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!
Humanizing Desi Characters
In my childhood I never had a chance to read any desi characters in stories.I had Bollywood movies, (Still love ‘em,) and the dramas my mother would watch. When it came to books, there were only white characters with no culture. English the only language. It seemed like a default with every book I read. At the time, I didn’t complain. I loved reading about the different imagined worlds and being swept away into an adventure.
It all changed a year ago for me. There are a few books I’ll mention that truly made my heart sing with joy. First two are The Gauntlet and A Crown of Wishes. There are many more, but these two were especially important. The Gauntlet had a Bangladeshi heroine. A Crown of Wishes had an Indian heroine. The best thing about them? They were written by people who belonged to that same culture and ethic background. That meant they would be portrayed with authenticity. No stereotypes. No other character stumbling in to save them.
For those who grew up with books where colour of skin, or race is never mentioned, you may not understand how delighted I was. Every mention of a word I knew in Arabic, or Hindi. Every food or place I grew up hearing my parents speak. I smiled and hugged them every time. Literally.They weaved in their culture and languages so beautifully and I had to celebrate.
The characters were human. They were not the villains. Or the oppressed. No brutality or villainy which the media has been spewing for decades. And continues to do so. The characters here were a breath of fresh air. Full of needs, love, pain, wants and determination. And it was fine for them to be flawed. No one is perfect after all. I realized the gap I thought didn’t exist. Wanting to belong is a priority for every human. We want to be accepted. With books now being written by authors who are like their main characters, it’s no wonder people are speaking out.
One other book which I haven’t finished, but is just as important is The City Of Brass. It has an even dearer place in my heart. The Main character is a Muslim. A niqabi Muslim. Being Muslim my self, this book was a dream to know existed. The first Fantasy with an MC that was like me?! At first, I was scared. Scared that people would attack verbally for the main character being as she was. I had flashbacks of when strangers telling me to go home. That I didn’t belong or shouldn’t exist. Another part of me was alive. A joy, a bliss so palpitating I was anxious to have it in my hands. When it was released, I checked reviews and I was shocked. Happy more than anything. There was no outrage. It’s sad to think we have to be so guarded, but it gave me hope. That there was a place for me. For others like me. All of us who are either desi or of any other race or ethnicity. There is a place and always will be.