Monday, June 17
Hello from Tennessee.
I'm not going to get too holier-than-thou here, but I am going to say this trip has served as a reminder to me both personally and as a writer. Maybe a needed reminder.
Something that clangs at me in books is stereotyping.Waitresses aren't always high school dropouts on the make for handsome customers while they ignore the beautiful, educated women with them. Athletes aren't all "dumb jocks." Oops marriages between 18-year-olds aren't all failures--actually, they're not all oopses, either. Mothers-in-law, stepmothers, and former wives aren't all bitches. Not all CEOs are greedy and--departing from my usual Pollyanna persona for a second here--not all nurses, teachers, and grandmothers have hearts of gold. (Although I remain convinced that most of them do.) It's possible to be both literate and--yes, really--intelligent even if the person in question never went to college. It's possible to grow up in poverty and never commit the first larcenous act.
When we travel to the south, I expect to see stereotypes here and there, and this trip was no different. A man threw a fit in an Academy sporting goods store because he couldn't buy more rounds of ammunition. Someone in a Walmart bakery hesitated to put a black baseball player on a cake ordered by my white sister-in-law for her grandson's Little League team. Both things made me want to roll my eyes and say something particularly rude. I didn't, because I've been down here often enough to know lack of courtesy is a stereotype applied to Yankees by many southerners. I also know that red necks are not confined to the south--they run pretty rampant north of the Mason-Dixon line, too; only the accents are different.
It's been a good trip, just like books with the occasional stereotypical character are often good books. But I wish the Academy and Walmart things hadn't happened. And I hope most of us avoid pigeonholing our people, too--it's what both they and the readers deserve.
(My apologies if there are typos or "huh?" grammar errors in this post. I'm hurrying!)