Skin Deep

It’s an interesting thing, being the parent of a child of mixed race. Genetics are so peculiar in how they take form …and how those results influence how we’re perceived…and how we perceive ourselves. To be honest, it hasn’t really been anything I’ve thought about on any intrinsic level until the other night when Lucy wanted to know why she wasn’t white.

I’m Irish – a pale, freckly mess with sorta brownish/reddish hair. Mr myn is half-Chinese, though he looks more than merely half to me. My children are split right down the middle. Connor looks just like me- pale skin, brown hair, hazel green eyes – you really wouldn’t know he was Asian at all. Lucy has almond eyes,  straight hair, and lovely golden skin. (I’m rather jealous of it, frankly –  the sun adores her. Connor and I step outside for 5 minutes and fry.)

But it’s not something I really *see* if that makes sense. The only reason I’m looking at my kids’ appearance is to make sure 1) hair is maybe sorta brushed and 2) there isn’t chocolate/jelly/something on their faces. That’s it.

So Lucy’s question caught me off guard…as did her reaction when I told her that’s just the way she came.

She cried. Because she wants to look like mommy. Which is beyond heartbreaking, because she DOES look like me – we have the same ears and lower lip, the same legs, the same oddly shortened pinky on each hand. But for the moment it’s about skin color for her.

But her reaction did make me think a little bit about my own writing – specifically my characters and their own ethnic backgrounds. And yeah – I think a lot of UF heroines tend to be white – maybe that’s the Buffy syndrome – since UF as we know it – i.e the kick-ass slayer chick – didn’t really start until that. (And that’s not to say all UF heroines are white – they aren’t – but the majority do seem to be.)

And while they say “write what you know”, I think in a lot of cases it’s often “write what you read”. I grew up on hard-core sci-fi and epic fantasy novels – most of whom contained heroes who were young white males. (Not really until I picked up Mercedes Lackey and Tanya Huff, to start with, anyway. And hey, heroines that *I* could identify with. Mind blowing.)

So I looked at my own characters – and yup, Abby is white. Melanie is white. Katy is white. Charlie isn’t. I don’t know if I’ve ever really represented that as well as I should have, but she’s definitely mixed African-American – and that was true 10 years ago when I started writing a short story about her, which was subsequently lost when the disk was eaten.  Still, that’s sad. I don’t even know if the OtherFolk really count – elves and shapeshifting incubi aside – technically they’re different races…but it’s fantasy, and I think that makes a big difference. (Even if Brystion *does* have ebony skin, antlers and deer hooves, it’s not the same thing – tho that scene at the end of BoD? I think that was part of the point I was trying to make. Love *should* eclipse the pettiness of appearance.)

I branch out a bit more in SoS – there are a few Asian OtherFolk kicking around – Kitsune, a fox-woman and Nobu, a Shinigami of sorts. (And he’s got an *awful* lot to do with Melanie, btw – lots of history there.) But at the moment, they’re relegated to secondary characters, and that’s fine, since this is Abby’s story.

But the more I’ve been thinking on it, the more I realize I want to write something that my daughter will be able to identify with as well.

I owe her that.

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6 Responses to Skin Deep

  1. Diana Paz says:

    Having always looked different from my family, I can relate to your daughter so much. Now, having watched my own daughter cry and wish she had my hair, skin and eyes when hers are inherited from her father, it breaks my heart too.

    You're so right about "write what you read." I grew up reading historical romance and epic fantasy; it's always easier for me to slip into writing the characters that were such a big part of my psyche all those years.

    Beautiful post.

  2. Alison Beightol says:

    What a touching post. It made me tear up. I'm another text book white person with the whitest, freckliest skin that goes up in flames in the florida sun. Although the rest of me is "genetically dominant" brown hair, brown eyes, hairy. My daughter is olive skinned and has amber eyes. Her dad is italian and she wonders why I'm pink and why she's brown. I tried to give her a scientific explanation but then just went with that's how you came.
    Oddly enough, my characters are kind of a UN.The main character is from Britain. Two very important characters, a love interest is 2nd generation cuban and an ancient vampire is from spain. But I also have minor characters that are native american and african american. I've also got homosexual characters. I guess that's my world.
    But I find that no matter "what" a character is, if they are interesting or compelling, I don't care. Like in life

  3. WickedLilPixie says:

    Son of a snapdragon, my comment got ated! In anycase, you made me cry woman! I'm biracial, and it's not just write what you know…it's read what you know. It's sad that I am more likely to bump into a racist character then one of mixed race 🙁

  4. Awesome post!

    I’m an Asian adopted by white parents and when I was growing up I always wanted to look like their biological daughter (or how I imagined their biological daughter to look, anyway!)

    It’s beautiful that you want to write something that your daughter can relate to. I love books that have Asian characters, but it doesn’t define them OR create the conflict of the story etc.

  5. Rosie Lane says:

    This is a lovely, thoughtful post. My son is mixed race, and we spend a lot of time talking about how he has a bit of me and a bit of Daddy. But, for all those conversations about skin colour and hair, I had never thought to look at writing for a reflection of his experiences. You make me want to change that.

  6. synde says:

    what a beautiful post.. It made me a bit teary frankly.
    Im sure in time you will write the perfect thing for Lucy.. you haz talent!

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