Writing a book is difficult. Try adding in pieces of yourself and the process gets even more complicated.
I’ve wanted to include a piece of myself in every story. Up until I tackled my first book, it was usually depression or anxiety rep. These were two things I had become so intimately tied to that putting them on the page seemed natural.
Two years ago, I began writing a dystopian YA about two teenagers who find themselves alone in the apocalypse and have to figure out what’s worth fighting for. I tackled a range of issues – from depression to platonic friendships to bisexuality – but found myself uncertain about one and that was the identity of my biracial male character. I wanted to add this part of my identity to his story and yet I wasn’t sure how or rather, I asked myself if it was the right thing to do.
To preface this conversation, I’m half Puerto Rican. I inherited my mom’s light blonde hair (though my hair is dyed in the photo above) and my dad’s blue eyes so whenever I mention this to others, there’s often a double take. The question in people’s gaze as they try to piece together this genetic puzzle. I never quite fit into one’s expectations despite there being a lot of light skinned Latinxs in this world. Factor in not learning a ton of Spanish since my dad was the main financial provider while I was growing up and my dad not always being in contact with his family, I often felt like this identity wasn’t mine to claim.
As I wrote more, my character Hunter, became a reflection of how I saw myself. Frustrated, on his own, trying to deal with a world that was no longer in existence, and at the same time, wrestling with the forces that shaped him. I wondered was this the story to untangle these issues? Then I thought the world is over – why wouldn’t this be the time?
His dad’s story became like the one I shared with my own. Memories that Hunter thought about were ones I had – Thanksgiving dinners with the scent of roast pork and plantains, learning bits of his culture through what his dad had told him, knowing his dad preferred his own company a lot of the time and so much more. Writing Hunter gave me a medium to express myself that I felt I hadn’t had as a teenager.
I loved my dad and I loved my family and I loved when we were all able to hang out to experience this whirlwind of togetherness. Yet the root of the problem was I didn’t feel like I belonged. So many of my feelings towards my biracial identity were tangled up in this concept of not being enough. I knew too much about one of my identities but not about the other. Was it okay to claim both even if I had a lot to learn?
What Hunter helped me realize was yes, my identity mattered and so did my experience. I still struggle with this identity. I likely always will but in the last few years I’ve learned some things.
- No two identities will be the same. I may relate to others but my experiences are my own.
- I can use my writing to explore these complexities and I’m glad I was able to via Hunter.
- Writing my identity will always take work. I hope that others can find themselves in it if they need to.
- It takes time to figure yourself out and the more you grow, the better (hopefully) it’ll get.
At the end of the day, putting this piece of myself in my writing was a challenge, but one I needed to do for myself and for where I’m from.
YA Editor & Book blogger @ Megan Manzano
Megan fell in love with reading and writing from a young age. She grew up to receive a BA in English with a minor in philosophy; eager to stay as close to books as possible. She has and continues to wear many hats in the publishing world: Freelance Editor, Assistant Editor in New York, Literary Intern at the Corvisiero Agency, and Pitchwars 2018 mentor. She’s also accumulated several short story publications in Maudlin House, Twisted Sister Lit, and The Chaos of Hard Clay anthology – among others. Top that with blogging and reading, and it’s a miracle her brain hasn’t exploded yet.
In her spare time, she’s either traveling, hiking, or binge-watching television shows. If you can’t find her, offer to show her pictures of your pet, especially if it’s a dog. It works 100% of the time. Follow her on twitter: @megan_manzano
#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.