Looking at Race in Fiction

by Laura Findlay

Dear Zoo,

You’ll never guess what but the sky is still brilliant blue. I keep looking at in awe thinking “soon the rain will come and we’ll hunker down and peek out at the grey, waiting”.

This week in my course we’ve been looking at how race is represented (or not) in fiction, and how a distinct lack of non-white characters can be harmful to non-white readers. We read an excerpt from Frantz Fanon’s ‘Black Skin, White Masks’.

I work in a library and when possible, hide in the children’s section among all the glorious books with their bright, smudge-y covers and well-thumbed pages. And having read Fanon’s work I can say, there is a lack. I wonder things like, ‘who should take responsibility?’ – us? The librarians? But what if we aren’t responsible for buying our books. The publishers, perhaps? And what do all of the kids make of this? Do they just gobble up Geronimo and every collapsing Star Wars Lego book they can lay a hand on?

I really like New Zealand because we are such a wonderful mix of ethnicities. I also know, without a doubt, without reading Fanon, that kids are SO impressionable. And that these characters – be it Harry, or Geronimo or a creeper or Tracy Beaker – are so important.

So where does that leave us, the librarians, the cheerleaders of our fictional heroes?  Food for thought.

Some newsy bits:

Malorie Blackman on ethnically diverse fiction

This great post about whitewashing (OK, I’ll take Cumberbatch any darn day of the week, but Swinton, really? I’m disappointed in you Hollywood.)

Yours ponderingly,