Interview with two black fantasy writers
I promise that I won’t mention what’s going on at Fantasy magazine every week. But a lot of what I’m doing over there has a lot to do with some of the things I talk about over here. Thus, every once and a while I’ll link.
This week it was an interview with authors Alaya Dawn Johnson and Carole McDonnell. They are two writers of color who’ve written books populated with multicultural people. Here’s an excerpt to entice you:
Tempest: How much does race and clashing cultures come into the overall body of work for both of you?
Carole: With me it’s often about power. Some culture has more power than another. Race comes into all my work. But sometimes the problem isn’t racial.
I’m also not into things that are specifically Afrocentric. I tend to write multicultural books where characters from all kinds of tribes abound. The main female character and her family are usually black, and then after that there’s just a whole bunch of indigenous folks.
Tempest: Some people would equate the term “multicultural” with “Afrocentric”.
Carole: I’m being super-literal. To me Afrocentric means black culture being at the center of the story. Multiculturalism means every culture being included in the mix. And Eurocentric means every character is European. When I came to the United States as a kid I was surrounded by many different cultures. My friends were mostly Orthodox or secular Jewish kids. In college the trend continued. My husband is Irish-American. The church I attend is 90% Ecuadorian and totally Spanish-speaking. I have several black friends but not that many. I can’t really do Afrocentric because it’s not really what I’ve experienced in life.
Alaya: There are thousands of cultures in Africa, and most Africans would consider a novel about several different African tribes to be very multi-cultural, though they’d all be “black.”
Tempest: Would you consider your book’s world to be multicultural, Alaya?
Alaya: I would, though I deliberately made “race” (being defined by the color of ones skin) subordinate to the place where people were born. So, the outer islanders, where my main character Lana is from, are very dark skinned, but the main issue is their cultural provincialism compared to the paler inner-islanders.
Though clashes in cultures will definitely play more of a role in the next two books, there isn’t much in Racing the Dark. Imprisoning the spirits forced the humans to be peaceful and smoothed over their cultural differences.