Audience & Interpretation

In talking about Hot & Bothered 4, a reviewer described The Souvenir this way: The main character is going home and raises her eyebrows when a beautiful black woman and her openly intimate girlfriend get on.

It always bothered me a little (this is NOT a new review), but a few days ago I finally figured out why. The Souvenir is a very short story with 3 characters in it–and all of them are black. It looks like the reviewer automatically assumed that the narrator was white–and I wonder if others who read the story in the anthology thought the same.

Imaging the narrator as white adds a layer of “exotic otherness” to the story. The piece is sexy enough (I hope!) without needing an exotic kick to be extra special.

This was originally written for Kuma and I think that anyone reading the story there would assume that the narrator and GQ were also black. There was no need to have the narrator point this out. The only reason she gave a fuller description of “Honey” is because–that was the one she was attracted to (and who was openly flirting with her).

When I submitted it to H&B4, wondering about how the audience would interpret the race of the characters was the furthest thing from my mind. I was too busy getting up the nerve to submit.

How interpretation can shift with audience is something that I need to stay aware of.

Posted on May 17, 2009, in Books & Writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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