Literary Diversity Lesson in Southeast Asia

Sorry for the lack of a blog lately. I’ve beenon vacation in Southeast Asia. I’ve had much good food across three cultures; met many charming, generous, and educational people; fell for thirty-six hours to dysentery; and even got to feel – I mean really, really feel – first world guilt; all book-ended by two thirty-hour flight combos. I’ve been home three days now, and I’m still a little exhausted and exhilarated. As someone once said of traveling, I didn’t just gain a new perspective, I gained new eyes.

So I’m better able to look at that whole first world guilt thing with a little more perspective. And I’m also able to look at the other side–that distinctly American sense of pride that much of the world (rightly) considers arrogance–with a little less shame as well.

Don’t worry, I wont go into all that here. I mostly just wanted an excuse to post some pictures from and brag about my trip. And these issues of Western imperialism, past and present, actually tie into the subject of this post. At least they do in my brain.

That’s because I’m writing about literary diversity.

No, really.

I’ve been contemplating the lack of diversity in my manuscript. What will be my debut novel is the story of young white man who mostly interacts with older white men. Don’t worry, this is not a synopsis. But, mostly due to white guilt, I do feel compelled to mention that there are two major female characters, one of whom used to be a man. So my story’s not completely overridden with Y chromosomes. And, as has recently been pointed out to me, I don’t ever specify the ethnicity of my characters. They could be any ethnicity of Texan. Even still, I think it’s safe to assume that most readers will construct my characters with a certain WASPishness after they look at the headshot inside the back cover.

But, as I said, my WIP will be my first novel. Which is why I’ve decided I’m not going to push too hard to widen its gene pool, so to speak. I’m going to let it be about a white boy in a mostly white world. Whether I like it or not, I’m about as WASP as they come, so it makes sense that I should start my novel writing career with a WASPy cast of characters. I’m writing what I know and settling into my voice. I’m not worrying about exploring other, less comfortable points-of-view.


That comes next.

And in the meantime, here’s a picture of a banyan tree eating a 6th century Hindu Wat: