Friday, February 23, 2007

What's in a Name?

"O! be some other name: What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet"
William Shakespeare

Seriously, what's in a name? I've thought about this a lot, considering that I write under a pen name. I chose my pen name (well, my hubby came up with it, actually) because I thought the two names sounded good together. Besides, it was personally meaningful, which I wanted. Amanda is my real middle name, and Brice is my husband's real middle name.

I thought about using Amanda Brice for my books for adults and using something else for my books for teens. I ended up deciding to write under the one name because my "adult books" may be thematically for adults, but they're not "adults books" in the classic sense. LOL! And I like the name.

Besides, what would I use? I thought about using what would have been my real name if I'd been a more traditional woman and taken my husband's last name when I married: Heather Chen. Or another option would have been to use my mom's maiden name with my real first name: Heather San Miguel.

I love both those names, but, well, this is going to sound really bad, but they didn't fit "me" even though they are me. If I'd used Heather Chen, I'd run into the problem of people thinking I wrote young adult Amy Tan stuff. If I used Heather San Miguel, people might think it was Latina lit.

Not that it would be bad for people to think I wrote ethnic lit, but I don't. Yes, I write multi-cultural and/or ethnic characters, but I don't write ethnic books, particularly not in the way it would appear if that was the name emblazoned on the cover.

Anyway, that made me really sad to think that this is even an issue. But it is.

Right now I'm reading CHINA DOLLS by Michelle Yu and Blossom Kan. It's a fabulous story of the lives and loves of three Asian American women in NYC. I'm writing a review of it for Romance Divas and my immediate first thought was "The Joy Luck Club meets Sex in the City."

Guess what...Beth Kendricks already used that exact characterization in her blurb on the book jacket. And while it sums it up very nicely to immediately convey what you're getting, it almost seems kind of unfair. Rather than being "Asian chick lit," isn't it just chick lit with characters who happen to be Asian and who deal with the issues of leading a modern life when you have pressures from your traditional family? That struggle is a common one, whether the characters are Asian, Hispanic, African-American, Caucasian. It's universal.

Yes, I admit, I wanted to review this book because I thought I could probably relate to it more than most Caucasian women, being married to a second generation Taiwanese American man. There are some scenes with the families in the book that literally make me laugh out loud because I can hear my husband's aunties saying those very lines in their own voices. But you don't need to be Asian or married to an Asian man to love this book.

Another easy way to describe it would be "the Asian Dirty Girls' Social Club," I guess. But why must we neatly characterize things by race or ethnicity? Why must we always make these shorthand comparisons? Can't we just say it's a great book?

Anyway, that's why I can't write as Heather Chen. Because people would expect me to write a book like this one. They'd also take a look at my author picture and get confused. How can you have a name like that and then have brown curly hair with red highlights, pale skin, and blue eyes?

It's so sad that in a society that's supposedly more colorblind than ever that we still need to think of such things.

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Posted by Amanda Brice :: 8:19 AM :: 12 comments

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