White Author Warned Off Writing A Black Character

Famous British author, Anthony Horowitz, has been warned against creating a black character for his next novel. The reason cited is that that it would not be appropriate for a white author to do so.

Horowitz is a white, 62-year-old Jewish man from London. He is best known for his series of teen spy novels, Alex Rider. One of his Alex Rider novels was made into a movie in 2006.

He has been working on a new series that he says is about the “state of the world.’ In the story, he intended to have two leads, one white boy, and one black boy. His stated reason for wanting these two characters for the lead is because, “I have for a long, long time said that there aren’t enough books around for every ethnicity.”

alex rider books

Source: Huff Post UK

However, despite his seemingly innocent reasons, he had been warned against writing a black character. His editor told him that creating a black character may come off as patronizing as it is not his own experience. “This is maybe dangerous territory, but there is a chain of thought in America that it is inappropriate for white writers to try to create black characters,” Horowitz stated, “Which was, I thought, disturbing and upsetting.”

The backlash has left Horowitz with second thoughts over including other ethnicities and he has not yet decided what to do.

This news is perhaps influenced by a previous accusation of racism. In 2015, when it was revealed that Daniel Craig may not be returning to the James Bond movies, there was speculation on who would be the next Bond. Idris Elba, a black British man, was one of the favorites for the next person to play James Bond. Horowitz did not like the idea of Idris Elba as James Bond stating that “For me, Idris Elba is a bit too rough to play the part. It’s not a color issue. I think he is probably a bit “street” for Bond. Is it a question of being suave? Yeah.”

Idris Elba james bond

Source: The Bit Bag

Despite specifically saying it was not an issue of color, Horowitz’ comment was taken as being racist and he has since apologized to Idris Elba.

His history with potentially racist comments aside, is it right to say that Horowitz cannot write a black character? He has said, “Taking it to its logical extreme, all my characters will from now by 62-year-old white Jewish men living in London.” The thing is, as a novelist it is within your job description to create full worlds out of words. Those worlds will more often than not contain other ethnicities, sexualities, and backgrounds. Additionally, writers rarely work in a bubble. Drafts of novels pass through beta readers before they are ever seen by the public. One thing that beta readers often look for is if parts of the text could be taken the wrong way. If something needs to be fixed, the publication can be put on pause to make those fixes. This has been seen in books such as The Continent by Keira Drake and When We Was Fierce by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, both of which have seen delayed publication on account of passages that could be interpreted as offensive.

Do you think authors should be forced to write only within their own experience?


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Featured image via Digital Spy UK

h/t The Blaze