Tag Archives: #WeNeedDiverseBooks

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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

Diversity in Literature: Why “just White” doesn’t make the cut anymore

When I was about twelve, I was shopping in my quaint little corner shop, on the edge of a crooked country town road located in my modest, antiquated village. There’s more to this story … I swear.

I was at the checkout when I suddenly felt an odd patting, come stroking movement on the top of my left hand laid out on the rusty wooden counter. My initial knee jerk reaction was a stiffening of my limbs as I looked down at a little dark girl, no older than eight probably, staring up at me with large round black spheres for eyes. I was slightly perturbed and was about to pull away politely when my mum laid her firm hand on my shoulder, saying that it was okay and that all she wanted to do was assimilate.

I didn’t quite get it, but as an Asian kid, you soon realise, after coming out from the womb you’ve been renting for nine or so months, that what mum says goes. When I returned to the safety of my abode, I asked mum why that little dark girl was caressing my hand.

Turns out that that little dark girl was a Sri Lankan orphan, who had recently been adopted by her Caucasian Australian parents from a remote rural village, tucked away in some nondescript nook and cranny of the small island … and that she was lonely. Suddenly the words she uttered as she looked up at her parents in barely concealed glee coupled with excitement of “look mum, she looks like me” made a whole lot of sense.

While I was twittering today, I happened to (thankfully) stumble upon the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, and man am I glad I did! The very first thing that popped into my mind is the incident that I just recounted to you.

Am I really as naïve as to think that diversity in our literature would solve that little girl’s (and those who have no doubt come after her) problem? Though I am pretty naïve … absolutely not. Do I think that reading about others that look like you in a non-stereotypical way, armed with nothing more than normal human emotions going about their mundane daily lives may help a little? I would suggest, yes.

When Literary Agents suggest that I write about more “normal” characters in my book, and scratch their heads/pull their hair out in frustration when I rewrite the bits they weren’t alluding to, I say I can read between the lines, I just choose not to.

A couple of hairless Literary Agents later, I remember that Little Dark Girl and think, in my techie speak, Diversity in Literature can’t just be a “nice to have” any longer, it’s definitely a “must have”.

Your thoughts?