In a Facebook group this morning, a reference to this blog post by Leonard Chang surfaced*. As an editor, I was astonished by the lack of sensitivity shown by this editor. This person actually thinks it’s okay for the author to have his character look in the mirror and “show how she sees her slanted eyes, or how she thinks of her Asianness.” Right. Because as a Caucasian female, I always look in the mirror and comment to myself about how not slanted my eyes are, and what I think about being Caucasian. I mean, who doesn’t, right? Don’t we all constantly think about how we look in terms of describing our own race to someone else?
There are far better ways to indicate this character’s racial identity. How about her culture? How about how she interacts with people of another race? Why would an editor feel justified in telling an Asian author that his characters “just do not seem Asian enough. They act like everyone else.”
I hope that I am never this insensitive when I have my editor hat on, and I hope that I never encounter an editor this insensitive when I have my author hat on.
*Disclaimer: There is some strong language in the post.