Early on in my editorial career, I worked on a series that featured a group of friends. The characters were already somewhat diverse (I think out of five or six main characters, two were characters of color), but I suggested to the freelance editor the possibility of adding one more. She said she'd consider it, but was leaning towards not, because wouldn't it feel too forced and unrealistic?
I think as adults, we're perhaps too aware of examples of this "forced multiculturalism"--TV shows, movies, books where there's one black, one white, one Asian, one Latino character, etc. But as a kid, I never saw this as a bad thing--I wanted it, forced or not--and to many kids (and adults), it isn't unrealistic and it isn't forced. It's an accurate mirror of their own experience.
When I was in high school in Southern California, my group of friends included kids from almost every ethnic group. As a young adult working at Barnes & Noble in downtown Oakland, my group of bookseller friends was also very naturally diverse. One of my coworkers, who referred to himself as Chicano (he told me this meant he was the child of Mexican immigrants born in the United States--but as Wendy mentioned, it's ever-changing!), told me that when he was a kid, he had two best friends, one was black and one was white. Not a far cry from Bill Konigsberg's characters in Out of the Pocket.
Then again, my three closest friends in High School were all Asian. After I moved to Boston to start my publishing career, a friend saw a photo of the four of us and I told him who they were. "Isn't it kind of weird that you were all Asian?" He asked. "Not really...my school was 40% Asian," I said. We didn't specifically seek each other out, it just happened that way, although I'm sure there was an element of feeling closer to girls who looked like us. But for me, it's no weirder than having a group of four white friends or four black friends.
|Two Asian main characters on Hawaii Five-0.|
Photo: Norman Shapiro/CBS ©2012
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