my view,  Through The Lens,  writing,  writing life

Reading a Multi-Cultural Life

Happy Wednesday! Today’s post comes from a piece I recently shared with my New York romance writers chapter and wanted to share with you all my ye old blog friends…

I once received what I considered one of the biggest compliments I could ever have about my writing. It came from a friend of mine who was a fairly new friend at the time but I had already felt that sister from another mother type of kinship. We chatted easily, finished each other’s sentences and had the same taste in love/ hate of certain “not so real housewives” thing going on.  It didn’t matter that I am Black and Methodist from Harlem and that she is Jewish and from the Bronx. That is not our world. Our world in that moment was the chatter across the table in our little knit, stitch and yes, sometimes bitch group, surrounded by the other diverse friends we have from many different cultures and ethnicities.

            Well, I had given this friend a small sample of my writing (something I rarely do, but she asked and I was weak and there was some wild, rare trust thing going on), a budding, buddy detective story with two best friends as the leads. In the story one main character is Caucasian and the other is African-American. They both flowed in and out of the story (along with some pretty hot guys) as my mind took me and that was that. My friend read the excerpt and her comment was, “I loved it. And what I really loved was that you had so many diverse characters but they were just real and not made up characters. Just women not Black women and then White women. You know women– like us.”

To me this was such a high compliment as a contemporary writer.  You see I never want to make my characters caricatures. I want to portray women as real feeling people with heart, like the women I see and meet every day. Even the villains are real to me and not some superficial portrait of what past media history they should be.

I once had an agent (that I think I rightly parted ways with) give me the critique that my characters were too tame. I was asked to make my stories less diverse and to amp up the “Blackness”,  whatever the heck that means (and I think I know what it meant to him) of the African American characters, so that when they were submitted to publishing houses, the houses would know where to put them and how to market them.

I, of course, saw red and then became incredibly sad and then I left that agent and kept on writing. My way. I had spent all my life living in the world I lived in, not compromising who I was, there was no way I was going to start now. That being said, many years and a few manuscripts later, I have found a publisher that has embraced my book with it’s truly multi-cultural cast and I could not be happier. Crimson Romance is not shelving THROUGH THE LENS in its multi-cultural section. No, it’s sitting right there with the rest of the contemporary romances as I feel it should. I’m happy to say they believe in the idea of story first and the color of the characters— and the writer for that matter —does not come into play. I hope that there will be a time when all publishers follow this route and more people can read the way we live, in a truly multi-cultural way.


All the best,






Note to self: Get back to that buddy book. It’s a good story!


Image from here



  • Ina in Alaska

    Amen Kwana.

    Living in Alaska and so far away from what I am “familiar” with has taught me to embrace diversity. I believe I am a better person for having had this experience. I like to take people as they come. Glad to be your friend.

  • Kristina Knight

    Love the sound of your buddy book, Kwana! Definitely get back to it.

    I’m with you – write the characters, not the will make for a much stronger book in the end.

  • Synithia W

    Great post! I love that my book is not seperated by Crimson either. My characters are black, and while I don’t make a big deal out of it, I still bring in some of the things I deal with as a black person raised in the south. In my current WIP the characters choose to go into a bar because there isn’t a confederate flag flying. I didn’t harp on the fact, but hey it’s something I look for. It’s not included to make a statement or turn off some readers, but to make my characters realistic.

  • Reese Ryan

    I loved this post! Our styles are similar Kwana. My characters are always multicultural, but the story isn’t about that, it’s about thee journey, the relationships, the friendships, and family. Subjects that women of any race can relate to. Love that Crimson has integrated your book into the contemporary line and not separated it.

    I celebrate the fact that my characters are diverse, not because I want them to be separated as such, but because it reflects my world and my style. It is something I hope we continue to see more often in literature, television, and movies.

  • pve

    Beautifully written and how wonderful that your passion for writing has a voice, and one that is heard and not put on a “labeled shelf” – Kudo’s to you for writing for “women like us” who view diversity as real life.
    How thrilled am I for you, your writing and for counting you as a dear “real” friend in my life.
    I will also consider this with my artwork and try to keep a “real” picture in my head and heart.

  • Farrah Rochon

    Absolutely wonderful post, Kwana. I’ve encountered the “your characters are not black enough” statement, too, which both baffles and irritates me. “Blackness” automatically conjures stereotypes in my mind. Some may argue that it refers to culture, but I don’t buy that.

    Kudos to you for having the courage to leave your agent and write your characters the way you wanted to write them. You did a fabulous job with that book. Best of luck with your current WIP.

  • Vristen Pierce

    Great post! That agent who told you to amp up the “Blackness”…um, say what now? Sadly, I think I know what that meant to *him*, too. Even sadder? These notions don’t seem to be going anywhere and it’s nearing 2013. It’s a crazy world out there, folks. The silver lining seems to be that, more and more, these archaic ideas are losing steam with society at large. I really think more are opening their eyes to the fact that, whatever the race, we’re all still people. It’s a slow change for many, but I can only pray that it’s a change that’s happening.

  • kwana

    Thanks so much for all the fantastic comments. It does my heart good and gives me conformation that 10 years later I’ve made the right decision.