On cultural appropriation… using pseudonyms to sell books

Ok, hotshot: you’re a Black student in a creative writing class online and your earnest, White teacher often uses her books as examples, when suddenly, a kids picture book feature brown skinned characters and with an author name that is decidedly Southeast Asian sounding comes up on the screen. And it’s book. What do you do?

I was confused.

The instructor of my Zoom children’s book writing class often used her own books as examples for the students. However, the book she’d just shown us, featuring a brown-skinned main character, was written by someone with a distinctly South Asian name. I then heard the words “pen name” and my breath slowed.

Is this what I think it is?

It was. The POC author of the book was actually a blond white woman who didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with her act of brownface.

The other seven students, all white women, continued smiling, taking notes and asking questions. I spent the rest of the hour staring ahead, trying to avoid looking at my Black face staring back on the computer screen.

After class, I lay down on my living room sofa.

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