I am bringing yet again another discussion. Being on Twitter recently has sparked my interest in some of these, so at least there’s one good thing coming from my time in that God forsaken app.
(Y’all who use Twitter on a regular basis deserve veteran discounts. That shit is so toxic lmao)
During the last month, I took part in the Latinx Readathon and that was my first time reading so many books by Latinx authors. While I did really appreciate my experience, I also felt like it opened up a lot of internal discussions on how much international/white content I consume regularly.
That’s literally me, lmao. Not only because I blog and talk in English regularly, but because most of my interests are not Brazilian or Latinx. I’ve been more recently facing that regularly, especially since I started university and most of my friends there are interested in Brazilian movies, artists and content creators, and I didn’t know any of them. On one hand, I did feel great because it was feeding my quirky, different, not-like-other-girls Aquarius rising persona where I’d be interested in things that they weren’t, but on the other, I realized I should be supporting more Brazilian creators. We talk a lot about #own-voices, and yet, I’ve read more books published in the US about Latinx-Americans than books published in Brazil by actual Latinx.
That’s not the point of this discussion, though, because I do feel like most of you can not relate with it, and that’s fine. My point is that, in the process of reading more Latinx books, I realized I was, in turn, expecting to immediately like and relate with all books and characters.
I do think that we all have this expectation whenever we pick up an own-voices book. Recently, there was a discourse on Loveless, by Alice Oseman and I won’t be getting into all the points of that discussion, but the most relevant one for this post is the fact many people felt like it was not a “good” own-voices work because sex-repulsed aro/ace were the only ones being represented.
The book never set itself to represent every single ace experience out there. I talked more about this in my last discussion, but this is not how own-voices books should be perceived, because NO book is going to tackle all the numerous experiences that marginalized folks go through.
That’s a big reason as to why I stopped writing about Brazil in my blog. If you followed me last year, you may remember I had a feature called “A Trip to my Home Country” where I talked about elements of Brazilian culture. But I didn’t feel comfortable writing about that anymore because I realized I have a very superficial perspective on Brazil, despite living here my whole life, and I didn’t want to share information that was inaccurate and in return, lead people to believing that this is what Brazil is actually like. But it is also true that I’d never be able to represent, in any work, all Brazilian people out there, because our experiences are VASTLY different.
I think the key is not in the author, but in the reader. When you read a book by an Asian-American author, you should know that this is not representative of every Asian-American person out there. And, in my opinion, it shouldn’t be the author’s responsibility to tweak their story so that readers can understand that this just “one experience”.
Yet, I feel like our expectations, especially when it comes to authors of color, is always that they should do the most. When I picked up History is All You Left Me, recently, I even considered adding in my review that there were no characters of color in the story. But then I started to question why would that be a problem. Just because Adam Silvera is a Latinx man, it doesn’t mean he has to write about only Latinx people. If a white author had written that book, would I’ve been mad that they only included white characters?
I’m sorry to keep repeating the same books, but when I was reading reviews for Like a Love Story, I encountered myself in a similar position. I was looking for reviews that were rather negative to see if others had noticed the problematic remarks that this book contains, and I found a similar issue that people felt like, because the book had been written by an author of color, that they were surprised there were no references of queer people of color throughout the book. While I do understand that is a very valid concern, I’d like to ask that: if Like a Love Story had been written by a white author, would people complain that the references throughout the book were all white as well?
I do think that most of these reviewers would have a problem with it regardless, but it made me think if we don’t have different expectations when it comes to authors of color. If it was a white man talking about how Madonna was a life-changing figure for him, it would be expected, but if it’s a man of color, then we question why wouldn’t he have Marsha P. Johnson then?
It’s kinda funny, actually. It reminds me of an episode in Everybody Hates Chris, where all of his projects would be about Martin Luther King, because being black, that’s what all of his teachers expected of him. Let me remind you that people of color can talk about whatever the fuck they want and write about whatever the fuck they want.
(Of course as long as they’re not being mysoginistic, racist, ableist or homophobic but I think that goes unsaid).
Ok, but how does this tie with everything I said before, about my own experience?
Well, because I do think it’s harder for some of us, folks from colonized countries and who’ve experienced hardcore imperialism over the years, to get to know and be proud of our own country’s culture and art. I’m happy to say that for the past ten years, I’ve seen a rise of young people consuming more Brazilian created content, whether that would be in music or YouTube and even books. But if you ask my mom, who grew up in the 80s, all her favorite musical references were probably American, with a few exceptions of Brazilian artists.
I do understand that we should always strive to be closer to our own culture. But I think it’s always important to remind y’all that this is not a possibility for every person out there, and that some people don’t have white-washed references only out of choice (like me, btw. I completely think in my case it’s a choice and something I need to work and be better at, because I have privileged resources to support my own country’s content and art and I choose to consume mostly international media), but because of historical systems that have oppressed marginalized folks to the point where their own content is seen as irrelevant or less.
So this is something I wish more reviewers would take into consideration when setting up their reviews and expectations for books by authors of color.
Alright. This discussion is huge, but I hope I’ve made myself clear. Let’s talk in the comments.