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I have a protagonist who is biracial (mixed-race Caucasian-east Asian ancestry) living in the United States. I have a good idea of what their face and appearance looks like; they’re the kind of person I’ve heard real-life mixed-race people of white-Asian descent describe as “Schrodinger’s Asian”: white people think they look white and Asian people think they look Asian, and depending on how the character does things like style their hair they can either look really white or really Asian, even to the same person.

My concern is how do I convey to the audience that the character is biracial? This is a particular issue because the character has an easy time “passing” as white, and thus it’s not likely that the other characters would notice. Contrast this with other potential mixed-race combinations, where it is easier to signal they are biracial by putting in a brief mention of skin color, which is something that is easy to mention in a description of a character. It’s honestly really, really hard to convey that someone is Asian or mixed-race with Asian ancestry without sounding like a 20th century phrenologist, and most human beings don’t speak that way when describing people’s looks. I find it hard to even describe someone who is full Asian without it sounding very strange and non-conversational. The closest I could think of is when there is a character that is supposed to be a very light-skinned Latino/Latina, and the writers pepper in Spanish into their dialogue to show that they are Latino/Latina.

Additionally, the character is an amnesiac runaway, so I cannot easily do things like show their non-white relatives, have them describe experiences relating to a specific east Asian culture, have them offhandedly use phrases in another language, or even use their first or last name to show that they are biracial. E.g., Anne Boonchuy from Amphibia is Thai-American, and this is conveyed to the audience both through her last name and from her mentioning trips her parents took her on to visit family in Thailand. If this were a visual adaptation my character's biracial ancestry would be pretty clear, but this work is in a written format.

The main reason this is of concern to me is that if my story ever gets popular enough to get visual depictions or even some kind of adaptation (yes, a pipe dream I know), given how people have been reacting to other fiction recently there may be a huge amount of backlash from people claiming that I “racewashed” the character as a diversity stunt. E.g., the whole “black Hermione” thing that popped up about a year ago, or what’s going on with Death in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman adaptation (both of which given the context and statements by the authors statements do kind of come off as shallow publicity stunts). When the truth is that no, I don’t care about “muh culture war” in either direction, I have a specific idea of how this character looks and this is the way that they’ve always appeared in my head. I’m more concerned with avoiding such a controversy in the first place, because I’ve noticed such a thing results in the controversy overshadowing the actual quality of the story, which is the part I actually want people to notice.

I know that there is this question on Writing SE, but I am not sure if I am asking the same thing as they are given the comments suggest that the question has been edited a large number of times. There are also some unique difficulties in specifically conveying a character is of mixed Asian-European ancestry in Western countries, given most people in these countries often don't see these individuals as anything other than white.

Given this, how can I convey the character is biracial with mixed Caucasian-Asian ancestry in the text, particularly when it comes to establishing the character’s appearance in people’s minds?

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Additionally, the character is an amnesiac runaway, so I cannot easily do things like show their non-white relatives, have them describe experiences relating to a specific east Asian culture, have them offhandedly use phrases in another language, or even use their first or last name to show that they are biracial. E.g., Anne Boonchuy from Amphibia is Thai-American, and this is conveyed to the audience both through her last name and from her mentioning trips her parents took her on to visit family in Thailand. If this were a visual adaptation my character's biracial ancestry would be pretty clear, but this work is in a written format.

This actually gives you the perfect justification to have their appearance discussed - as an amnesiac runaway presumably they have some curiosity about their forgotten past. You can have other characters attempt to evaluate their heritage with this in mind, you can even lampshade the tendency of Caucasians to view them as Caucasian and Asians as Asian by having one of each ethnicity argue over which the character is. If there aren't any suitable characters to have this conversation (or such a conversation doesn't fit the story) you can have the character themselves do it - examining themselves in a mirror and wondering "Who am I?"

You actually can use the offhand phrases from a second language trope if you want - amnesiacs generally don't lose language(s) as it's a different type of memory than that usually affected and the more fluent they are in the language the more likely they are to retain it. They might not know why they know the language but they can still use it.

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For characters set in worlds patterned after ours, the name is a strong method to indicate their ethnicity or mixed heritage.

Duncan McCloud of Clan McCloud is easily identifiable as Scottish by western audiences. In Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan, Takeshi Kovacs' mixed heritage is suggested by the combination of Japanese and Hungarian names. It's not a concrete declaration because it's possible that the character's parents were Manga fans or he was adopted.

In general, it's never really important unless it plays a critical role in the plot. In stories where the character's description is provided in intricate detail its either annoying or forgotten by the reader, unless the story revolves around that aspect of the character and the setting of the story. So if it's really important then declare in a scene, in some natural way. But avoid using tropes and cliches, like having the character look in a mirror.

Reflect on when you've really considered how another person looks and wondered about their heritage. It could have been when you witnessed someone pushing around someone else because of their looks or appearance, and how did you react. Or if you were attracted to someone, you might have given some thought to the topic.

By using scenes based on your own experiences is an effective technique to integrate that information into the story without it feeling forced or obviously exposition. Which suggests they are usually told from another character's POV who doesn't have that knowledge. Because, it's odd for a person to look at themselves and think I have an Irish nose and a French chin and Congelese ears; because what they see is just them, and they might recognize their father's eyes and their mother's hair in their appearance, but it wouldn't without cause go further than that for a real genuine person.

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A well-known and still uncontroversial scientific fact is that people of East Asian descent are generally less capable of digesting diary products (than people of Caucasian or Black descent). Mayby you can write something about the character getting stomach pain after eating a pizza.

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