Tag Archives: art

diversity-in-books

This is why Diversity sucks

Though the concept is great – it still sucks for my kind.

It conjures up images of glitter and happiness with the glitz and glamour of a chocolate advertisement but tough luck if it makes up your very identity.

Though I don’t mean to sound cruel (even if it is) here’s a reality check for you – crickets will be getting more attention.

Diversity – such a great buzzword with the oomph of a derelict forgotten martyr even the history books couldn’t be bothered teaching us about. Everyone’s talking about it.

Diversity this, diversity that but that’s about all that’s happening.

Everyone’s saying it because it’s the cool thing to say, what the in crowd’s talking about but no one’s actually doing anything about it or even understands what the hell it’s all about.

Diversity sucks but only if it’s part of your core and more importantly, only if you revel in it, brandish in it with all the glory you can possibly muster.

I’m a writer – perhaps a self-declared one, but a writer nevertheless. Perhaps a mediocre one, but a writer regardless and I’m what many would term as a lucky struggling writer because it’s a great time for someone like me to be born apparently – a great time for a diverse writer.

But what does a diverse writer even mean?

That’s a great question because though most know what diverse writing means (as opposed to diverse authors) – very few actually bother about my type.

I’m not going to lie, it’s quite annoying existing in an age where there is so much hoo-hah about diverse characters (many of which are fictional dare I say) when no one really gives a crap about their very factual diverse creators.

This is mainly due to two reasons – one, authors are rarely as interesting as the characters they create (I can attest to this personally) and two, most diverse characters being created aren’t really being written about diverse authors in the first place.

Because let’s face it, who would know better about a brown girl coming to a foreign land and dealing with all the trials and tribulations of modern day western world attitudes and stereotypes against the backdrop of very real cultural boundaries than a white writer?

As a “diverse” author who has written a novel (or a poorly cloaked semi autobiography) about just that (hello people, welcome to my life), do I find it torturously disconcerting that many of the countless literary agents I have reached out to say that my story isn’t quite real enough?

Of course I do.

In fact, I find it so agonisingly painful I actually pondered on writing a thank you reply to the one literary agent who responded by saying that though the premise was good, it just wasn’t the right time for my “type” of tale when adult colouring books were all the rage in the literary world. I thought it would be presumptuous to send him the dictionary book definition of literature when I actually like colouring in.

Others said my book just didn’t strike a chord with them because my main character was too well, normal.

Of course a “normal” brown girl is just out of the question because who would want to read about a normal diverse character? Um – maybe diverse readers like me.

It’s unfortunate that during my teenage years I had to choose between a normal white girl to relate with or a crazy, brown one with a horrific juxtaposition of identity crisis’s that outnumbered the amount of times I change my underwear (which is regularly by the way).

Clearly there are no normal brown people on the planet because we all wear hijabs, struggle daily with radicalism and have a secret life our parents would commit suicide upon discovering exactly twenty two point five years later. And let’s not mention finally participating (while not in undercover) in romantic relationships after securing our parent’s reluctant consent upon finding out about our blatant “western influenced” unlocking of our chastity belts in our late teens. Please note, this is actually supposed to be sarcastic.

Being diverse and actually understanding what that truly meant for many of us diverse teenagers growing up in a world where no one really got us is what continues to make diversity so sucks.

“Normal” for us diverse, immigrant children meant tepidly tip-toeing the tightrope of immigrant versus adopted land issues every single day. It meant explaining why your parents had to meet your “friend” before they let you date him before he even asked you out. It meant you’d get tired of hearing your own voice every time you droned on about how “discovering” yourself after high school on that once in a lifetime gap year before you joined university was never going to happen if you wanted to live past eighteen.

You won’t find novels on how you spent the better part of every weekday morning airing your school uniform out of that undeniable, wicked curry smell that lingers like a bad memory days after you devoured it. Or why you can use your forehead to corkscrew even the mightiest Foster’s beer bottle thanks to the countless afternoons you spent rubbing the elusive bindi off after your weekly prayers. All this just so you could rush off to see the latest movie at the cinemas without having to explain the red dot on your forehead for the millionth time. You won’t even find stories on the absurdity of forgetting French kissing when your people came up with the manual on having sex.

Why would we forget the lips in the Kama Sutra people – really, why?

Why don’t you find common day stories on the very real, normal lives of brown people?
Because there’s no way that a white author has been cursed with our version of normality. Normal, non-brown people think this is comedic which is probably why Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project has done so well.

Poor Mindy had to fabricate a normal Indian girl’s life as a comedy when most of us brown chicks know that there’s nothing funny about Mindy’s life – it’s just our version of normal.

