Story is not colour blind

Happy World Book Day, everyone!

I saw the following post on Malorie Blackman's Facebook profile yesterday:

Click click: read it.

The author, a teacher, writes about how he was dismayed to find that his students from diverse backgrounds believed that only white people could be characters in a story.

If children were writing stories where the race of characters was varied and random, there might be some merit in claiming that children are colourblind. However, even proponents of racial colourblindness do not argue that all people are white … and English. They argue that race no longer matters. If that’s true, why are young children of colour and young white children writing exclusively about white characters? Read it on the Media Diversified Blog

The post really struck a chord with me.

When I visit schools, I tell the story of how I never saw myself in the books that I read and loved while growing up. How it took me a long time to have the courage to put characters who looked like me in my stories.

My first novel, which took me five years to write (it is still unpublished), featured an English boy, whose best friend was an elderly Englishman. It was a time travel story which took my character into the Second World War in Europe - although when I was growing up, my parents had steeped me in stories of their own experiences of war in the Philippines.

It was only when a literary agent pointed out the disconnect between the story and its author that I realised I wasn't allowing myself to become part of my stories.

Often I find myself speaking in schools with incredibly diverse populations, the children are a rainbow of colours, faiths and backgrounds. And as I watch their faces, I see realisation dawn on many faces. Because they haven't seen themselves in books either.

This is why it's so exciting to meet young people who are writers as well as readers.

There's no time to waste. They MUST begin writing their stories down now.

All our stories are different. There is no one way to describe each of us. And we are the only ones who can put that story into words. And story is not colour blind.

We are often told: "Write what you know."

But even more importantly, kids, whether you're black or brown or snow white or rose red or olive drab (like me) - WRITE WHO YOU ARE.

Read my previous posts:

Origami fan mail One picture, three stories The writer is YOU