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How to Avoid White Saviorism

I learned a lesson after writing The Case of the Abandoned Warehouse: The Mystery House Series, Book Two. In that novel, three friends in their fifties buy a haunted warehouse and attempt to solve the mystery tethering the ghosts. As usual, they get in way over their heads as they uncover a shocking truth from American history. By bringing that truth to light, and by finding the bodies that had been missing for nearly a hundred years, these three women help the ghosts find peace.

One critic called the novel, "White saviorism at its finest."

The first book tells a similar story; however, the ghost in Secrets of the Greek Revival was a victim of the "Rest Cure" (you can read more about the Rest Cure here).

The main difference in the two stories is this: In the first book, white women save the ghost of a white person. In the second story, they save the ghosts of black people.

At first I was outraged by the criticism and thought to myself, should these ladies only concern themselves with helping white ghosts?

Then I took a breath and thought about it and amended my ways.

Since The Case of the Abandoned Warehouse, each of my stories in The Mystery House Series has continued to revolve around injustices in American history, which, unfortunately have happened to people of color more than they have to the white majority. So that part of my writing has not changed.

What has changed is the way the ghosts are saved. I have since given agency to each culture by having its ghosts be saved by one of its own leaders. The three white friends in their fifties still solve the mystery and bring the injustice to light, but the crossing over of the lost ghosts is done by a shaman, or a voodoo priestess, or a Japanese American priest--depending on the culture represented in the story.

This is true of my most recent release, The Enchanted Bungalow, which deals with a land dispute between a white settler and the Quileute tribe. In the novel, I am careful to give agency to the Quileute tribal leaders. Nevertheless, I still received a one-star review for writing about Native Americans.

The reviewer wrote: "Quit writing about Native Americans you nothing."

It's unclear whether the reviewer is offended by the way I portray indigenous people, or if he is simply tired of reading about them. But I felt compelled to write this post to explain my reasoning.

What do you think? Can white novelists include diverse characters and diverse cultures in their books without infringing upon own voices or committing acts of white saviorism?

Btw, if you don't already own The Bookworm Bible--my fifty-page comprehensive guide for book lovers compiled from articles I've written over the years on topics such as "How to Overcome a Reading Slump" and "How to Write Easy Peasy Book Reviews" with free resources such as a printable reading log, review templates, and an online reading journal--grab your free copy here.

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