Maybe that’s what it is.

Perhaps my premise in Un-Belonging is too real for the mainstream. Maybe all I need to get a literary agent’s attention is to tag a “normal typical brown girl problem” joke at the end of each sentence so that the general public can make a parody of my protagonist instead.

Maybe that’ll get over her not wearing a hijab bit.

Photo Credit: Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

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Why Teachers deserve more …

Teachers are singlehandedly the most important people you are ever going to come into contact with outside of your immediate family and in some cases, even more pertinent in your journey throughout life.

I’m not kidding or overstating this in any way at all (even though I am on occasion known to be a tiny bit overdramatic!). True, my mother is in education so I may be a little biased but I do truly believe that teachers shape your life, and most imperatively, your attitude.

I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t have a “teacher” story to tell. Unfortunately though, not all the teacher tales are good ones. I have a friend who actually dropped out of school at the age of sixteen because his teacher had such a profoundly negative effect on him he could simply no longer take the torture of having to go and see her face for a whole two more years.

In hindsight, I often wonder if he thinks back to his decision and ponders on how his life could have been different had he soldiered on for two more years. I mean, what’s two years in comparison to an entire lifetime? For adults – nothing. For a teenager being mentally bludgeoned five days a week, simply put – the end.

I was one of the lucky ones. I was gifted with a teacher comprised with the best quality any educator could ever possibly have and that’s inspiration. My art teacher, Mr John Philippides didn’t just teach me art, he taught me attitude. Best of all, Mr. Philippides taught me about life, in an age where most of us struggle between right and wrong, about going against the grain because it’s the right thing to do, about the “mark” we want to leave on the planet. Some of you would know that I didn’t exactly have an easy time throughout school. I was bullied continuously and being a fair bit younger than my classmates didn’t help, what with having a “delayed” reaction to anything that actually mattered, namely leaving all the “uncool things’ behind, like my love for Disney characters (which has never left by the way. Just in case you’re wondering).

Mr. Philippides would often tell me I’d forget about him once I left school and I would vehemently deny the atrocious accusation, he didn’t believe me and I’d just like to say, I have proven you wrong Mr. Philippides!

I often think about my art teacher and his many, innumerable gifts that he has partaken with me along the way. Though he most likely will never know, his words of wisdom continue to stroll alongside me throughout my many obstacles, turns and twists and like him; they inspire me to be the best I can.

Though I always knew of his immense talent, my youthful naivety blinded me to the truly great artist he was and the amazing genius the rest of the World had also been fortunate enough to glimpse.

My childhood “greed” I guess (for the lack of a better word) almost always believed that he was simply put on this planet to teach me art! 😀 However, I was wrong, and now I see the profound effect my art teacher has had on many lives outside of mine, but he was still and always will be my teacher first!

Thank you Mr. Philippides for teaching me about life, your enamoured lessons are ones that I am positive I will take with me across lifetimes because yours are ones that touched my soul, not just my brain.

Sometimes life just can’t be put into words, no matter how hard you try

Rajput retouch 2I think most of you by now are fully aware of my absolutely obsessive passionate lustful love for words, but I am, at times, stumped when I look at the wonder all around me, which is what brings me to this post.

This piece of writing is a little different because today I am going to be talking about how words just can’t cut it sometimes, and this is where I take my hat off to all of you wonderful photographers out there!

As some of you may have noticed, I’ve added a page to this blog today titled “Photographer Extraordinaire” (just in case you missed it) directing those of you who are interested, to my amazingly superbly talented sister’s blog – mayunkasharmaphotography.wordpress.com.

I am sure all of you would have caught on pretty soon after you checked it out (because I have like the smartest bunch of followers’ eva!) considering our scary family resemblance. My condolences by the way, just when you thought you could barely cope with one of us, I give you another.

Mayunka is mind-blowingly, mind-bogglingly, awe inspiringly talented when it comes to clicking photos. Now I know what most of you are thinking – “sure she has to say that, I mean she’s her sister”. Am I biased? In all honesty, most likely, but I am willing to put my buck where my mouth is, so go ahead and check out her work and see for yourself.

Mayunka has taken all of my photos here (including my book cover) and is marvellous at natural landscapes and profiles. Plus she is heaps nicer than me, so feel free to contact her for any work you may be interested in, or even just for a chat (she’s a motor-mouth!).

Or, you can contact me (if you’re shy) and I’ll pass it onto her when we’re on talking terms, which is 99.94 1/4% of the year – just in case you’re wondering 😉

Enjoy!