I’ve blogged before about my wish to see more ethnic diversity in mainstream fiction. As a lover of fiction, I would like to read novels that more accurately reflect the American society in which I live. When I read books set in Los Angeles, I expect to see a mix of white, Asian, African-American, and Latino characters, but that doesn’t always happen (I do appreciate Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels, which are set in LA and always have ethnically mixed casts).
Currently I’m reading a novel set in Chicago, another ethnically diverse city, and so far the only character of color (a minor one) is a “Mexican” speaking parking attendant. A few days ago I finished a well-written action novel that I enjoyed . . . until the last chapter. It contained an ugly stereotype, a Mexican criminal. What a disappointment. Why include a Mexican at all if a negative image is the only one the reader will see? Time and again it is such a letdown to read books that ultimately fail to have diverse characters or simply contain negative stereotypes. In fact, I would prefer to read a book that has no ethnic characters rather than one that contains the stereotypical Mexican maid, gang member, prison inmate, gardener, or spicy/sexy female. Stereotyped depictions do a disservice to minority communities and reinforce negative images.
My Mexican heritage is a rich and colorful one. Mexicans and Mexican-Americans come in all shapes, sizes, colors, professions, income and educational levels. We should be depicted as such. And that’s why I write novels that feature Mexican-American characters in all shapes, sizes, colors, etc.