Letters for the week of June 16-22, 2004 

Race, ethnicity, and religion: Bobby Jones and his character defect, the author of Dirty Girls responds, and lots more on anti-Semitism at UC.

"Poking Fun at Pale Guys," Trendspotting, 5/26

I hope I don't get my ass killed
It has come to my attention that a recent review of my book by Anneli Rufus caused such a stir in the Bay Area that at least one of your denizens called the newspaper to say they wanted to off me. As in kill me. This caught my attention. So I read the piece.

I suppose that if what Rufus says I wrote were true, I might want to off myself, too. The way she writes it, I sound like a jackass. The only problem is, she's lying. I know, it's an opinion piece, so truth is subjective. But even the free flow of literary criticism must be based in fact of what has been written.

Most egregious is that Rufus theorizes that my book "makes fun of white people." She says the six Latina characters of The Dirty Girls Social Club all bash "white people," and, what's more, that the book belongs to a sisterhood of white-bashing chick lit intent upon destroying the people Rufus refers to as Caucasians.

There's only one small problem with this. Two of the six Latina characters ARE white, and at least one who is brown THINKS she's white. Hmm.

So how, exactly, can Lauren, whose Cuban ancestors were white slave owners, and whose mother is non-Hispanic white, be a white-bashing "ethnic girl," as Rufus says? How can my character Sara, whose family left Austria for Cuba to escape anti-Semitism in Europe, be nonwhite? I know the census at the turn of the last century said Jews were a separate race, but our government decided that wasn't true. So, a full third of my main characters are WHITE, Rufus. And the only character Rufus quotes from my book as bashing whites is (drum roll) Lauren. The white girl.

I recommend Rufus and my would-be murderer check out the Census Bureau's Web site. I quote: "Hispanics may be of any race." That, dear Rufus, was rather the point of my entire novel -- if not my life. Sorry you missed it.

The US mainstream media is used to dealing with a simple black-white racial paradigm in this country, and it simply doesn't translate to the Hispanic experience. There are people of all races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds in Latin America, just like the US; and I tried in my novel to reflect the racial diversity of Latino America.

My book stars a black Colombian lesbian; a blonde, blue-eyed Cuban Jew; a red-headed, freckled, white Cuban-American; two mestizo Mexican-Americans (one who thinks she is purely European and the other who thinks she is Aztec) and a mulatto half-Puerto Rican, half-Dominican. How on earth did Rufus come away from this book thinking it was about "ethnic girls" bashing "white people"? The book is quite clear about who they are.


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