What's In a Name

This is a subject I have written on over and over again. No matter what people wish, humans are very shallow people. We judge each other by so many aspects but the most common judgment is based on our names. When we hear a name we automatically have a picture in our mind of who this person is, before we ever meet them. For the purposes of this article I will only use my own experiences because I know this is a touchy subject.
First off, stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason, most of the time they are true. I say most because while some stereotypes have been applied to me, they do not fit. While the name attached to this article is Max M. Power, it is not my real name. I am of Latin decent and my family comes from Mexico. However, since I was born in the United States I call myself an American. I do not feel the need to hyphenate, and my personal opinion is that you either are American or you are not.
My first name is Miguel, and for protection of my family, that is the only part of my real name that I will reveal. Now with a common name like Miguel I do get stereotyped that I have to speak Spanish, I work hard labor, and that I get drunk on the weekend. Only one of these stereotypes is true.
I speak Spanish – NO. I speak very little Spanish. Again, my name played a role in this. When I was little, before I started school, I spoke Spanish as much as I spoke English. When school started my father told my family that we needed to speak English at school. If we spoke Spanish at school we would be pulled out of regular classes and put into ESL, English as a Second Language. Sadly an ESL class was thought in Spanish and they were not taught the same subjects as regular classes. Translation, a lesser education.
My father, being a school teacher, believed that a good education is the most important thing a person can get. So at five years old a decision had to be made, speak a language that my ancestors spoke or get a good education. Education was the choice made and while some think negative because I do not speak Spanish, I am happy with my education and with my life.
I work hard labor – YES and NO. I work hard at everything I do. I was raised with a sense of pride in myself and everything I do. If I’m a toilet scrubber then I’m going to be the best damn toilet scrubber I can be.
I have worked hard labor before, working construction with my in laws family since I was ten. That in itself is a good trade to have, but it’s not for me. It’s not what I want to do for the rest of my life. However, when people hear the name Miguel they think I’m a day laborer. Just not so.
I get drunk on the weekend – NO. This is the one that I laugh at the most. I do not even drink and I can hear the gasp now, a Latino man that does not drink, OH MY GOD! Again, a stereotype that is mostly true, just one that does not apply to me.
As a writer my ultimate goal is to get my work published. Publication means people get to read my work. The more people read my work the more they want, the more they want the better the sales, the better the sales the more money I can make, the more money I make the better chance I have at making a good living.
I have gone to a book convention and have met with a few publishers. I submitted the same work to two different publishers and they both loved it, the only difference was the name attached to the work. They both told me to change my name and it was for the same reason. So why was I not signed? Simple, it’s my name.
Publisher number one received the manuscript with my real name attached. I was told that my Latino name would hurt my sales. I needed a name that sounded more "White" because people make judgments based on the name. Both the title of the book as well as the author’s name will determine if someone will pick up a book and read the cover.
Publisher number two received the manuscript with my pen name attached. Again, the publisher loved the work but did not want to meet me because he only published Latino writers. When I told him I was Latino and what my real name was he told me that he would publish my work but only, and I stress only, if I published under my real name.
I often wondered, what’s the difference if you like the work? But my answer was very clear, which is why I chose to use a pen name in the first place, when a name is all you have to go by, that name needs to speak volumes.
Yes there are stereotypes when it comes to names. Sad but true, it is how, we as humans are programmed. It’s just another thing that needs to be overcome. Whether you want to believe it or not, there is a lot in a name.
Max M. Power