grandfather or great-grandfather came over here as an immigrant labor is that what happened what was that like and the mom went oh hell no and then called the school and called the local news and called the publisher and said this needs to be fixed and she was actually able to raise her voice loud enough to be heard on a national level and McGraw mcgraw-hill issued an apology they're very very sorry that we've offended your sensibilities and we recognize that we were wrong slaves were not immigrant laborers they were in fact slaves but we can't afford to recall all the textbooks so we're just going to issue stickers well we'll we'll send out stickers to all of the classrooms and all of the teachers who have purchased these books for to use to educate their students will give them the stickers and they can put it they can do an overlay and cover that up and we all know that everything one of those stickers got put in place and they all got corrected and there's not a single little white kid in Texas right now thinking that all the black people in this country are here because they were labeled immigrant laborers like that's you know 100 years from now that history completely changed because that one one act of privilege so yeah yeah and going back to what Katie you brought up you know the stereotype of the angry black woman stuff like that and I said this before if I if I wore a black woman I would be very very angry I would I would do my part to fulfill that stereotype because things like that are worth being angry over regardless of what color your skin is I'm angry about it sound very calm compared to last time I know that but I am I'm outraged and I'm saddened and I'm embarrassed cuz this is there are all these whitening out there doing all these things to just make me look bad I just want to go behind and smack them in the back of the head and say knock it off you're making the rest of us look bad hey we're making it look bad that's what I want to do I just I feel like I should walk around with a sign I'm so sorry on behalf of all white people everywhere I am I'm just really sorry and I can wear that sign for the rest of my life and it would still never be enough time and that's not to say that I'm not proud of being why I don't know I just so you got I hear people say like I didn't bring slaves over it's not my fault why do I continually have to pay but that's not the point it's not a question is that we should all care we should all care forever about not treating people not clumping people together treating them poorly and glossing over the violent violent history of America is at least yeah you brought up the whole it's dangerous via young black men in America right now and you know the friend who said well what do I care it doesn't affect me why do you care and this is again you know for for the white people out there who don't realize that we're the ones that created the situation we can't go and say oh well everything's been fine since we ended slavery what are you complaining about now don't know we've continued to do crappy things you proud history with crabby oh yeah that's a strap I hate that when people say you know everything seems fine to me wait okay no it really isn't and this like this might hate it say that you know oh you know the man's not keeping us down anymore I'll come on really and didn't call it the man come on you know but going back to what Joe said about or you know Linda said about being you know a young black man you know with police and everything um just looking like a black band is enough or email because when I lived in a when I live in North Carolina of you know a few years you know a couple years back I even begin to tell you how many times I got pulled over I can't even begin to tell you and then it was you know the cop walking up to the door and your partner coming up on the other side and going like oh sorry ma'am it's okay you know why did you know me not ever asking why you pulled me over but remaining calm even though was scared completely yummy because you know some of the neighborhood's i worked in you know so i'm sure i got pulled over because of the neighborhood i came out of so but still you know that's enough sometimes you know even here in in New Orleans you know that's predominantly you know why I still get followed by the cops you know it's like you see them pass and it kind of give me a look it even like off here we go but um going back to prick going back to what you said about privilege and ignorance of Renee when we talk about we talk about things of that nature i have to say that I think that had a lot to do with me up with my characters in my book because they are white I me even though you know maggiore you know majority of the characters are like there's still the main two characters all right it didn't occur to me to to say okay i can i can put this like character in here and it'll still be okay not my thoughts were I want this book to sell I want to get my story out you know I want people to make that choice to read it because you're right i mean you know they may pick up the color were flipped it flip it over and see you know black latina you know whatever and make that choice not to read it so my thoughts where you know ok I'm going to keep I'm going to keep it simple and do it that way it just didn't even occur to me to do it any other way and you know that's my bad but I deserve it you mad and does it really does it's sad it's a because I would like everything will be all inclusive and you know and everything but the sad fact is that is not so while hindsight being what it is and I can sit here and say okay damn it you know I'm not gonna let you know these using you know the readers or what have you keep me from you know my next novel you know writing about you know this black character that black character or however i'm going to write it you know i can i can say i'm not going to let that happen you know because i feel more confident and comfortable