It’s #TeaserTuesday! It’s Seth! It’s Nica! It’s NAJ FINALLY DANCING IN ASYLUM.
What an odd mix she was. From the waist down, she was all serpent, red sarong falling open on one side to show a long line of russet, tawny skin. Her legs’ grip on the drum showed the dancers’ habit of being ready to rise at any moment and join the dance. But her golden halter brought out the raptor intensity in her eyes, and the cut left her shoulders free and clear for wings. Her voice was strong with the powerful lungs she’d need to survive long flights at high altitudes, but bent gently to simple nursery tune.
Seth simply didn’t know what to make of her.
It cracks me up (and worries me) how little dancing actually happens in Asylum Book 1. Like, I get it, they’ve got other things to do, but I feel like it’s so easy to forget they’re dancers. It’s something I read for while editing.
This teaser also showcases something I
worry about read for, which is making sure none of our characters fall victim to the Default White trope. Nica is not white. Naj is not white. Kain is most certainly not white. Neither is Nat. In fact, all lined up, none of them are even that same shade of Not-White. So I guess I also read against the Ambiguously Brown trope, too.
But it’s awkward, because Asylum is set in a slantverse, a near-reality that mirrors our own but isn’t exact. There is no Nebraska, for example. (Well, there might be, but I’m pretty sure I have a big magical wasteland where Nebraska should be. I’ve not explored that far West yet in any great detail. There’s definitely still a Canada, but here there be yetis.) So while I know half of Nica’s parentage is what we’d call Native American, that’s about as far as I can go. Her tribe is a fictitious shifter tribe, and one she’s not even currently aware of, so calling her by a specific group name just doesn’t work.
When I start down this rabbit hole, I start feeling like a lazy, appropriative author. I start wondering if I have Brown For the Sake of Brown action going on. I start down a sneaky doubt spiral that it’s hard to pull back out of.
Asylum is a draft. It’s a public draft, that I hope people will read and love, but it’s not perfect. Much in the spirit of this original blog, it’s an Experiment, and one I learn tons from every day. Writing Race is definitely a weak spot I need to shore up (but to be fair, I’ve never done it before. And being aware is definitely the first step).
So ANYWAYS, I love scenes like this, where I can a minute to step back and describe my characters, to remind people they’re not-white and more than just brown, and to show not-white as good and beautiful without being exotic. It is definitely something we need more of.
In that spirit, I wanted to link to some of the resources I use to write race better. Big shoutout to Writing with Color (and most especially this post) for keeping me mindful and pointing my brain in the right direction. Legit and More Legit Gre8er writing tips too. And We Need Diverse Books and Diversity in YA to keep me from getting discouraged.
*deep breath* Ok. That went in a different direction than usual. I feel silly now doing my usual wrap up, cause this turned into a very different post than it started as. 😛 For your usually scheduled Asylum, be sure to check in on Saturday.