I’ve been sitting on this post idea for quite some time now, possibly over a year, mulling over what the right time to write about it would be, and *how* to approach it, because I have a lot of thoughts and feelings and I’m not quite sure how they fit together or how to get them out. But what I’ve realized from three years of constant blogging is that there’s never a right time to post anything and sometimes just opening a doc and letting the thoughts roam freely can take you a long way, so here I am today, doing just that. Plus, I’M RELAUNCHING #DIVERSEBOOKBLOGGERSDISCUSS NEXT MONTH!!!! and this post seems like the perfect occasion to announce it and open submissions (Form to apply at the end of the post).
Since I started pushing for diverse books and got invested in promoting and hyping them, I’ve noticed quite a few things when it comes to the way these books are approached by people who are either non-marginalized or outside of the marginalisations that are represented (the latter case more rare) that rubbed me the wrong way, and the main one that gets me fired up is “the book didn’t teach me anything about Y, X or Z” or “There was barely any of X, Y and Z”. My question is: Why are books about marginalized folks obligated to teach you anything about said folks?
Diverse books are here to represent the people who need them. NOT to teach you a lesson. NOT to give you a history lecture. NOT to broaden your world and make something click in your brain. YES, sometimes they do those things, and it’s great but our lives and experiences as marginalized folks DO NOT need to serve a purpose in anyone’s lives to be valid. We have lives that go beyond our identities.
We are more than our marginalisations.
Is my life hugely impacted by my identities and *especially* their intersections? Absolutely. Yes. My experiences and the way I interact with the world and pave my way through it are drastically different from those of non-marginalized folks. Do I want to see that reflected in the book that I read that are supposed to represent me? Yes. But do I want it written in such an explicit way that it lays out every ground rule for people who have no precedent knowledge of my identity? No. I want it to be organic, I want the characters to mirror real life people. Because you don’t see me going around giving lectures or having internal monologues about it CONSTANTLY. So neither should a character.
If you’re looking for informative books to teach you things, non-fiction books are your friends. If you don’t like them, google can do just as good of a job when you find trusty sources.
I’ll never forget this one review I read of a book that I saw my Muslim teen self in written by a non-Muslim reviewer, in which they rated the book low because “the MC didn’t even seem Muslim because she barely thinks about it or mentions it” which confused me because she was me, and I’m Muslim. I’m Muslim enough and I don’t need a badge or a specific indicator to *pass* and fit into other people’s assumptions and stereotypes. Because at the end of the day, that’s what it is: Non-marginalized folks have a certain image of what certain identities are supposed to look like and if a certain character that represents it -and you, by extension- don’t fit that narrow frame then they can’t compute it.
There was another one for the same book where the person said “I read it to learn more about Muslim people but there was barely anything about them” and… you do realize that we lead our lives the same way you do? and that yes, our lives are different *because* of our identities, but that’s not who we exclusively are? We are people first and foremost and we do people things *gasps* shocker I know. We go out, we sleep, we eat, we have friends, hobbies, interests, we study, we work, we have successes and failures, we mess up and make up,…you get the picture, right? So these are the things I want to read about, things that are authentic to my experiences, and if not to mine, then to other people who also identify with the same marginalization.
I’m not saying I don’t want *topical* books, books that center around our identities, books that talk or our hardships and heartbreaks, books that delve deep into what what goes into them, what shapes us into the people we are, how those identities affect us. I do. I love them. All I’m saying is that non-marginalized folks don’t get to dictate what those books contain, and when. They do not get a say in the kind of representation we get, how it’s explored and how much or how little of it the author decides to put in the book.
I want books like that but I also want books where we are allowed to just exist. We are more than our marginalisations and I’d love for that to be remembered and respected by everyone. And that’s where my #DiverseBookBloggersDiscuss feature comes in. I want all our voices uplifted and heard. I want us all to speak up about things we’re passionate about, may those things be tied to our identities or not. And you can see that in the variety of the previous posts, some people chose to speak about their marginalisations and some decided to speak about things that are completely unrelated. and it was their choice. And that’s how it’s supposed to be, we choose how much or how little we want to say about our identities and no one else gets to decide that for us.
#DiverseBookBloggersDiscuss is a feature that will be happening weekly, every Sunday (which means that yes, I will start posting 4 times a week instead of 3), starting Sunday March 3rd, where every week I invite one bookish person from a minority to talk about whatever they want, may it have a focus on their identity or not, what matters is that it’s *their* voice, something they genuinely care about and want to share with the rest of the world. I already got so many submissions and have some amazing people aligned, but if YOU want to participate as well, FILL THE FORM BELOW!!! Even if you’re unsure of what to talk about, get intimidated by discussion posts, etc… it’s okay, I can help you brainstorm and figure out how to get your ideas into words.
I will be taking submission up until next Sunday, so you have a week to submit if you want a bit of time to think about it. There are guidelines in the form below but if you have questions or want some things clarified, leave them in the comments and I’ll make sure to answer. You can also check out all the previous posts here.
That’s it until next time!
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.