I absolutely hate when I read a MG or YA title, and a character is described as African American. "Nicole is my African American neighbor" Ok so that example sucks, but why can't Nicole just be black. As long as she isn't colored or the N word I am cool. I go completely ballistic if a few pages later another character is described as white. If Nicole's African American then Kelly's Caucasian. Black is to White what African American is to Caucasian. I didn't make this rule I only follow it. When an author goes with a more formal census approach to their character description. I make a few assumption.
1. I assume the author believes that their black readers will be offended if African American is not used. Ironically I become offended because I assume the author assumes I will be easily offended. (hopefully that made sense)
2 I assume that the author rarely has black characters in their work, because they find it necessary to use the more formal coding. (making the inclusion of an African American character seem forced)
3 I assume the author doesn't have many black friends. If they did could ask if should Nicole be describe as African American or is black okay ?
Though this last assumption is the biggest one of all because I am assuming other black people are annoyed by this as well and are cool with Nicole being a black neighbor( I am finished with that example, promise) and I have no idea I've never done any poles.
Black or African American its such a little thing but really its not, race is never easy even in fiction. Though I want black characters to blend easily into a story with no preferential coding treatment. I want black characters to be remembered for who they were, what they did and said, rather then being described as African American. I always think about this when I read a novel that does what I know is possible, it makes me a very happy reader. I just finished Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen, (loved it by the way, Dessen totally threw down) anyhow there's a black character, Olivia in this novel. Olivia is a side character with some substance who I enjoyed fully. Also a few weeks ago I read Absolute Brightness by James Lecesne. Phoebe, one of the main characters best friend is black. Actually I loved their friendship, it had everything a good friendship needed and best of all race didn't matter, though it was not ignored. One of the reasons why I loved Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli is that its does this so beautifully. There's a black and white side of town. Spinelli didn't feel the need to use census bureau pretenses.