April 11, 2012

Raised by Wolves: White-Only Paranormal Fantasy or PNR

Raised by Wolves (Raised by Wolves, #1)

At the age of four, Bryn watched a rogue werewolf brutally murder her parents. Alone in the world, she was rescued and taken in by the mysterious Callum, the alpha of his werewolf pack. Now fifteen, Bryn’s been raised as a human among werewolves, adhering to pack rule (mostly). Little fazes her.

But the pack’s been keeping a secret, and when Bryn goes exploring against Callum’s direct orders, she finds Chase, a newly turned teen Were locked in a cage. Terrifying memories of the attack on her mom and dad come flooding back. Bryn needs answers, and she needs Chase to get them ....

Topic of Choice: Whites-Only Paranormal Fantasy Genre

Now before we begin, this is not just an attack on any single author. I love Jennifer Lynn Barnes for her fresh ideas and her writing style. Same thing with a lot of my favorite paranormal romance or paranormal fantasy authors which include Andrea Cremer and Stephenie Meyer just to name a few. 

However, I do have a problem with the fact that no author (except for Dia Revees and maybe some select others) have minority characters in this genre as the lead character. It's almost like there's a rule about not having any minority there.

Now of course, some authors have minority characters as side characters which is okay. Except it's like not getting the lead role in your favorite play. You want the lead role, but at least you're included int he play int he first place.

What I seriously don't get though is that a lot of kids that read these genres are minorities. I'm not saying that European American males and females don't read these books. They do also. However, as an African American female reading these types of books it's discouraging (to say the least) to not find any minorities in the books at times as the lead or even minorities as the side characters.

Am I saying all of the famous authors should now suddenly rush to put minority characters in their books? Absolutely not.

I'm saying that more authors should consider that the lead in paranormal romances don't have to be white. They can be Hispanic, African American (or even African, that would be fascinating!), Asian, Native America, Samoan or any other type of minority or even mixes of all different types of races. 

Let's even take it a step further: How many reader's of Jennifer Lynn Barne's books are represented in her novels?

Is it not fair that Hispanic American females read her books constantly yet they are never represented in her books? Sure, it's nice to get a thank you for reading my books from an author. But how awesome would it be to have a character named after a reader? Or even have a character inspired by a reader?

Or even take it at the very base value: How cool would it be to have strong minority role models that are not stereotypical in paranormal fantasy or paranormal romance books?

Now let's take a step back. I know some authors might be intimidated by the huge weight this puts on their shoulders. They may wonder how they write an Asian American character without making her or him stereotypical. 

And you want to know the answer: Research.

Authors do research all the time, especially paranormal romance or paranormal fantasy authors. Why? Because they need to know the original origin of these myths and bring them back to life. How much harder would it be to research a culture?

How hard would it be for Becca Fitzpatrick to go into a community of Native Americans and ask them a few questions about their culture? Or to simply talk to them or even at the basic level, visit them every weekend?

I can't say for  all minorities (since I'm only part of one minority group) but for the most part, if you ask me how it is to be an African American female, I'll tell you. I welcome questions, as long as it's not taken as a joke or even a big fat waste of time. If I can see that you are at least trying to understand African American culture, then I am more than welcome to answer questions.

Additionally, the African American community is pretty wide open to talk about experiences being African American, especially about discrimination. All you have to do is ask or even say hello once and a while. 

Anyway, I'm veering off into another rant or even another topic altogether. My main point of this whole discussion: Authors need to consider including minority groups into their works.

I think sooner or later, minorities will eventually figure out that the character isn't like them at all. There are huge cultural differences between African Americans and European Americas. Just on the basic level on speak and tone. Then some will simply walk away from an author.

It's just that simple.

After a while, I get tired of reading about white females always getting into trouble with some mysterious white hero. I do. I seriously get tired of seeing the same people in novels. Where are the black heroes? Where are the Asian heroes (other then ninjas)?

And I'm not the only one asking these questions or simply walking away.

A student of mine, Javon, simply walked away from a novel because he couldn't identify with those characters. At one point, I was mad at him because I gave him one of my favorite series, Time Warp Trio. He was so into the book that he didn't speak the entire time of MIRP (Monitored Independent Reading Program). 

Then the next day, he didn't want to read it.


"Because it's boring!"

"Why is it boring?!"

"Ms. Hinton!"

"No really, Javon, you were so into it yesterday. Why do not want to read it?"


"Okay, Javon, I'll tell you what. Write me a letter (that has to be at least six complete sentences) about why you don't want to read this book."

And he did. He basically told me he didn't want to read the book anymore because it didn't pertain to him or his culture (African American). So he picked up the Bluford Series instead which features African Americans.

You see what happened in a matter of a day!?

Authors may not want to see this change occur, but I'm right in front of the students who are constantly hungry for books that feature characters like them. Characters that speak like them, run into realistic problems like them, and relate to them.

I wish some authors could come in and see what's happening, but instead they write with characters who are not relating to students who are different. Who aren't the drop dead gorgeous girl but can throw a mean right punch. Girls who may not be the prettiest or even smartest, but they can dress better then any celebrity.

