i am publishing this largely because i don’t think this is a conversation that should happen just between white people, and because i want other people to be able to respond should they feel so inclined! i appreciate author engagement with fannish critical discourse, but I also know that it can easily go badly and be stifling or silencing, so if anyone feels uncomfortable with this, please let me know.
i think the main thrust of the criticism was not that white straight authors are discussing or attempting to amplify diversity, but that theirs is usually the sole amplified voice in the discussion, which also more often than not focuses on their own works’ achievements and on their own struggles, triumphs, and perspectives. i think there is a lot of congratulating white straight authors for writing any kind of diversity and i do not think anyone wants an environment in which there is more focus on an ally’s bravery or goodness than on the experiences or perspective of marginalized people whom the allies are ostensibly supporting. all of this has a really harmful—and structurally reinforced!—effect of drawing attention away from the marginalized characters, readers, or author voices and towards the white straight champions of diversity. diverse characters and narratives should be the status quo, but i don’t think white straight authors should be praised as extensively as they are for doing the right thing. and even if you don’t contribute intentionally to that environment, you do benefit a lot from it, as you said.
i also think that white straight authors’ focus on the ways in which they are writing marginalized characters also often circumvents discussion of the ways in which they could be doing more, or better. i have been trying to speak in general terms because i am not very familiar with your participation in this discourse, but here is a somewhat related story: a couple of years ago i remember you referring to unspoken as your “lesbian romance,” and as more details leaked, i got unbelievably excited for a telepathic queer woc romance from one of my favorite authors— only to discover that the lesbians were secondary characters. and i did still love the book, and the woc protagonist, and her heterosexual romance. but i had thought she might be a lesbian, and then i felt foolish for having ever thought that, which sucked in general. there’s an environment suggesting that marginalized readers be grateful for what we get because it’s so hard for white straight authors to publish characters like us, and that’s hurtful.
re: the public discussion and interviews, i think it’s tricky because you do, as a published author writing diverse characters, have insight into the silencing and othering process of publishing—and i think it’s very important for you discuss and expose the way that young adult literature is treated and conceived of in the industry. but when that particular experience becomes—as it is becoming—the sole narrative through which we are able to discuss or understand textual “diversity,” and when the experiences of actual “diverse” people are left by the wayside, as they are, then i think the discourse becomes both exclusive and distracted.
so like, when i look at the “young adult” tag on racebending, the interviewed authors are literally just you, holly black, cassandra clare, and justine larbaleister. and i think that’s hugely indicative of a larger problem of focusing on certain already dominant perspectives. so yes! please keep talking about it. it is absolutely part of one’s work as an ally to amplify and open discourse in which one is privileged. but please try to talk about it in such a way that focuses more on highlighting already marginalized voices and experiences, and that encourages and includes genuine social as well as textual diversity. and that continues to be critical of your own work, and to invite criticism so that you can, as you said, do better! i think—i hope—there are ways to discuss literature (even one’s own) within the context of an oppressive society that do not continue to value the ally above the marginalized.
people, please feel free to respond, correct, or add onto this post as you see fit.
as a PoC published author in kidlit, i actually find the response to sarah rees brennan alarming. having been talking about and fighting for diversity and representation in books for so long, you learn that allies are few and far between. and sarah is most certainly one of those allies. i don’t think we should silence anyone when it comes to talking about representation and encouraging discussion. it only creates guilt and fear and takes away from actual discourse. also, racebending features and most certainly interviews a diverse set of people. to suggest that they should never interview an ally who happens to be white and/or straight, to me, is ludicrous. this sort of mindset only fractures. it does not unify.