I was really depressed today after having a conversation over the phone with my uncle who has shown interest in my work as an author and agreed to provide some monetary support where he and my aunt deem necessary. He asked me what my recently published book was about and I stammered through an explanation because I wasn’t really thinking about it. We then got into an awkward conversation about “marketing” and “audience”, in which he essentially told me that as a fantasy novel I should not openly market my book as having a Black female main character. He said that perhaps I should leave the character’s race to the reader’s imagination.
It seems my uncle said this for about three reasons:
- Appealing to a “broader audience” is better–which means white people have to be involved because that’s the way the world is.
- Most Black people live under the “Black people don’t do that” umbrella and won’t be receptive to my work as fantasy fiction.
- There’s no established audience to offer my work to.
Of course this story takes place in a universe where terms like “Black” and “white” aren’t used. The story is only seen from the prospective of two or three other “non-white” characters and the rest of the story is periodically seen through the eyes of non-human characters and obviously “white” characters. So its not like white readers have any reason to be completely alienated from this story anyway. I struggle with that agonizing question of whether or not my work with remain in sub-obscurity because I am a Black writer or because I am not known of/unpopular? Maybe both?
I don’t know how to explain what its like to be treated as a literary failure even before I begin because I am Black and write non-white main characters in fantasy and romantic fiction (I identify as a speculative fiction writer).
I feel exceptionally demoralized right now.