Ursula K. Le Guin said this:
"I have received letters that broke my heart, from adolescents of color in this country and in England, telling me that when they realized that Ged and the other Archipelagans in the Earthsea books are not white people, they felt included in the world of literary and movie fantasy for the first time."
— Speech to the Book Expo America children's literature breakfast, June, 4, 2004.
And Pam Noles wrote about this in her essay called "Shame." This sprung up after the Sci/Fi network did a movie based on Earthsea -- totally trashed it -- and they made Ged and all his buds white as the pure-driven snow. Cause I guess wizards of colors aren't good for ratings?
And Pam wrote about reaching that point in Earthsea when LeGuin mentions that while Ged and Jasper were red-brown, Vetch was black-brown.
And because Le Guin snuck up on it, let us thrill with Sparrowhawk as he made his way, the Revelation came as a shock. I do remember bursting out into tears on the living room couch when I understood what was going on. And the tears flowed again when Mom came home from work and I showed her the book while trying to explain. Sparrowhawk is brown. I think he's like an Indian from India. And Vetch is black like from Africa. There's a bunch more and they have real power. Not the girls, though. But still they are also the good guys. It's the white people who are evil. And Sparrowhawk is also Ged, and he's going to be the most powerful one of them all, ever.
And I look at all my lily-white characters in Symphonians. And cringe.
I mean, I look at the diversity of kids in elementary schools these days. Even my nephew and niece, who are part Portuguese, have cinnamon skin and that black hair and brown eyes I love so much. Why can't my characters reflect this reality?
I've been wanting for ages to write a fantasy novel with all-black characters. I mean the dark-black ones -- what did Toni Morrison call them? Coal-rock? (I can't remember and I can't find my copy of Paradise on my bookshelves.) I'd have all the dark colors, maybe have a token white, just to turn the whole race thing on its head. I really think we shouldn't assume that all our MC's are white just because we see a lot of whites. That's because whites seem to have a way of making other colors feel uncomfortable. And I've done my share of dumb things in the past, though I don't do them again, Lord willing.
But the thing that really got me was that one of the characters I've known longest -- Roderick, one of my wonderful Symphonians, and one of my favorites -- has always been part Spanish. His mom was Spanish. The man has black hair and brown eyes, and I've had an idea that he's dark-skinned, but it never showed up on the page. Many times I've thought, "Well, heavens, he's got to at least look like he has a tan," but it never shows on the page.
And Yvonne could easily be Asian; I can see her looking like some wild anime angel to try and freak out her parents. Not to mention the butterfly tattoo and the crazy earrings.
I'd like to bring myself next to have my main character be of a different color, race, or heritage. But I'm shy of this ... what if I offend somebody is the usual excuse. "You can't learn all about being black just by listening to the Tom Joyner Show on the radio," I tell myself. I need to do more research. I feel it's important for all to be included in my stories. I know, I know, I'm writing about the human condition, blah blah blah. But I think it's important that we acknowledge the human condition isn't only about being white.