in which i discuss the diversity within diversity

discussions

Hello, fellow bloggers! Please don’t hate me as I write, yet again, another diversity discussion. The book blogging world is probably sick of them already, but I’ve wanted an opportunity to discuss a more recent read I did – along with a podcast I’ve been listening to – and this was a fitting topic.

Today, I wanted to talk about the diversity within diversity, aka, the fact that as much as we see diverse reads as a way to be represented and see ourselves within those pages, we are, more often than not, way too much of a diverse community to be represented in only one novel. And whether or not, it is okay to feel let down by a book that didn’t represent you; and how to address this matter if you’re a non-#ownvoices author.

one

There are countless stories to tell

Recently, I read two books by Asian-American authors, featuring Asian-American female protagonists, and they definitely provided me with very different backgrounds. Not only they were different from each other, but they were definitely different from the expected representation of Asian-Americans in general.

American Panda, by Gloria Chao, was a book about a Taiwanese-American girl with overly strict, traditional parents. Now, though this may be considered a stereotype within Asian-American families, the author definitely went a lot deeper on the matter. It showed the complexity of it, and how complicated and intricate this family dynamic actually was. Our protagonist, Mei, loved her parents, felt grateful for their sacrifices, wanted to keep them close. But she also disagreed with most of their decisions and couldn’t bare their suffocating expectations. And even if most Asian-American parents aren’t as strict as the book portrays, it doesn’t make Mei’s experience less valid, because it is representing someone else out there.

Then, I picked up The Way You Make Me Feel, by Maurene Goo, about a Korean-American girl with a Korean-Brazilian single father, who had her at the age of eighteen. This couldn’t be more of an unconventional story, especially under Korean standards. But, again, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t other Korean families out there living very different and unexpected lifestyles, like Clara’s.

In fact, I was listening to Maurene Goo on the First Draft podcast (I’m also totally obsessed with this podcast and listening to all their backlist stuff) and she mentioned herself how these characters were far out the norm. And, yet, this only enriches the story. Being Brazilian myself, I personally loved the Brazilian aspects that were introduced in the story, even if just the use of ‘Pai‘ and ‘Mãe‘ – the portuguese version of Mom & Dad. If this was a “conventional” story, I wouldn’t have had that.

This actually brings me to the question: what is “conventional”? What is “the norm”? Obviously, I can not speak much from experience, since I have yet to read a book with a South-American protagonist, but I am not able to say if there are boxes that need to be ticked in order to provide me good representation. Even if I was reading a book with a Brazilian main character, her life could still be completely different from mine, and that would still be valid – because my country is immense and there are countless different stories to tell.

two

We are not represented enough

I don’t think this would be in the same matter as ‘poor representation’, because at the end of the day, both books I mentioned were #ownvoices. I think it has more to do with our expectations, when encountering a diverse book. We feel like we’re going to finally be understood, and finally seen. We are finally going to be able to relate with a main character. And, when we don’t, it can be disappointing.

But as Gloria Chao mentions in her acknowledgements, this just means we need more diverse reads. We need more #ownvoices authors. We need more people representing stories that are similar to theirs, or completely different, and more people doing work where we can be seen in.

This is only another reassurance that while we’ve made progress in including more diverse and #ownvoices reads on The New York Times best-seller’s list, we still have a long way to go. Because there are definitely other stories that haven’t been told yet, and maybe in one of them, we’ll finally get to be seen.

three

How to incorporate that being a non #ownvoices author

Thinking about this matter also made me reflect on how I’ve always been afraid to go “off the way” when writing stories different from mine. When you’re not an #ownvoices author, this gets blurred, because you don’t know if you’re just reflecting the diversity within diversity or if you’re representing something unrealistic.

If I’m writing about a Chinese family, I’ll literally search the areas where there are largest communities, pick the most popular names for my characters and just try to write as closest from what I’ve experienced before. And though effective, it makes me wonder if I’m not just perpetuating stereotypes and totally missing the point that, as long as you’re not being offensive, it’s okay to write stories that are not what you’d expect.

