Kate (kate_nepveu) wrote,
Kate
kate_nepveu

Unintentionally racist writing, a quick and minor example

Dear Suzanne Brockmann and J.D. Robb,

Please do not call the eyes of people of Asian descent "exotic." "Exotic" means foreign and unfamiliar, and in your present-day and near-future American settings, people of Asian descent are neither.

Very truly yours,

A reader

For those unfamiliar, Brockmann writes the Troubleshooters romantic suspense series (booklog); Robb (a.k.a. Nora Roberts) writes the near-future In Death mystery series (booklog). Both are obviously committed to having a diverse cast of characters (particularly Brockmann). I absolutely believe they did not have any racist intent in writing their character descriptions.

And yet Brockmann describes a character in Into the Fire as having "eyes that revealed his part-Vietnamese heritage with their exotically graceful shape," and Robb repeatedly describes a recurring character as having "exotic almond eyes" (to quote the website excerpt of the forthcoming book (PDF)). And every time I see those references, I think to myself, "No, neither I nor my eyes are foreign, thankyouverymuch."

Good intentions are important. But they aren't sufficient.

(Brockmann uses "exotic" about other characters too, ones thoroughly white, at least; I think Robb tends to keep it for foreign things.)

Tags: books, race, writing
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