Sunday 20 April 2008

What if Alex Rider Were Black?

Anthony Horowitz, in a blog for The Bookseller titled Whitewash, writes:
A publisher asked me an interesting question a short while ago. What would it have done to my sales if I had made Alex Rider black?
The only popular black kid's character that immediately comes to mind is George of the genius Captain Underpants series. Or was it Harold?

Horowitz of course never declares that Alex Rider is white. But it's obvious. Would sales have been as good with a black character? It makes one think.

As Horowitz says in the blog post:
Literacy and the love of reading is a bigger answer than we might think. We just need to be more ambitious with the questions.
Do read the whole of Horowitz's piece. It's important. Here's the link again


  1. Can we write colour-blind? The issue (IMHO) is that when we introduce an ethnic minority, what baggage do they carry with them into the story, as preconceived by the editor/publisher/reader, who is predominantly Caucasian? For example:
    South Asian teenage girl= arranged marraige.
    Inner city Afro-Caribbean boy= City Gangs. And don't get me started on the Muslim thing!
    Yes, they're called cliches, and our job as writers is not to engage with any of them. Of course race, background and upbringing will all inform the character we write, but there's a lot more material worth exploring than the usual stereotypes portrayed.

  2. good point as usual, sarwat!

    malorie blackman's characters are always black but the books don't revolve around their racial identity - apart of course from Noughts and Crosses, interestingly her most well known book.

    my characters tend to be like me, from the far east, although i don't dwell on it in the text. i think their 'otherness' makes them more interesting.

    i have had one comment though in a critique that their 'otherness' had to be familiar enough to a western perspective to engage the target reader in the UK.


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