Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The whitewashing of characters of color in book edits


Hey guys. So today I wanted to talk about something pretty important. By the title you can probably imagine what this is about. And maybe you have heard/read many things about whitewashing in the book universe or posts about the current news about Hollywood and their awful movies. But yeah I'm here to talk about that and it's sad to say this happens not only in Hollywood, but also in the book community.

Whitewashing for me is horrible. And mainly because, I don't know if you know, but I'm Mexican and sometimes people in the book community forget about a character who is Mexican/Latinx and when they cast them in their "book edits/graphics" in Tumblr, or do book/character aesthetics, they cast them with white models/actors/etc. I'm sure some of them don't mean it or are unaware of them doing it accidentally. But it happens A LOT.


They're not even that many POC characters in books, and when there are, some suffer horrible transformations in Tumblr graphics like changing their ethnicity.


Example 1. This is a graphic I made for the wanderlust book The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig. And in the book there is a character who goes by the name of Kash. And he is Persian.
"His golden skin shone, flushed with exertion, and I suppose, victory."

As you can read in that little quote, his skin is described as being a golden color. Also it is stated in the novel that he is from Persia - nowadays Iran - so when you are looking for a model/actor to represent Kash or any other character of color, please keep in mind to search for them to be also of that same ethnicity/cultural heritage.


Example #2. Laia from An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. Lots of the times people forget Laia is POC. Sometimes they even forget she is in the book (?? she is the protagonist, I don't get it, but okay). They don't even put her in their picspams or book aesthetics. They leave her out or put images that only show "her golden eyes."  

Even the author says she sees them as brown people. I just don't get why they either take her out of the narrative or fancast her as someone completely different. 

"The cream tingles. I watch, amazed, as it brings the warmth out in my olive skin."
Example #3. The Young Elites by Marie Lu. Stephanie Bertram Rose will always be my first choice for Adelina. If not her, I also like Marga Esquivel as Adelina.


The Young Elites is one of the books that most of the cast is POC and yet in graphics and pictures, I see that people cast them as white. Yeah, there are some people who do pretty gorgeous edits and they cast the characters as POCs and it's so wonderful to see.


Enzo Valenciano.
"He has the warm brown skin of northern Kenettrans, and his cheekbones are high, his face narrow and beautiful. But his hair holds my attention the most. It looks dark red in the light, so dark it's almost black, a rich shade of blood that I've never seen before, tied back into a short, loose tail at the nape of his neck."

Raffaele Laurent Bessette.
"His hair, black and shining, drapes across one of his shoulders in a loose, silken braid. His olive skin is smooth, flawless, glowing." 
(I haven't read The Rose Society but I know there are more POC characters there!). Also I cast the rest of The Daggers as POC too. 

 What to do?

Have in mind when you're making a book edit or anything related to posting a picture of one of the characters:
  1. Check the book first and find anything related to the character.
  2. Don't be lazy when you're doing picspams and put a Pinterest picture that "fits the context of the novel" but has people that look nothing alike to the characters.

Another problem that also appears in book community is the lightening of the skin color when you play with the Adjustments section in Photoshop. I mean I'm all for "go and create something beautiful" but that doesn't mean to change the color of the skin of the model so the "pastel" or "light" aesthetic that you're looking for in your graphic can be color coordinated. You can create beautiful pastel edits without lightening the skin of a person. 



I always see this, mainly in picspams, but there are some times that I also see it in normal book edits. Whenever they put a group of friends and the only one missing is the POC. Or the put all the other characters but "forget" to do one for the POC. 

Example #1. The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter is one of the many books I see where they don't put Rebecca Baxter, who is part of the main group of girls, in fan edits or anything. I almost always see the same pictures used in picspams in all of the other picspams. The always have this group of friends having fun together or "appearing like spies/boarding school girls." But none of them, in the pictures, include a black girl to represent Bex.


It makes me sad that someone as bright and as important as Bex Baxter is not included because

  • Couldn't find pictures
  • "It's not important if you don't put them all"

But it is! Because you're taking her out of the book and not including her (and including all the other girls) means that you don't really care if the only POC girl in the group is there or not. 

I hope for one day people do take notice of the author's words. Or that they don't erase the existence of a character of color in a book. 

6 comments:

  1. Yikes, I'd never noticed this, but it's good that it's been brought to attention! I agree that most of the time, it isn't even done with bad intention, but the thing is, the white washing is a problem that you can't solve generalizing it. It's all in the details. Like this little one. Things we don't even realize, because there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with it, but it is, in the long run.

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    1. Yeah, I know sometimes people don't realize that they're doing it in some way. Like the lightening of skin color - but it's still there. Or the little things, like you said, about the ethnicity of the character. And choosing for a Korean/American character in a book, a Chinese model.

      So I'm happy if people didn't know about it then, now they do in a way with this post :) Thanks for the comment!

      Sil

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  2. I don't see as many book edits as I would like but I completely understand your annoyance at the whitewashing of main characters. Why would people willingly ignore the author's description of characters? If skin colour isn't specified in the book I could at least understand where it comes from. I think to show your appreciation for an authors work is important, but to effectively do that you must respect their creation and not blindly ignore the ideas they have already created.

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    1. Yes!!! I don't understand how do the ignore it? How do they ignore Adelina is POC? That's why I think if you want to contribute in this way (I mean making fan edit) you have to learn all the facts first, search for all the info on the character first and then start doing them :)

      Sil

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  3. Gosh, this is such an important post. A little research never hurts, of course it takes time but whenever I look for a model to match my fancast I find plenty of others in the process who might be useful in different edits. POC don't get the representation they need and deserve, why take it from them in such a way like book graphics. It's really not that hard to find pictures that match the author's description, seeing as people are raising more and more awareness to this topic, creating helpful masterposts (with links to POC models blogs etc) which is fricking awesome!

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    1. ME too! I'm like searching for models for a character in particular and then I find so many more and think: SHE COULD BE *add character from another book* searching for FCs takes a while but it's SO FUN!!

      And yes, there's more people who do include POC characters nowadays in book graphics. But there's still LOTS of others than leave them out of them and it feels like they just erased their storyline in the book?? OMG yes!! A friend of mine aka daisycalloway in Tumblr did a post with links to sites that post about POC models!! Here is the link: http://daisycalloway.tumblr.com/post/119895808302/i-couldnt-find-any-pictures-that-are-is-a-very

      Sil

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