I’ve thought about making this post for awhile now. I’ve thought about how I would word it, what I would say, where the line between ‘making excuses’ and ‘explaining myself’ was. At the end of the day I’m not sure there’s a way to write this without making someone, somewhere, unhappy. But. I felt like this was important enough it at least needed to be brought up.
Just Juliet doesn’t get low star reviews a lot, and that’s not meant to sound like I’m bragging, but meant to say that when it does, I pay attention to them. I want to know what someone didn’t like enough to vocalize their distaste. I want to know what I can do to fix it in later stories.
A few I don’t have control over – my writing style, the way I plot, some mistakes the editors made. A lot are from people who obviously don’t come from a generation that use insults as terms of endearment. Some are from homo/biphobes. Whatever. Can’t win them all.
But, mostly, when something negative is brought up, it’s in terms of race. Namely, how I write about it.
Here’s a little about me: I was born and raised in the South, in a white family, my Grandparents went to segregated schools, there were three African American kids in my own school – two were mixed and one raised by white parents. We had a few families from Mexico, but otherwise, my home town was predominantly, strongly – white.
It’s something I’ve been trying to pay attention to since college. To notice how the world treats other races, to check my white privilege, to do better. Slowly but surely, I am trying.
Here’s a little backstory on Just Juliet, and why race is handled the way it is:
When it was written and originally put up on Wattpad, Lacey was the only POC. And after it was finished, with 2.5k readers, only a handful finished the book knowing Lacey was black. Rereading it, it crushed me that I had somehow managed to whitewash my book so badly..
So while in the editing process, I tried to fix it. I tried to pull on things that would make Lacey’s race more noticeable, and decided to change some of the other background characters races too. Kiki, Georgia’s boyfriend Chris, Matt. (Actually, no one complains about Matt, but that makes me wonder if it’s because no one remembers he’s hispanic?)
Did the main cast stay white? Yes. I thought about making Lena biracial for a little while, but in the end I decided I didn’t have enough of a grasp on what it means to be biracial to write her that way. It wasn’t my story to tell. Lakyn, Juliet, and Scott fell under the same rules, because I could write stories from all their POVs eventually.
This review, specifically, calls out the mistake I still made:
“I almost put the book down five pages in because of how casually racist the descriptions of the supporting characters were. Like, wow, your token asian has very conservative parents and loves math?? you have a character who has a ”beautiful multiracial baby”, and the dad’s out of the picture?but it’s totally cool, because your bland white girl MC has a best friend who’s black and *~coincidentally~* combative and promiscuous?”
Maybe I’m going to regret speaking my thoughts from here on but *deep breath* I didn’t realize I was stereotyping. (I take full responsibility for the line “Lacey went so white she could almost pass for caucasian” because yeah, that’s gross, but I was trying to find any and every way that I could point out she wasn’t, that it just…slipped in. Someone should honestly take that out. Publishing team – if you’re reading, do us a solid?)
So what have I learned? That I should try to do better. I shouldn’t have walked into a book throwing races around with a limited time frame and even more limited research.
So this is me acknowledging that I fucked up.
And I will do my best to not do it again.
Okay that’s all I had to say.