Reader Stereotyping

Picture is the property of The Telegraph

Okay, two things for today. One, a hearty three cheers for Aung San Suu Kyi’s bravery and generous spirit. I pray that this wonderful woman can continue to lead the struggle for peaceful change within her country. A few days ago, author Jeannie Lin wrote a blog on Asian heroes. This woman is one of mine.

And on a lesser, but still important note: I’m the moderator for the Authors of Asian Novels group (use the link if you’re interested in joining us!) and we frequently have interesting conversations.

This month’s topic has touched on interracial relationships and reader expectations. All this led me to question, as a writer, how do you deal with reader stereotyping and discrimination? Not on the racial side of this topic, but on the side of depicting culture in ways that are believable and non-stereotypical, I’ve had the following experience.

I once requested a critique of my opening chapters (this was before the Sandy competition, but not THAT much before it) from a s.f./fantasy online group I belonged to. The response I got back really floored me. One person wailed at me that I knew nothing about the culture I was using. I hadn’t used caste/rank realistically, etc. These were his expectations and based on what he knew about Asian culture. The problem is, I knew enough about Asian culture to know caste-based behavior was historically frowned on even while it was expected!
In my story, my upper class MC is asked about his welcoming behavior toward a lower caste merchant. My MC comments that the merchant could be his brother. That’s when this reader railed on me, not understanding that I had done this intentionally. He thought I’d done it because I’m American and don’t understand caste.
This guy clearly had some other issues and beliefs regarding Asian culture and I blew his racial and cultural comments off, but am still very much aware he won’t be the only reader with these assumptions. The truth is, my hero doesn’t act on caste/rank because that’s who he is and his behavior was the MODEL to the Chinese of how a man should react to others. It simply isn’t how the majority of men acted. I used this to set my hero apart as a hero, but it made my critiquer spazz. He expected and wanted the stereotype. 
So my questions is, how should I have responded? (I’m not the best debater, I admit.) How do you respond when faced with stereotype expectations and reader discrimination?

What Do You Do When You Hit An Impasse?

I’ve just got word from someone I think probably has several good points in her review of my first 50 pages. Alas, one of her comments touches on both how my original source material occured, but also how people historically acted in the culture I’ve chosen. While I certainly hope to have a following in China, I must also write for Western readers who may or may not understand why I’ve done these things. I’m stuck. I can’t go forward without slamming into reverse.

What do you do in these situations?