Does the Race of a Character or the Book’s Author Bother You?

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does the Race of a Character or the book’s Author Bother You?

Traci Kenworth


I know this is a very delicate topic but in light of the recent ugliness that evaded certain postings about The Hunger Games movie regarding the casting of black actors for the characters of Thresh, Rue, and Cinna, I felt it necessary to discuss this. I think it’s a shame that this occurred. Hopefully, if we can talk about this issue, we can bring light into the darkness for all. In the book, Rue is clearly described as being black and Thresh is said to be as well. I will admit to not remembering how Cinna looked, but it doesn’t bother me a bit that any of them were cast black in the movie.

I write multi-cultural in my own books. From Native American to black, Latin, Asian or white, all the colors are in there. America is called “the melting pot” for a reason. I choose to believe it’s because we can all come together, put aside our differences, and forge together for a brighter future. That’s what I’ve based my Akara characters on. The majority of the village are Native Americans, but other shades are mixed in. I have to say, I love the idea of this. Under our skin, we all beat human. Together, can we not break down the walls that keep us apart?

I’ve had a friend express her concerns about only being able to write to a black audience. I think this is a shame. Reading about someone else’s story gives us perspective into how another of the same race may feel. It can bridge gaps, open eyes into seeing ourselves connect with that other person.

We need each other to stomp out the darkness. What would happen if we all worked against it? Peace would prosper. Love would come to reign. This is the foundation of what my Akara people stand for. With the old: truth, love, justice, and the American way thrown in. I’m proud to present my characters to the world, no matter what their race is. I don’t see why it’s still an issue in this day and age. As I’ve said, people are people. We should celebrate each other. Only then, can we truly be: all that we can be.

Any thoughts?

32 thoughts on “Does the Race of a Character or the Book’s Author Bother You?

  1. I’m soooo tired of the skin color debate. People need to get over it. It’s just as stupid as if we focused on eye color instead.

    I’ve missed The Hunger Games controversy. I’ve just heard about it through blogs. Sorry, but I couldn’t imagine Rue being played by any other actress. Amanda stole my heart more than the actress who played Prim. She was just adorable. And the guys who played Thresh and Cinna were hot hot hot. Cinna wasn’t hot in my mind in the book, but I’m not complaining. Lenny did an awesome job in the movie. He was Cinna.


    1. LOL Laurie, that is GENIUS! It’s just silly not to read a book by a writer of a different race, or one about a protagonist of a different colour. Diversity is so beautiful, and we should learn to embrace each other as fellow human beings. This is why I’m a Malaysian-Chinese writing about a half-black, half-white protagonist. 😉

      J.C. Martin
      A to Z Blogger


  2. I totally agree with you. People are just people and this racism needs to stop. Why do people choose to be so prejudiced? I like the idea of including all races in your books. I think it will help to build people’s acceptance of equality if they see multicultural characters in books and movies. I am going to make an effort to do this, too!!
    I can’t believe that there was some controversy about Rue and Cinna being black!! I am embarassed to be a North American when these things happen.


  3. Thanks, Sara. I just feel we should reflect all the colors around us in our stories, to enlighten and educate people as well as to just be able to have this truly great character who is different than us but who we come to love,


  4. Makes you wonder what some people were thinking (or not thinking!) when they were reading the books (and these trolls actually picked up a BOOK?!?).
    As a side note, there was some furore when Jennifer Lawrence was cast as Katniss because apparently, Lawrence is too blonde and blue-eyed to play Katniss.
    Which only shows that racism is not only idiotic, it’s mind-boggling pointless…..


  5. I haven’t heard about the color or race debate but more about the rape and sex. How it was tiptoed around and what do refugee and border societies do first? Rape. See what is happening in Africa.

    I think that needs to be addressed in YA literature, too. Reality is needed there. Kids aren’t blind..


    1. A lot of topics need to be educated about and I hear there are some great books out there that do, but you’re right, only a handful. People turn away from ugliness for a reason. We fear to address it, I think, because we want to protect our children from such. Unfortunately, we often shield them to to the point that they don’t realize the reality of what’s out there. If we’re ever to remove these horrible situations, we have to work together and shine light into the darkness.


  6. It disappoints me that we’re still having this debate, and that we’re still not past the point where people still feel like they need to bring up things like skin color. I agree with you that people are people.

    Thanks for writing this post!


  7. The neighbourhood in which I live is about as multicultural as it can get. A poll was taken at my kids’ school and over two hundred different nationalities were represented. I was happy that my kids grew up in that environment so that they would not be blinded by colour. They could see that each child had the same hopes and dreams as they did. They liked a friend because of who they were on the INSIDE, not by what they could see on the outside. This is the lesson every child and adult should learn. It’s a shame that the hatred is perpetuated by ignorant people. Interestingly enough, when I was researching the local native cultures for my books, I learned that the four sacred colours – red, yellow, black and white – referred to the skin colours of the four major races and was usually represented in a circle. It is their belief that we should all co-exist in harmony with the earth. I like the way they think! 🙂


    1. I know, I was shocked by the responses to the casting of The Hunger Games, and I know it’s a topic that really upset a lot of people. Hopefully, we can educate people that characters are characters no matter their skin color. Just as writers are writers, no matter their race. A story should be picked up for the story.


    1. It has been wonderful to see those accounts closed. It’s such a shame that people felt that way, but I’m so glad that others have rallied against them. Thanks for stopping by, Elizabeth!!


  8. Never. And you’re absolutely right–until people get over the fact that there are many different kinds of individuals in the world, it will always hold things back.


  9. As naive as this will sound, I don’t focus on race a lot in my books or stories. I mean, I won’t say what color my character is…although I’m sure it’s important. But, not saying my character’s race explicitly (I write fantasy so races aren’t described in the same way in this world), what do the readers believe the characters to be?


    1. Probably the majority go by what they picture the character as being. Our imagination colors in the details for us. Although, we often get it wrong and that’s when the movie comes out and a character looks different. It’s not that we perceived the character as differently, but the hate and ugliness that came up because these readers didn’t feel a black should be cast in the role.


  10. I was blown away when I read some of the comments on Twitter. What is wrong with people? I find it sad that so many races and cultures are under-represented in YA, and I love that Collins breaks beyond those boundries.


  11. I didn’t even hear about this “controversy” until you mentioned it here. The only thing that bothered me about Cinna in the movie is that they cut out so much of the wonderful relationship that developed between him and Katniss. I really liked his character and their relationship. I understand the need to trim things down for the film. I was just sad that particular part of the story was reduced to a few scenes.

    I would love to see more diversity in science fiction.


    1. I think because twitter acted so fast and these people pulled their accounts might be why you didn’t hear anything. And I’m glad that that’s what happened. It’s upsetting enough in today’s age that we are sometimes still defined by skin color. I would like to see more diversifying in just about every genre. As for Cinna’s and Katniss’ relationship, I think, hope, they’ll open it up in future movies.


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