Novelist Millenia Black , who is African-American, claims she has been told by her editor to change the race of the characters in her latest book, THE GREAT BETRAYAL, from white to African-American or they won’t publish it. She writes on her blog:
THE GREAT BETRAYAL is a story about secrets. Secrets.
And just how long you can bury them before the past crashes into the
present, with a vengeance. Pretty universal subject matter, yes? I
thought so. Now, suppose you’d written such a novel, and your
publisher told you that, although it was a dynamite story, they would
not accept it—because the characters were white. The race must be
changed before they’ll publish it!
If this story is true, I don’t blame Millenia for being outraged. She believes that she’s being told that as an African-American author she can’t write about whites. They are, in essense, relegating her to a niche market — strictly "African-American" readers. Black adds in a comment to her post:
It’s one thing to write to an AA audience. It’s another thing to write mainstream/commercial fiction and be relegated
to an AA audience. The fact that you can’t write a book with
main characters that happen to be white (would have to lie about or
hide your race in order to do so) is the Jim Crow of modern-day
publishing. Enough is enough.
Especially when you consider that nobody has a problem with James Patterson, a middle-aged white guy, writing about a black detective. But a black woman can’t write about white characters? It’s ridiculous.
UPDATE 10-9-06: She’s suing. Millenia writes:
Career or no career, the genre of a book should not be determined by
its author’s color. An author should not have to lie about his or her
skin color in order to obtain equitable handling by a publisher. An
author’s skin color should not determine where his or her books will
likely be shelved by a bookseller, or whether or not some booksellers
will even order said book. The color of an author should be of no
interest in any acquisition. If they want a book about black people, that’s what should be acquired – a book about black people.