Sunday, September 20, 2009


Epcot While I was writing in Mexico (Epcot’s Mexico, let me hasten to add), a very pleasant Hispanic Disney staffer came over to talk to me. He was curious about what I was doing. This was fair enough, since I looked curious—I wrote for 1 1/2 hours in a notebook and occasionally took pictures of unusual-looking people.

I explained what I was doing and he was very interested. Was I planning to write in a Latino or Latina character?

I started out with a quick “no,” but then stopped short. Well, why not? The Hispanic population is probably the fastest-growing segment in the South. Wouldn’t it be odd if I didn’t include a Latino?

I included several African-American blues musicians in the Memphis Barbeque book. They’re a vital part of the culture and talent base of Memphis and it doesn’t make sense, culturally, not to make them part of my book.

But I’ll admit to some discomfort. I always want to do a Good Job. I’m no expert on different ethnic and racial groups and I don’t want to write anything to accidentally upset anyone. Besides, the South doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for its sensitivity. I don’t need to make matters worse by sticking my foot in my mouth (hand in my mouth?)

So I’m curious. How many of you have ventured into writing about other ethnic groups? Did you feel you were successful? Were you especially careful to avoid stereotypes? How did you handle it?