now so i hate that i feel that felt will win first place so tell everybody in katy the name of your your series and and and that the third book oh the third books gonna have a main main character who is a black right so oh you're on the you're on the publication schedule you can't get out of it now oh i know we probably buddy last night i know enough it's the name of the series is cops and dogs and i love that guy's not dogs knocks and dog yes nothing that nice that's i want to go back to what Renee had mentioned earlier and let's let's finish out with this because it brings us back to publishing and writing she was told that there was no demand for the kinds of stories she was writing and has determined that after the passage of years that sales demonstrate that maybe perhaps that editor was right I think that what we have there is a self-fulfilling prophecy if publishers are not putting out the stories they're not willing to take on the stories and and create the markets for them and help find the markets for them then of course there are not going to be any sales of these of these stories let's jo I want you to take that one first because of your work with ilva as promotions officer person that idea that you know a book about like lesbians or Latino lesbians latina because they're lesbians um would it wouldn't send us email yeah well the others that um lose lat annoyed what you can use lat annoyed lat annoying I could say yeah I could say Hispanic well then I wouldn't have to get the AO thing right cuz mm-hmm that's my that's my white that's that's my white showing right there better um you know that's that's that's gay some pretty conventional wisdom that's been rolling around for a while that that experience that that Renee had and that you can't sell but I wanted with ilva they had a release this summer I want to say August and author release a book called all these all the little moments and it was about a doctor in Australia and one and her brother and sister-in-law died and she has to move and she ends up with custody of these two kids and her romantic the romantic lead her counterpart is a woman of color and that's on the cover right you see two women one one black one white on the cover and that book were sold like crazy and an overwhelming amount of people in the comments like in the review section make comments about how they picked it up specifically because there was a woman of color on the cover so um and now Astrid oh it's who is the owner and publisher at Alva she is happy when she gets something that features a lesbian color because she wants to include that because there's a market and she's so excited that people are finally looking for it and happy when they find it so it exists times they are a-changin I don't morning I'm glad to hear that I think there is a market of leaders who are titillated by interracial couplings I'm not so sure the market is large if the cover shows two lesbians of color I think you're waiting yeah there's a difference but I'm glad it um I'm glad that there's a publisher who is not contrary or against the idea of portraying a lesbian of color on the cover you know what to my have a lot to do with that is the author G Benson is in her i want to say mid 20 she's very she's very young and so she's going to inherently appeal and she's writing to a younger audience so maybe we're seeing a generational shift and i would really like it if I mean you know I want to change the hearts and minds of all people everywhere and we can all hold hands and give the world a coke and a smile and all that but but maybe it's just a generational ship and we could be excited about that mm-hmm maybe and also ova is not an American publisher no such earning baseman those are what that to be of color is something different in the United States than it is in some European countries and so I'm not I am less surprised about elva being open to showing a lesbian of color on her covers then I would be of an American publisher when an American publisher is it willingly then I'll be impressed but I mean to that I think um know about what you say Renee about having two black lesbians on the cover of it being a flash in my brain with stereotype stereotype serial type because you know when a reader sees something like that the night I mean you know and we're going to be able to rebuild what kind of language are they gonna do you use I mean you know I don't know if I can I do it it's all that kind of thing that you know i'm pretty sure person things when they pick up something like that you know it's just like I see on TV hello you know how people talk and I you know I don't understand answer so I think those stereotypes keep you know a lot of people away because they just assume you know it's going to be something they can't identify with it makes me think it makes me think a long time ago back when yahoo chat with the huge rage didn't had the lesbian chat rooms and all that stuff and I remember this and I think I was like 18 19 something around there a long time ago but I remember this because it is always under stick in my brain I remember coming into the chat room and I had my whole group of friends you know they will say hey you know blah blah blah and somebody asked me a question and I said something about black people or something like that and I remember reading somebody said ooh black lesbians are nasty yeah well I kid you not I kid enough and I remember thinking like what what what does it have to do with anything so when you say about black men just that took me back to that moment and how people actually think of certain things I mean you know going back to the like the serial cable i will say about the angry black woman the more butch black lesbian you know that has that whole stereotype you know that the whole connotation that comes with that I mean and so it's just it just takes me back and you know i have a feeling that's what people think when they see stuff like that so when they see