literature,, media

Reading Representation

It’s not a secret that #representationmatters. For many, it’s a war cry that evokes empowerment and they pour every ounce of their energy into supporting their cause. (sometimes too much energy, but that’s a conversation for another day)

We’ve seen the infamous hashtags everywhere and it is relevant to everything – politics, education, healthcare, the Oscars.

And today, we see its relevance in literature.

In Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk, titled “The Dangers of a Single Story” she talks about how consuming literature from one point of view – typically from upper middle class westerners – affects how people from different backgrounds view themselves. As an emerging author, her characters mirroed the ones that she often read in these stories – upper middle class white girls.

As Adichie says in her TED talk, continuously writing about one type of character is dangerous. It reinforces disrespectful and potentially harmful stereotypes and also negatively affects the self-image of readers from different backgrounds.

This issue is even more prevalent because of the American Dirt controversy, a novel about a young family’s journey across the U.S-Mexico border…written by an American woman who knew nothing about the struggle.

Twitter blew up and they immediately curated their own list of novels about LatinX issues written by LatinX authors. Love it!

LatinX Twitter users supported their community and I shouldn’t have to wait for a hoity-toity white woman from Idaho to publish a book about the Asias to do the same.

So without further ado, here is a list of my favorite books written by Asian authors.
** disclaimer – I know that there are many Asian American authors out there and I don’t have enough hours in my day to read all of their stories. This is a very short list and is based on books that I actually read. This is also in no particular order. If you have any book recommendations please comment below**

  • When My Name Was Keoko – Linda Sue Park
    This historical-fiction novel, published in 2002, follows two Korean siblings living through World War 2. I first read this book when I was in middle school and it was the first time I learned about South Korea’s history. It’s a novel for young readers and the biggest theme is gender. The siblings ( a brother and sister) experience the war differently. I remember the themes of war being subtle but not sugar-coated. It touches on sensitive issues but not enough to traumatize a 12-year-old.
  • Pachinko – Min Jin Lee
    Published in 2017, this novel is a more adult version of When My Name Was Keoko. Nothing is sugar-coated. This is another historical-fiction novel that follows the life of a Korean family living in Japan during the 1900s. The biggest themes in the novel are racism, classism, stereotypes and wealth. Unlike the previous novel, the effects of war are loud and in-your-face. As you follow the family through their journey, all I want to do is reach through the pages and give them a big hug.
  • Crazy Rich Asians trilogy – Kevin Kwan.
    The novel turned blockbuster movie is amazing. Not only are you living in a luxurious life of the super-rich, but you also see the not-so-subtle hints of Asian hierarchy. If you know, you know. One of my favorite things in novels is when characters live their own individual lives but then it effects each other in different ways. It’s like a puzzle. Kwan does this perfectly. If you liked the movie then you should read the books.
  • Everything I Never Told You – Celest Ng
    Gripping, emotionally brutal and beautifully written. Ng’s debut novel follows a mixed-race family as they experience the loss of a child due to mental health issues. It’s a topic that is sensitive in both western and Asian communities. The family’s social dynamic is not something that I have openly seen in media or in other books I’ve read. And like Kwan, you get a sneak peak into each character’s personal lives. The biggest themes are stereotypes/ breaking stereotypes, relationships and appearances.

As mentioned earlier, please comment if you have any recommendations for me, I’m always on the hunt for a good book. Also, have you read these books? What are you thoughts on them?

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