I've always been confused about what a writing voice is. Until now. Lori Tharp (Kinky Gazpacho) posted a kind review of Orange Mint and Honey, and is one of the umpteen people who've noted that my characters could have been any race. I've heard very often that the story is "universal."
At first, I was perplexed by these type of responses. Why was it worth noting that a book with black characters was universal? Wasn't that a given? Then, I was a little angry and I wondered if racism didn't play a part. But then black readers started to tell me the same thing. So I went back to perplexed. I still don't know why this should be deemed so unusual. Do you think it is?
This is my world view. This is my life. There are all different kinds of people in it and while I definitely acknowledge and honor differences between my African American, Latino, & white family members and friends, mostly we're pretty much alike. Finally, coming from Flyover Country pays off! Because that is how my voice was formed. In Omaha, I lived on the same block with and went to school with white, Native American, Hispanic, Asian and black kids. My family has every kind of color in it.
Now I understand that voice isn't necessarily about the words we choose or the topics we cover, but how our own experiences and opinions inform our work. I'm glad people have found something they feel is unique in my writing. It's nice to know I have something to bring to the table. But just like Obama isn't the only articulate, accomplished, do-right black man in America or the only the one from a biracial family, I'm not the only writer out here writing about about black folks in a way that's "universal." If that's what you like, keep reading and keep looking around because there's plenty, plenty more where that came from.
And if you're confused about your voice, keep writing. You might not know what's special or interesting about your voice until your readers tell you.