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June 14, 2008


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Why is Alex white? He's not, he's a pale tan shade with overtones of pink. Unless he's albino. And that's what color he is because he was born that way. Oh, the comment about Jesus -- the earliest paintings of "the white Christ" were made by brown skinned Mediterranean missionaries moving north to evangelize the pale pagan barbarians of upper Europe. It was all about making Jesus culturally relevant to the new converts.

barbara lindberg

Reading your post and the comments brings to mind the classical North American painting of Jesus - you know the white man with the long English nose and the long dirty blond hair. Jesus was a Jew and most likely very dark haired and dark skinned. I think there is bias out there but I don't think that (white) people are aware of it until someone points it out.


I can see why the illustrator asked the question, from the standpoint of wanting to be true to the character. But for others to question why the character would be white or any other race for that matter is silly. I'm multi-ethnic (afro-latina), my son is bi-racial (caucasian and afro-latino), and like Karen, he has books and dolls about all different kinds and colors of people, because that's who is in the world.



Thanks for the post. I'm going to take a look at the link.

Kitty Pryde

I would certainly read a book where the main character's race was different from the author's. Tobias Buckell wrote a really genius post on the topic here:
He basically says, how can we as writers write about aliens or elves and then claim that we can't understand a character from a different culture?


Interesting post.

I do have "relationships" with my characters. Even my fictional ones. :) I get very attached.

I've never faced this particular problem, but I am glad the illustrator asked.

Caroline Wilson


That's an interesting school of thought - assuming that the characters have some relationship to the author.


Race isn't a big deal to me. When I write stuff, I choose whatever race seems right for the character. I don't know the race of most authors, so I couldn't say if their characters were the same race as them.

I think part of the issue is that some people assume an author's characters are the author. It happens with other things like gender, age and nationality. Some readers are convinced every story is about the author's life, even when it's nothing of the sort.

Caroline Wilson


Thanks for the comment. For the life of me, I can't figure out why it would make a difference if the story has substance.

However, I must add that I do understand readers/buyers are interested in books about their own characters. On the other hand, it's a children's story.

Karen L. Alaniz

Sometimes it's good to open a can of worms. At least the illustrator asked you. I've read about authors of something like a novel, who describes the main character as a thin woman with curly, red hair. And on the cover of the book, she's portrayed as a thick woman with straight, black hair. My children are bi-racial (mexican/caucasion). When my daughter was little, I bought her an African American doll, and a Chinese doll. I can't tell you how much flack I got from people. They all asked, "Why would you get your daughter a black/chinese doll?" Sheesh. If I have to explain, then never mind. Anyway-your book looks really sweet. ~Karen

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