Over the past couple years, the #DiverseReads movement has gained momentum and people have become aware of reading books that are different from cis straight white characters. Because, this world is a huge place and there are many different people here that are not straight or white. They have been poorly represented in media for a long time and that has taken its toll.
Desis are an example of such oppressed voices. We have not been represented in a good light in the western media, but, thankfully, that has changed in the last few years and with emerging authors such as Roshani Chokshi, Sandhya Menon, Tara Sim, Dhonielle Clayton, Sabaa Tahir etc, hopefully, people will see us in a better light.
The purpose of this discussion event is to make others aware of the lush, beautiful desi culture and to tell them more about us. So, for the next few days, my absolutely amazing friend, Aditi from A Thousand Words A Million Books and I will be sharing various essays by desi book people – bloggers, bookstagrammers, twitterati etc for you guys.
I hope that you learn something new by reading what we have in store for you here and that you enjoy it. Thank you for stopping by!
Why Is Desi Rep Important?
Earlier this year, I had this idea for a contemporary young adult novel. I wanted there to be a ball. I wanted the main character, unnamed back then, to live with two stepsisters she had a strained relationship with and a stepmother that the three of them like not seeing. I wanted her to have a best friend that was the most important person in her life. I wanted there to be a romance… with a guy she initially hated. (Okay, well, more like strongly disliked. This main character can’t bring herself to hate anyone.)
I wanted it to be reminiscent of A Cinderella Story—a movie that is a classic, please don’t fight me on this.
So I called it #CinderellaStory for a while. A few days ago, I decided to call it something else: The Opposite of Love.
I’m bad at titles. Like, seriously bad. Same goes with names—we’d all grimace at the old names I’d called my characters. (Hoo boy, they were so bad.) But this was the first project that I’ve come up with a title for. A project that had the main character’s name, the best friend’s, stepsisters’, love interest’s… I even managed to plot some of it out! Pages of events, late nights with thoughts flitting through my head—
This project had a lot of firsts.
But one that particularly stands out would be that… the main character is Bengali. Like me. And her name is Jayna.
For the longest time, I thought that characters had to be a certain… something. A lot of books I read, back in 2011 and 2012, had main characters that were all white. There was never a main brown skinned girl, not one who got to tell her own story. It made me think that my stories had to be like that too.
Which, really. It’s ridiculous. All of that? Ridiculous.
So, yes. #CinderellaStory—The Opposite of Love—is about a high school student, a Bengali girl yearning to fall in love and doing that with the last person she expects. It’s about a girl who adores her best friend more than anything in the world; about a girl who’s unapologetically every bit of her, who loves everything that makes hermy main character, Jayna Das.
And it’s going to be a lot of work. A lot of writing, rewriting, revising, editing, all that jazz. But you know what? It’s the first project I’m super excited about. It’s the first project I want to get done.
This project is pretty much for that younger mewho thought writing about Jayna would be taboo somehow. To anyone else who thought that, too, once upon a time. There is no default, no set of rules you have to follow. Your story is something that’s not just wanted—it’s something that’s needed, too.