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!
Desis are one of the largest population groups in the world, with over 1.7 billion people and a diaspora that’s spread across all continents. But even then, desis are among some of the least represented groups in publishing, especially when you consider Bangladeshis and Pakistanis.
There are only a handful of desi books released in publishing every year – a number that’s, fortunately, increasing every year but still very low. Even fewer are books written by desis about desis, and those that aren’t written by desis often fall prey to stereotypes and gross conflation of the various rich subcultures within the “desi” culture into a monolithic, single dimension. It’s something I’ve noticed rather often what sort of desi stories are pushed by publishing (and movies, or anything – actually), and those are overwhelmingly what I call “oppression narratives.”
For desi teens to pick up books that promise them representation and only read how horrible their cultures are, how oppressed desis are as a product of their own cultures and countries is a concern. For example, Bollywood is a booming industry with hundreds of movies released every year, from every different genre imaginable, yet when you think about an Indian movie, what do you picture? Slumdog Millionaire, about poverty and violence. Pakistan has a huge fashion and entertainment industry with music that’s adored all over the world, but what media is hailed by the West?
Oppression narratives about terrorism and violence. These are, unfortunately, realities of desi countries – undisputedly, but they aren’t the only realities. And it’s concerning to me that mainstream publishing only likes to push narratives that tell desis of their oppression, and that focus on our “Othering,” while largely avoiding and/or not resourcing narratives that tell mainstream audiences that desis have their own identities, their own cultures, sure, but we are a diverse, large group of people who are people first and foremost.
There are, of course, exceptions. Some of the recommendations I have are Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed, and Fire Boy by Sami Shah – both very unique novels by desi writers. The first tackles what it’s like growing up desi (Indian) and Muslim in the United States, while the second is an elaborate fantasy about a Pakistani boy who finds out he’s half-jinn.
I treasure these stories with my heart and soul because they provide me with some semblance of representation that I so rarely see in any form of media. And I sincerely hope that with this new push towards diversifying publishing, desis aren’t left behind and we get more books about our lives, our experiences and our beautiful culture(s) without being told how backwards and oppressed we are.