a black let you know interracial couple it's more oh you know well okay it might be interesting you know I like Charlie there may be something I can identify with a little bit and your cell all cuz it different kind of black character yes they pay exactly it's written sorry yes so the whitewash black character that's a thing yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah I do have to point out though because you know when you're talking about Renee when you're saying that it's different because it's the European publisher and i just i do want to point out that ilva is a German publisher and to me that that is surprising because Germany is not known for being progressive and and and racially diverse very it's a very white country so you know I have to give a bastard props because I think she's progressive for you know yes I absolutely great stiffer to be you know experience life in Europe versus the US but you know i would if it was a French publisher maybe I don't know German my place and you know but there's a different his escape yeah and I can't really speak about Germany nor can I speak about many of the European countries but I I know that my experiences in Europe where race is concerned are different from my experiences here um I i can definitely I know when I flown back here there there is a feeling that I really can't put into words that I experience here as a black person that I don't necessarily experience in some European countries there is a reason why James Baldwin went to Paris and was more productive there why Josephine Baker was there why Langston Hughes was there for a few years there is just a different level of existence there you walk we walk through the world differently in different places of the in the world definitely and so I I repeat that I'm not surprised that a european lesbian publish would put us on the cover of her books before a white lesbian publisher would hear you like that mm-hmm it all right and then it did you want to jump in a little bit to you about if a publisher isn't going to you to publish those stories and help work to find the markets then of course there will be a self-perpetuating sort of thing is that certain is am I on the right track or no well yeah or if they're promoted in an in the wrong way if they're promoted in a way that makes them feel separate and different separate is different in a bad way in a non-accessible way you know all right I think there's that KD just I get followed around in stores because I'm gonna shoplift by the way all the time I don't get stopped but I get followed in stores sometimes I'd like a minute oh my fucking ooh am I allowed to say that I think so it's giving my Platinum Card will you stop following me around you know what I mean Colette I want to steal your crap anyway but I digress um oh and another thing I get stamped missed I used to in in fact I was in a lesbian bar in Kansas City and this white this wedding party came in and they came over and asked me if I knew where to buy drugs and I was like what why would I was like I'm trying so I tell a joke no he IA I yeah I don't know it's weird and that actually that's happened to me all through my probably 20s and 30s is that if there's a group of people in a room they're gonna come ask me if I know where to buy the drugs all the time so yes because we know all that exactly your tap into the markets right Linda yes yes I am hanging um but yeah I think as far as the books go I don't know it's just such a slippery slope from for from my perspective of how we promote in a way that serves the books and the authors rather than perpetuating stereotypes or the feeling that that they're so different that you're not going to relate to two people falling in I don't know it's just it's difficult and it's then there's been no good solution since I've been in the publishing world since you know my first book came out in 98 and it there hasn't been enough improvement for how much time has passed at all it's still crying well how about somebody just do it man you know I will you go how about somebody just do it and just you know okay okay if you don't market it correctly if it doesn't sell so fucking what yeah do it again with being a trial version I mean you know you know i think you know of course we have our you know the small publishing companies and all that stuff they can't afford you know too i'll have a book not sale but what about the bigger places who can who can do something like that and just say okay fuck it we're going to do it yeah and just just go ahead and I enough there's a fearlessness thing again ok you know so just go ahead you never know so I mean anything like in in the Y a world which I'm in young adult novels some of the mainstream publishers like when I years ago when I would initially be like I want to do a lesbian character in the book and they'd be like like a coming-out story no she's just lesbian right she's out she's she's living her life now and they would be like I don't know I don't know enough the world's right for that whatever and then all of a sudden now they're like gave us lesbian characters lesbian characters up well what is there like I want to know their motivation behind asking for that because do you like saying well sure you want that because now it sells but you want it for the right reasons or do you not I don't know it just it bugs me right you know your video will hit it sort of you mm-hmm right yeah yeah so clearly friends this is a conversation that I'm glad we have engaged in and that I hope that we can all continue and perhaps it will expand and we can explore even more in terms of writing and editing and publishing in and maybe in some way we can help all of us overcome these barriers and keep having these conversations I want to thank everybody for joining in on this thanks Joe thanks Katie Thank You Renee Thank You Man done we appreciate your time and please keep writing you


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