I like many different kinds of nuts. I actually am QUITE fond of almonds and many things made from almonds, even Toasted Almonds. However, in the past few days, reading different books, written both by non-Asian and Asian authors, I have found myself puzzled by the insistence of the shade of my kind of skin as “toasted almond.” It feels like a lazy throw-away descriptor, much like that of “olive skin tone” (as referenced in my other post.)
Here, depending on the lighting and different parts of my body being highlighted, are some sampling of my skin color from photos taken in 2014:
Here are pictures I took off the internet, showing what toasted almonds might look like in different settings, I guess, under different degrees of “toasting”?
I can definitely see Some resemblance between some of my photos and those of the almonds, after the toasting process. But for some reason, I feel heavily reduced since that seems to be the only way to describe my skin tones and those of millions of others who share my skin tones.
A plea: can we possibly build up some newer vocabulary, phrases, and ways in describing physical attributes, especially varying skin tones? Perhaps more precise, and not always resorting to food comparisons? (Another recent weird encounter — some Chinese girl’s complexion is described as “white rice noodles,” as a way of non-offensive, or even complimentary description — I can’t imagine any Chinese girl being too excited being told that their skin reminds people of white rice noodles. Just imagine, if you are reading a book where a white girl’s complexion is described as reminding the boy next door of a plate of “steaming ziti.”)
This site might not offer the ultimate answer to all questions about describing complexions and other physical attributes, but it serves as a starting point and a reminder of how not to resort to stock phrases and cliches. http://writingwithcolor.tumblr.com/FAQ
7 responses to “I'm Not Sure I'm So Fond of Almonds”
You are hilarious. Maybe you are more of a sugar-crusted almond with a tinge of orange peel for zing and a shake of black pepper for zip. Those are my specialty.
Haha… but I get so annoyed and since it was like THREE books in a row where an Asian girl is described this way…. I guess I should actually be quite grateful that more Asian characters appear in books for kids. Baby steps… baby steps!
And your toasted almond sounds absolutely delicious! I want some!!!
N.K. Jemisin has written a wonderful series of posts examining this, and giving writers tools for how to better describe POC characters without using commodities as comparisons. The series starts here: http://nkjemisin.com/2009/04/ways-to-describe-characters-of-color/
Here are the other two posts:
Thank you, Stacy, for bringing these articles to my and the readers’ attention. As I’m not a writer, I can’t offer my own examples of ideal ways in describing colors – skin, eyes, hair, mostly. As a reader, I like some of the descriptions in her examples more than others. However, at least this is someone who is being conscious of the many pitfalls that one might encounter when describing any person. There are many stock/cliche phrases when writing about white folks, too, which are easily ignored by readers as generic and we simply supplement with imageries in our own heads.
I should note, in case you don’t know, that N.K. Jemisin is a black woman. I think your reaction of liking some but not others is definitely a valid reaction–it’s a starting-off place to get writers to think about how to do this better. I refer writers to this who are looking for ways of getting beyond those stock cliches, because it’s a great jumping-off point for thinking about it more deeply and gaining new ideas.
Definitely. The whole idea is to brainstorm of creative and respectful ways in describing all people. Not just non-white. I am quite fatigued by the stock phrases of how white skins and blue eyes are described, too! Sometimes I almost wish that the aithors leave me to imagine at my free will, rather than boxing me in!