Author Grace Lin. Photo Credit: Danielle Tait.
I'm pretty used to getting messages from readers who are offended by my work. Usually, they are fellow Asians upset that my work isn’t authentic to their experience (I get a fair amount of flack for portraying light-skinned Asians or Asians in the stereotypical haircut of heavy bangs) and I actually really do understand it. I don’t like it, but I understand it and I’ve learned to accept that once a reader has the book, it’s no longer mine.
Tonight, I received a message from a reader upset that I made a point that Minli (in “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon”) was not brown like the rest of the mud-covered village and how I had made a negative association with brown. All I could say was that I sorry and I’d try to be more aware in the future.
I’m not sharing this to criticize the reader — they are 100% entitled to their opinion of their own reading experience. I’m sharing this to say that NO ONE gets a pass when writing multicultural books. My dear white author friends who worry about writing multicultural characters and wail, “I can’t win!” Well, you won’t. Because no one wins, and truthfully, no one ever will. We all just do the best we can and try to get better with each book. Because in the end, writing these books are not about authors winning, they are about children not losing.