[Discussion | Bloggers in the Attic] Diverse Reads

Bloggers in the Attic is back again! This month we’re bringing you different takes on reading diversely: how it’s changed or helped us, regardless of whether you identify as #ownvoices or marginalized.

The Bloggers in the attic is a discussion chain. And what is a discussion chain? Well, it’s pretty simple.
Me and [SEVERAL] other bloggers united together to discuss a common topic and sharing our unique perspective. Camilla @ Reader in the Attic created the initiative with the wish to create a discussion space that could explore a normal topic for different parts of the world.
The rules to participate are pretty simple. So, if you ever wish to take part in future discussions, just contact camilla. Topics will be discussed bi-monthly, so the next round will be up in October. 

In case you missed it, I’m a 2019 Augvocate and wrote a guest post for Shealea @ Shut Up, Shealea on a related topic! (While you’re there, make sure to check out all the incredible Augvocacy posts!)

This Month’s Discussion Chain (click to show)

14 – Camilla @ Reader in the Attic (intro post + discussion)
16 – Dany @ Ambivert Words
19 – Sage @ Sage Shelves
21 – Isabelle @ BookwyrmBites
23 – Becca @ bec&books
26 – Clo @ Book Dragons
28 – Hannah Lucy
30 – Rain @ Bookdragonism

As an autistic, biromantic demisexual, Taiwanese-American young adult, I’ve long been resigned to not being able to find a perfect literary match. (At least, until I write it myself … though I have an uncomfortable relationship with writing self-insert characters, so it might be a long while.) But over the years, it’s been dismayingly difficult for me to find characters that represent me in even one respect. All too often I’ve gotten excited about the characters in a book, only to find that I don’t actually relate to them, whether it’s a cultural or personal disconnect.

There’s a reason we refer to certain identities (e.g., autism and asexuality) as a spectrum; multiple components influence these identities, including other identities and levels of privilege that an individual may or may not have. It’s impossible to write a narrative that will represent everyone that shares a given identity, even if an author has personal experience and/or does thorough research. 

(That’s not to say that boosting #ownvoices writers and sensitivity readers isn’t important, though! Bad representation β€” in the form of problematic tropes or offensive cliches β€” can be worse than no representation, since they perpetuate stereotypes and ignorance. And even #ownvoices authors can benefit from hiring sensitivity readers.)

Of course, there are universal aspects to the human experience, so you can relate to, or at least empathize with, just about any character. Like most other non-allo/cis/het/neurotypical/white readers, I’ve been able to find myself in certain personalities or interests. The Mother-Daughter Book Club character I relate to most isn’t Chinese-American fashionista Megan but (Caucasian) bookworm Emma, and that’s okay.

This also applies when marginalized readers pick up books about other marginalized identities. Related fun fact: in middle and high school, when I couldn’t really find any good representation in books (or even knew that I was subconsciously looking for it!), biracial protagonists were the ones I related to most. Although both my parents are from Taiwan, I was intimately familiar with the feeling of being “in between” two cultures β€” not exactly the same way, of course, but it was comparable.

I think this part of the conversation sometimes gets overlooked: if PoC (or neurodivergent / LGBTQIAP+ / etc. individuals) can enjoy stories about white (or neurotypical / allocishet / etc.) people, then the reverse should hold true as well. Though characters are assumed to be white/cis/het/allo/etc. if not otherwise specified, they could just as easily be … not. And it wouldn’t necessarily change the book.

Maybe you won’t understand a few words or recognize the underlying folktales from a different culture, but that’s often also the case with SFF fiction. 

A good story is a good story. Full stop.

To finally answer the prompt at hand (“How has diverse reading affected you?”), I actually grew in a fairly homogenous Caucasian and Asian community; I didn’t personally know anyone who was Latinx or Black, and it wasn’t until high school that the topic of sexuality even really came up. 

The handful of diverse books that I had access to didn’t represent me or my experiences, but they did make me aware that other people experience the world differently, often due to social systems outside their control. They were fantastic in increasing my empathy and opening up my worldview.

In more recent years, as publishing has become more diverse and I’ve made a more conscious effort to read diversely, diverse reads have allowed me to explore my own identity and relationship with society. The AFTG fandom introduced me to the concept of demisexuality; Jade War almost brought me to happy tears with its incredible diaspora rep; memories of my parents’ bedtime stories made Spin the Dawn feel like coming home.

Just as it takes all kinds of people to make a world, it takes all kinds of diversity to make up the … literary collective? (That sounded a lot more eloquent in my head, but I think you get what I mean.) The complexity of the human experience is what makes life interesting; everyone deserves to feel understood, and increasing cultural appreciation can only make the world a kinder place.

Have any books changed your worldview and/or made you feel represented? Do you make an effort to seek out #ownvoices reads?


11 thoughts on “[Discussion | Bloggers in the Attic] Diverse Reads

  1. “If PoC (or neurodivergent / LGBTQIAP+ / etc. individuals) can enjoy stories about white (or neurotypical / allocishet / etc.) people, then the reverse should hold true as well.” YES! So much YES to this! Those who are the “norm” often forget… we’re just people too. And, aside from a few things that make us different, our fundamentals are the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so glad that I waited to read this until I had time to properly read and think about it. You cover so many apt points, and you do it succinctly and clearly. I understand how you feel about not being able to really see yourself in characters, but at the same time I can relate to many that I have nothing in common with, except a point of view on a certain subject. However, it’s still important to have that diversity (when it’s done right) in stories. Izzy, hank you for writing such a great post and explaining it so much better than I ever could!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have had the privilege to find myself in a good few books based on appearances and sexuality, and there’s always a few personality traits I can find, one thing that’s always lacked for me in books though has been finding ones that represent my heritage and my family. So it’s been great to see a bit of a rise in Latinx authors, and more so starting to get translations of novels published in Mexico where a good chunk of my family hails from and a few who still live there

    Liked by 1 person

    1. it’s always so interesting to see how intersectionality affects representation – like I don’t think I’ve ever read a bisexual Asian-American protagonist, but I’ve read bi characters and Asian-American characters, and find parts of my experience in each πŸ€” but I’m glad that you’ve been able to find characters that represent you, especially for cultural representation that’s been lacking in the past!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Seeing myself represented in books is so important. The first time I read a book with a black, female main character was when I was 12. The first time I read a book with Christian representation (that I agreed with in every way!!! Important note) was literally this year πŸ™‚ Both occasions led to tears. It’s knowing your not alone, and not the only one who thinks and feels that way. It really does make a huge difference. Sure, we cannot really see all parts of identity represented at once, but parts of your identity still helps.

    Olivia-S @ Olivia’s Catastrophe

    Liked by 1 person

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