The book community talks a lot about diversity and representation. Whether many of these people walk the walk on reading and asking for more books that are diverse, I can’t say. I can say, however, that even with this year seeming to have more Asian representation, I am finding it hard to be excited that it is the start of a revolution.
I wish it were. I wish it were the start of more diverse stories, more voices from people that look like me, that sound like me.
But a part of me is still worried that, because it seems so much harder for our voices to be heard, for our stories to be told, we stop telling our own, and simply give a spin on the stories that are more commonly known.
In January last year, I wrote about how I wanted to see more desi mythology inspired novels in the world. Since that post, there have been a few stories I’ve heard of that have taken from desi mythology, – The Library Of Fates by Aditi Khorana, A Spark Of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna, The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi being a few of them – but there is such a large scope that we have barely scraped the surface. If one looks at Indian publishing itself, you can see just how many stories can be adapted and told. But these hardly ever reach international lists and acclaim, because what?
The stories aren’t white?
The stories aren’t explanatory enough?
We are not here for your education, or your consumption, but to simply be heard. To simply tell our stories the way you tell yours.
Our culture, our history, is rich and colourful, and relatable even. Besides desi mythology, there are also the love stories that have inspired so many films and songs. These are as popular as Romeo And Juliet is, and just as star-crossed. I’ve made a list for convenience sake of stories I would love to see adapted and played out.
- Laila/Majnu: my main draw to this story, I will admit, is the musical put on in the Bollywood film ‘Aaja Nachle’, which is romantic and tragic, and gorgeously filmed.
- Heer/Ranjha: so many songs have used Heer and Ranjha as the basis. This is probably the couple whose story is most like Romeo and Juliet’s.
- Soni/Mahiwal: another doomed love affair, and honestly, this one has a bit more of an interesting family dynamic? There is so much scope for storytelling?
- Sassui/Punnhun: while the other love stories on this list are tragic, this one adds an element of faith and fantasy.
- Sahiba/Mirza: this is a childhood friends to lovers story, with a tragic ending, and family dynamics that could play out very interestingly.
Of course there are a lot more stories. As I have mentioned, Desi culture and heritage is vast and very rich, and there are so many ways to showcase it in the stories being told these days, so why is it still so rare to see? Why does it feel like our stories are lesser to the ones that are being told over and over and over?
I will keep talking about them until our voices, our stories, are allowed to be told. Until the gates that keep our stories from being told more than once are opened and broken to keep from shutting us out again.
We are here. Our stories are here. Our voices will not be kept quiet.
Let us tell our stories.
Book Blogger @ Open Pages.
Ara is a Southeast Asian writer who someday hopes to have published a novel, and who is currently losing herself in the worlds created by others. She is currently working from home as the creative head for marketing for the family business and spending most of her time trying to keep her toddler from proving the terrible twos are the terrible twos.
#DiverseBookBloggersDiscuss is a way to boost diverse bloggers who are brilliant, have a lot to say and deserve to be heard loud and clear. What this is, is basically a guest post feature where every Sunday, one blogger from a minority will discuss things they are passionate about on my blog.