When Fadwa asked me a few months ago if I wanted to be part of this amazing project she had created — #DIVERSEBOOKBLOGGERSDISCUSS — I freaked out. At first I was scared I wouldn’t be able to write something I’m proud of or something that Fadwa would like reading (Fadwa: I really really love this post, so no complaints on my end), this was really what I was the most scared of. Then I was scared people would think I’m not legitimate enough to talk about the subject I’m discussing in today’s post, but my best friend reminded me that my voice matters. So here I am.
When people look at me, they see a white straight woman: someone I am not. It never comes to their mind that their perception of me is wrong. How do I know I look like this to most people whom never talked to me before? Because when they finally do talk to me and learn the truth, the first thing they say is, ‘You sure know how to hide your true identity.’ I get that a lot. But am I really hiding who I am? Or are people just seeing what society taught them to see?
When I was little, during the summer holidays, my sister and I used to go to summer camp. That was something I was both excited and scared about. Once, a camp counselor called our name, which is typically Vietnamese, to know if we were here, and when we both raised our right hand we were dismissed. So we raised our hands again, saying that was us he was calling for, and because we don’t look Vietnamese, we got told we were liars. Liars. I remember thinking, ‘Am I a liar? I’m just answering to my name. To my father’s name. My grandpa’s name. My cousins’ name. My family name. Am I a liar?’ I wasn’t. I am not.
I was 6 and got told I was a liar because people weren’t excepting someone like me when they called for a Vietnamese little girl. They were expecting a stereotype to answer them. Why were they expecting a stereotype instead of me? Because people considered as belonging to ‘minorities’ are underrepresented in medias and literature. It’s a fact. We are. Ask anybody. Ask them to show you the books or movies they saw themselves in, and cry at the small amount. Because it will be small. If existant at all.
I consider myself as being out. My friends and family — and basically anybody who follows me on any of my social medias — know that I am not straight. It’s not something I’m trying to hide. But when people ask me about my sexuality, most of the time I will not answer that I am demiromantic bisexual, I’ll just say I’m bi. Why is that? Because if I’m already struggling to find books with good bisexual protagonists, do you truly think it’s easy to find a demiromantic character as well? It’s not. It hasn’t happened yet. When I say to people that I am bisexual, I already have to justify myself. I have to explain why I identify as such, why it’s not a made-up sexuality for horny and undecided teenagers — yeah, a lot of people actually think that’s what bisexuality is.
I honestly don’t have the strength to go fight the demiromantic battle against people who have never heard of it. It’s exhausting. It’s time-consuming. And sometimes it feels hopeless. It feels hopeless because whenever I do try to explain what being demiromantic is, people don’t take me seriously. They don’t take me seriously because they think, ‘If there is no representation for this, that’s because it doesn’t exist.’ Am I not alive? Breathing in front of them? The living proof?
Seeing myself represented in books makes me feel real, makes me feel like I don’t have to be a stereotype or justify myself to actually exist. I am more than the studious Asian stereotype, or the three-some lover/cheater bisexual … I am so much more than that. And I need people to see that as well. The only way for them to see that is for me to be represented. You want to know why I loved reading The Sun Is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon? It’s because Daniel, one of the two protagonists, is Korean-American born of two Korean immigrants, and he isn’t the Asian stereotype. He struggles with his two cultures, what it means to be both American and Korean; he doesn’t want to be a doctor or study science — I know I know, an Asian kid who doesn’t want to study science? SHOCKING … *sarcasm* — he just wants to write poetry. I found myself relating to Daniel, his hopes, his fears, his struggles … He is not a stereotype, and I swear I could have cried of happiness.
The same thing happened when I read Knit One, Girl Two, by Shira Glassman. My Jewish heart felt so at home. It was just so satisfying to be reading about two extremely different Jewish girls falling in love with each other. It was heartwarming to read about my culture, to read about the Jewish food they were eating, or read about how being Jewish means different things to them. You never see that in books. The Jewish people I’m used to read about aren’t real, they’re caricatures. But Clara and Danielle? They felt real. They were real. Danielle is also bisexual … do you know how long I’ve waited to read about a Jewish bisexual girl? My entire life. Seeing myself being represented this much in a book was something I had expected.
When an author decides to write about a minority, decides to share their own diversity with us all, it’s truly a blessing. We have to encourage people to share their stories, we have to make sure they will get heard, we have to support them in what they’re doing. They’re the real heroes. They’re exposing themselves to the world for the sake of truth, they’re ready to get attacked by all the narrow-minded people this world has to offer. It’s our responsibility to give them the opportunity to be heard. If they do, we get to have our representation. It is so important to help ownvoices author, so important, we need them. We need them for the truth to be told.
The moment we start giving ownvoices author the opportunity to speak up is the moment we will stop being seen as stereotypes, misunderstood & judged. I’m not saying it will happen all of a sudden. I’m sure it’s going to take a LOT of time, but we have to start somewhere and at some point. Publishers have to give ownvoices authors a chance, they have to give people coming from minorities a chance to share their stories. I need to read their stories. I need it so much. I need people to find themselves in books, I need to read about something real, something I can relate to … I need to see myself, I need the world to acknowledge my existence and not be seen as a stereotype. Am I not real enough?
Book Blogger @ Romie We Deserve Love
Romie is a 21-year-old English Major student trying her best to pursue her dream: becoming a publisher. She’s living near Paris with her cat Hazael Grace, and this little vampire gives her all the love she needs to fuel her coffee-craving body. She’s a moderator at The Book Bound Society, a book club actively trying to support diverse authors. When she’s not reading, she’s eating burritos with her friends or you can find her at her university doing what she loves.
Diverse Book Bloggers Discuss is a way to boost diverse bloggers who are brilliant and have a lot to say but have smaller platforms and don’t really get as much reach as they deserve. What this is, is basically a guest post feature where twice a month diverse book bloggers will discuss things they are passionate about on my blog.