I would recommend this book to every writer. A little bit more to writers of sci fi/fantasy, but really everyone. Though it specifically focuses on pe...moreI would recommend this book to every writer. A little bit more to writers of sci fi/fantasy, but really everyone. Though it specifically focuses on people of color, it's a primer on how to make sure you're appropriately incorporating "the other" into the world of your fiction--that is to say, people who aren't like you. Even if you're a white person living in Sweden, writing about white Swedes, there are presumably still people who are different enough from you (gay, disabled, poor) who ought to exist in your novel, and be represented as full characters. Shawl and Ward's book tells you how to make a start.
The reason they wrote this book is because many writers are so afraid of making a mistake when writing about racially different characters, that they decide it's safer to "write about what you know" and not do it at all. As a result literature is far too monochromatic and SF is full of worlds where a "never discussed plague has mysteriously killed off everyone with more than a hint of melatonin in their skin."
The message throughout the book is that it's okay to attempt at writing race (women, gay characters, so forth) and make mistakes: "Do your best, and you'll avoid the biggest mistake of all: exclusion."
But given that premise, there are still plenty of mistakes to make. Their book is a good place to start, and then there are other essays and websites online to deepen one's knowledge. I expect it's a lifelong journey type of thing. As Shawl says, you won't ever get The Certificate of Authenticity. ;-)(less)
Most reviews say this book is either super interesting, or way too detailed. It's both. Demos takes a story that could be covered a long magazine arti...moreMost reviews say this book is either super interesting, or way too detailed. It's both. Demos takes a story that could be covered a long magazine article and stretches it out into a book. But if you're interested in studying either New England or Kahnawake in the 17 and 18th centuries, then Demos' too-much-detail is great.
He quotes extensively from the sources, and then repeats in his own words what was just said, and then imagines and extrapolates on the material. The repeating and extrapolating was sometimes too much, but having all those original sources brought into one book was fantastic. I was interested in learning about Kahnawake, and he has several chapters just describing the culture and daily life of the settlement. SO interesting.(less)