#Augvocacy2019: South Asians in Literature – Learning the Difference between Relatability & Representation

#Augvocacy2019: South Asians in Literature – Learning the Difference between Relatability & Representation

What do we mean when we talk about representation? It’s a word and concept that looks like something different for every single one of us.

For me, the first time I felt represented by a book was two years ago – in 2017 – when I read The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi. In fact, the reason I was drawn to this book in the first place was because I had never read a book with a Bangladeshi protagonist before. At 21 years old, having the opportunity to read this middle grade fantasy novel meant everything to me. It’s funny how we often talk about diverse books and the impact they will have on the generations of children who will read them today, but we never seem to address how those same books will similarly affect the generations of readers who grew up without them.

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#Augvocacy2019: The Fault in Asian Stereotypes & the Lack of Diversity

#Augvocacy2019: The Fault in Asian Stereotypes & the Lack of Diversity

Growing up Asian, there are a lot of stereotypes surrounding us. People tend to relate Asia with just a few countries and disregard the rest of them. A lot of people doubt that India is a part of Asia, and this is one thing that really baffles me. There are 48 countries in Asia, and all of us are an equal part of it. Every culture has their own history, mythology and heritage and by disregarding those cultures, people tend to erase the reality.

In India itself, there are more than 500+ dialects and languages spoken. Everyone has their own perspective and beliefs and that makes for such a wonderfully diverse nation. Similarly, there are 47 other countries in Asia and they all have their own history and culture. Now imagine not paying attention to that and thinking that Asia just consists of China and Japan. Imagine thinking that all Asians look alike.

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#Augvocacy2019: Not Your Stereotype

#Augvocacy2019: Not Your Stereotype

When I was in middle school, we had to attend a back-to-school assembly about inclusion and compassion and other touchy-feely topics that made our pre-teen selves shudder in disgust. One issue they covered was “nice” stereotypes, which were still stereotypes so we shouldn’t believe them — not all tall people are good at basketball, you know? (I personally wouldn’t know; I’ve always been the shortest in my class, so everyone else on my basketball team was both taller and a better player than me.)

It took me years to realize the underlying hypocrisy in the system.

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#Augvocacy2019: Feeling Welcomed & Uplifted as an Asian and Philippine-based Reader in the Book Community

#Augvocacy2019: Feeling Welcomed & Uplifted as an Asian and Philippine-based Reader in the Book Community

I grew up ashamed of the fact that I lived in the Philippines because I had grown up with sisters, family members, teachers, peers, and basically everyone around me mentioning the miserable state of our country. They talked about the Philippines’ inferior standard of living to other countries. First World countries didn’t have as much corruption in their governments, and they had cleaner and better environments to live in, so why be proud of living in the Philippines?

Consequently, I disliked the fact that I was Chinese because maybe if I weren’t Chinese, I could’ve gotten to live in a first-world country.

All of that intensified when I first discovered the book community. Most of the readers I encountered years ago on the internet were white and residents of the US. Although I recall there were Asian readers on the internet at the time, they weren’t very vocal about it because diversity wasn’t much of a hot topic back then. None of them were international-based readers as well.

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#Augvocacy2019: Finding Pieces of Myself in Young Adult Lit as an Asian Adoptee

#Augvocacy2019: Finding Pieces of Myself in Young Adult Lit as an Asian Adoptee

Growing up as Chinese-American adoptee has been a process I have never fully been at peace with, nor do I think I ever will be.

Stuck between, feeling as if I can never comfortably wear my experiences as American or Chinese. A whole closet of hats I can never seem to wear in public. How I always knew that I had to tick the box off for Asian, but also knew that if walked into a Chinese restaurant, I would be lumped in with Americans as soon as the waiter came over. That while I frequently face people asking the dreaded, “where are you really from” question, I’m just as equally met with unspoken questions about my family photos.

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#Augvocacy2019: We Need Indonesian & Southeast Asian Representation (ft. Crazy Rich Asians)

#Augvocacy2019: We Need Indonesian & Southeast Asian Representation (ft. Crazy Rich Asians)

When I was 14, I wrote and performed a speech to my class on diversity in Hollywood. I stood up in front of a white majority class and started my speech off with a scenario on how you have never related to a film or novel in your life, because you are not white. My speech may have fallen flat — it was, after all, a white majority class.

I’m now 17 years old, and those kids in my class? They all have countless more movies to add into their never-ending collection of films and novels which represent them. Whereas in the last 2 to 3 years, I have only gotten one film that remotely represents me. Seventeen years have passed and I only have one film and book series representing my culture to show for it. I refuse to let another seventeen go by without Southeast Asian representation.

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#Augvocacy2019: Reading at the Intersections – The Importance of Trans Asian Representation

#Augvocacy2019: Reading at the Intersections – The Importance of Trans Asian Representation

Anyone who knows me from the book community knows that I’m passionate about reading and supporting diverse books. I’ve been an avid reader since I was very young, but the process of diversifying my reading material did not begin until much later. Shortly after I started college in 2011, I had stopped reading as much compared to when I was in high school, but sometime during 2015, the same year I added Asian American studies as my second major, I rekindled my love of reading and began a desperate search for books by and about Asians and Asian Americans, especially in the realm of young adult literature, which was the staple of my reading material as a teen.

I’m happy to say that compared to 2015, 2019 has far more books by and about Asians being published, and I’ve been gifted with so many amazing Asian reads. However, as far as Asian and Asian American representation in YA is concerned, I still find some intersections lacking, among them queer Asians, especially trans Asians. I have seen my ethnicity and cultural heritage represented to some extent, but my queerness/transness and how it interacts with my race/ethnicity, not really at all. To my knowledge, there is not a single Own Voices YA book about a trans Asian character of any gender or ethnicity, let alone one who is specifically nonbinary/genderqueer and Taiwanese American like me.

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