Obviously, though, being a non #ownvoices author has to do with a loooooot more than that. I am just now getting back into writing, so I’m definitely not the one to give advices here. So, please, share in the comments, if you’re a writer, how do you try to incorporate this matter into your own stories.

conclusion

Having representation doesn’t mean it will be able to represent everyone. And that’s okay! It just means we need more books and more #ownvoices authors. Along with writers that are not scared to go away from the expected norm.

I’d looooove you forever if you shared your opinions on the matter down below, as I feel like this is an idea still in progress in my mind. Your insight is always welcome!

15 comentários sobre “in which i discuss the diversity within diversity

  1. This is so true! I don’t get to read much Indian based books to be honest! Which is why I get so excited everytime Roshani Chokshi writes something! I haven’t read Sandhya Menon’s ‘When Dimple met Rishi’ yet but everytime i see the book it makes my heart jump with job. I agree that every person’s life is different even within a group. India for instance has people speaking like 20 or 30 languages and it has SO many religions and there’s such a stark difference between the cultures of North India and South India. We NEED more #ownvoices so all the different sects of every group is shown! <3

    Also I've been meaning to pick up "The Way you Make me feel"! Did you like it? :)

    Curtir

    • Yes, I totally agree with everything! India is such a phenomenal and diverse country, it really is difficult to represent all of it into only one book.
      I really loved The Way You Make Me Feel! If you’re looking for an entertaining summer read, I’d definitely go for it! It’s a funny book, with amazing characters and a great romance, so I definitely recommend.
      Thank you sooooo much for your comment, Uma! 💛

      Curtir

  2. This was a lovely thoughtful post. And I agree that they are so many more stories to tell about diversity– we are just at the beginning. It’s a amazing feeling when you can connect and relate to a main character in a novel and everyone deserves to have that feeling so authors should write lots of different stories because it could always matter to someone and they are so many stores to tell like you said. 😊
    Lovely post!! 💕

    Curtido por 1 pessoa

    • Yeah, totally! We’ve just now started talking about diversity more opening, so I do think with time we’ll have more and more stories, and therefore, more representation.
      Connecting with a character is so important and, frankly, life-changing. I really hope more people get the representation that they seek for!
      Thank you so much for the lovely comment! 💛

      Curtido por 1 pessoa

  3. A very thought-provking post! I’m more of a secondary-world fantasy reader, so I’ve never given much thought to diversity. But it is nice to see more people and cultures being represented in the mainstream. I agree with you that as long as an author is well-intentioned and does their homework, it’s okay even if it’s a little bit stereotypical. For example, as a South East Asian Chinese I’ve found Crazy Rich Asians to be a little on the stereotypical side and slightly cringy, but I still feel the author and the team behind the film deserves kudos for their work.

    Curtido por 1 pessoa

    • Hahah, I understand what you mean about Crazy Rich Asians. It was definitely full of stereotypes and clichés, but at the end of the day, it was a ground-breaking story in a lot of ways. To have it adapted to the big screen, with an only Asian cast, and get a Golden Globes’ nomination, that was a huge deal, and even if the story doesn’t represent the reality of most South East Asians, it’s still appreciated!
      Thanks for the comment, Jamie! 😊

      Curtido por 1 pessoa

  4. This is a great post and it made me think a lot. I agree that it’s okay to not write the norm or conventional stories and there is diversity innate of diversity. As an Indian-American girl, I don’t get lots of representation, but it always makes me happy to read something that I can relate to.
    Also, I recommend Shadowshaper to you – I recently read it and it has a Puerto Rican protagonist and it’s completely based off of Puerto Rican culture and mythology. You mentioned that you haven’t read many books with South American protagonists. I loved reading it and learning more about the culture! I think you might like it 😊. Thanks for the wonderful thought-provoking post!!

    Curtido por 1 pessoa

Deixe um comentário

Preencha os seus dados abaixo ou clique em um ícone para log in:

Logo do WordPress.com

Você está comentando utilizando sua conta WordPress.com. Sair /  Alterar )

Imagem do Twitter

Você está comentando utilizando sua conta Twitter. Sair /  Alterar )

Foto do Facebook

Você está comentando utilizando sua conta Facebook. Sair /  Alterar )

Conectando a %s