The first book I ever wrote was white washed with a couple bisexual characters. My second finished manuscript was mostly whitewashed (though one of the main boys is Middle Eastern in features, but that doesn’t entirely mean anything, given the subject). After writing the sequel to the first book I added a Japanese punk, a black former gangster, and a male gay couple. I didn’t go about it quite right and am still working with those characters to make them more authentic. But when I realized Tsingsei was homosexual a few thousand words into the story, it changed everything. It’s not a main plot point of the book, but honestly I am so proud of her bravery in a world as unforgiving as ours was a couple decades ago, maybe even more so. Diversity is important in books as it is in other mediums, because not everyone can relate to the straight white character.
About a year ago I noticed something about my books. I realised that all of my characters were white and straight, with the exception of the head teacher in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. Or at least they were white in my head; obviously readers may have imagined them differently. I have to admit I felt a bit ashamed by this. It was never intentional of course, not to write about more diverse characters, it’s just that I’ve always lived in a very white area, where everyone I grew up with was white and so on. As for writing characters that were gay, this had also never occurred to me, I guess, because I’m not gay.
After realising this, I decided to change the ethnicity of my main character Elliot in Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human nature. It wasn’t a huge change. I just mentioned that his absent father…
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