Monday, August 9, 2010

Guest Post: White Washing by Wyatt Bryson

Today, I would like to introduce you to Wyatt Bryson, author of two African-American novels, Sankofa as well as Onyx and Eggshell.  Here is a bit more information . . .

I often get asked (and expect to get asked) why a white man thinks he can write African-American literature. The short answer is: Of course I can't. But ... and you knew the 'but' was coming, African-American literature is what I read, African-American literature is what I love, and African-American literature is what moves me. So even though I'm white, I won't 'white wash' my vision, my stories or my characters.
I write the characters as they come to me. They are who they are. Once I create them, they take on lives of their own and tell me how to proceed. And as we said, it really isn't African-American literature, but more of a multicultural-literature. I know the audience that I think will enjoy what I write the most, so that is where I put my novels.
I was born in a very racist, very white part of the country. Black folks in that state make up 3% of the population. I had to get away from that. It wasn't my thing or my scene. So I write the books that move me and hopefully will compel white folks that pick it up to really begin to look within themselves and face how they really view people based on skin color.
The themes I write about are so topical and current that they end up being timeless, though the time for racism to end has long been at hand. Please check out my novels, and if you like them then recommend them to a friend.
Thanks :)

Mr. Bryson is sharing his current thoughts on the highly controversial phenomenon of "white-washing."  Please let us give him a warm welcome.


White Washing

How do I start with this one? There is a thing going on that is referred to as 'white washing.' I won't hate on anyone who does it because I understand why they do it. I know I'm rambling, but it's a blog not a book. 'White washing' is when a black author puts forth their work to a publisher or literary agent and the quality of work is so good that the publisher or agent wants to work with the author; but it is 'too ethnic.'

If the new undiscovered talent wants to 'make it' and .... Again, this is a blog not a book so I'm going to drop the single quotes around relevant items where they belong. Uh hum. As I was saying ... If a black author with black characters has written a true gem, a lot of publishers and agents will see the dollar signs that they are forced to look at (that tired old bottom line). So to play it safe and reach the maximum audience (white people -- or not); the author is left with a choice.

So here we go. Appeal to the niche that will embrace what you are doing or go back and rewrite your novel whitening up all of your original black characters to get that mass appeal. What do you do? Do you stand by your convictions and stay broke? Do you white wash the novel and take a chance at making it? There isn't an easy answer. I would never hate on anyone doing what they had to do to survive in this business.

I don't want to read a white washed book. I love black talent and my favorite genre is African-American literature. So I write what could be considered African-American literature. Only problem is that I'm a white guy. So we hit this intersection where I could be told to white wash my expression. I won't. To make it in this industry, some could and probably should (If they make it big they can come out later and correct the information). Women a century ago wrote as men. It wasn't right, but I understand why they did so.

Of course I would never white wash a novel, but the truth is that when most if not all discover my books and my author page, the first thing they do is say wtf is this white guy trying to prove? Nothing. My novels are what they are and I won't compromise on them. Me being a white guy could seriously kill my novels because of the wtf factor, but I am okay with that. I know I have a quality product. I would never white wash 'Sankofa' or 'Onyx and Eggshell' to please a publisher. I avoided self-publishing for years, but now I realize that by self-publishing that I have control over what I do. Complete control.

The point of my rant is: Do what you need to do, but know your boundaries. I'd prefer you keep it real and write from the heart. I want to read a novel classified as 'African-American Literature' because that is what interests me. I'd hate to miss a fantastic book by a fantastic up and coming future black author because it was 'white washed.'


For more information, you can find Wyatt Bryson at any of the following sites . . . 


  1. "Do what you need to do, but know your boundaries. I'd prefer you keep it real and write from the heart."

    AMEN! Love it so much I'm printing it out to put in my journal. :)

  2. J. Kaye . . . That is a great quote, isn't it?!? :)


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