Where are the authors who relate to them?

Where are the role models in paranormal fantasy and paranormal romance for minorities?


  1. Hey Larissa. This is Kish. I'm smiling 'cause I like your boldness. I have just recently started following your blog, and already I'm intrigued. You raised a VERY sticky point. Now, to ID myself, I've been drafting paranormal fiction for ten or so years, but I am only now making the leap into getting published. And I'm black (Caribbean American). There ARE African-American paranormal writers putting it out there for us, namely Seressia Glass and L.A. Banks (RIP!!!), though wayyy too few. There are undoubtedly other 'ethnic' paranormal writers out there, but they may be hidden behind white characters, in an effort to ensure that their story sells to mainstream America. I think a lot of the fear in 'casting' ethnic main characters comes from an idea that your book will be labeled as an 'urban' book or a 'tale from the hood' book, instead of just a BOOK. To be fair to other authors, most people feel comfortable writing what they know, and it may be that a non-ethnic writer does not feel comfortable enough to confidently write a story about ethnic characters. They also may not need to do this, ie. what's in it for them? Definitely we need the ethnic authors to write about characters that reflect themselves, WITHOUT the story becoming about race or culture. Because that does happen. I've read books with ethnic main characters where the ENTIRE story was buffeted by description of the character's race and culture. That sort of thing is also too dreary. It weighs a story down. We need to get out there, keep writing our HEARTS out, and build the 'dark-skinned', 'colored', 'ethnic' STRONG characters that resonate with readers and can hold their own against the usual suspects, and we need to be able to do this seamlessly and skillfully.

    Kish Knight

  2. Ahhh! (still working on the technology....)
    Lost the signature somewhere before...

    Kish Knight

  3. Hey Kish! Thanks for stopping by, dropping a comment and following my blog! You've been a busy girl, lol!

    Wow, I'm so glad that there are other African American, Carribean American, and many other authors who see this problem. It's a very sticky situation.

    On the one hand, I identify with these authors like Jennifer Lynn Barnes and Andrea Cremer. They might not have a full grasp of these diverse and interesting cultures. However, with the internet and the ease of which research can be done in this century, they can easily get the information they need to create these creatures with the realness needed.

    Additionally, I think ethnic authors need to step up and take this genre and fill it with a unique-ness it clearly craves. I think we are all tired of seeing the same plots with the same characters. Giving it such a rich-ness fill of culture will not only give it a new voice but a new growth that other readers and aspiring writers can identify with.

    However, I completely agree with you that there is a danger that ethnic authors (including myself) may fall into the pitfall of describing and making the book way too much about the culture and not about the characters themselves.

    It's actually a reason why I'm taking my time plotting my new paranormal fantasy novel that will feature an HBCU (Historically Black College and University) because the slip up is so great into describing the college and the rich history it has. So I think that is something to consider and be wary of.

    Anyway, thanks for those thoughtful insights! I joined your blog, btw. I had to actually look up the word mage. Very interesting nickname. I've never heard of it before. And if you need some help with marketing, I would suggest joining Writer's Cafe and Book Blog Ning. Anyway, just some helpful tips. Thanks again for stopping by and feel free to comment again! :)

  4. I can't agree with you more. I am not a big Paranormal reader, I dabble on occassion, but I have noticed the lack of miniority characters. I think it's unfortunate that the richness of ethnicity is absent from many genres. Even after all this time many cultures are underrepresented (if at all), when there is so much to offer through cultural diversity. Imagine the paranormal tales that could evolve from the french quarter, the flatlands of Africa, or the mountains of Peru. It is especially unfortunate because of the history of minority culture, ripe with tales of spirits and unseen forces.

    I'm so glad that you wrote this post, I thank you very much!

  5. Larissa, thanks for suggesting those blogs (actually I was waiting for membership approval on bookblogs.ning.com, but I got it last night...yay!) Thanks for the add. And please keep on posting these riveting blogs....I was at work, checked your post, and was like, "!!!!!!! She hit the nail on the head!"

  6. Hey Stacey and Kish! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

    @Stacey-It's really unfortunate. Like I said before, the paranormal genre is lacking such a richness and depthness of ethnic flavor. It's so blah with the same plot and same characters. If only writers would realize that then I think the genre would be so much better. Until then we are left with emptiness that is paranormal.

    No problem! I'm glad that we are having these interesting and important conversations!

    Kish-No problem. I thought you would need it! Good luck with your blog. I'll definitely keep my eye on it.

    I'll try my best to keep writing these type of blog posts. I don't read as much as I usually do (since I'm in full writing mode for Angel Diaries 2) but I'll try my best!

    Thank you guys so much for stopping by!

  7. VEEERRY interesting and timely post. I think the problem lies in perception--the idea that black youth don't read, certainly not enough to make it profitable for book sellers.

    Tangentially, did you read about the backlash received by the Hunger Games movie for featuring black characters (even though they seemed to be identified as such in the books)?