"Only through collecting a whole mosaic of narratives can we begin to understand everyone in a meaningful way." <3 http://t.co/iEXQ6KpTb6
— DiversifYA (@_DiversifYA) March 13, 2014
Today I’m over at DiversifYA talking about my experiences as a halfie, as well as my advice on how to write diverse characters. I’d love for you to check it out!
Also, this opportunity came about after I commented on my friend Jasmine Warga’s great interview there. She had a lot of smart and eloquent things to say about her Middle Eastern heritage, and about people’s (mis)perceptions of that region (i.e., Aladdin, terrorism, and being “untouched by time”).
I’ve learned to embrace my background. It’s sort of the old adage that when you’re younger, what makes you different makes you embarrassed, but as you grow up, you learn that what makes you different makes you unique, makes you, you.
We’re all human with our own separate affinities, opinions, and interests. As important as I think it is for people to talk and discuss diversity, I want there to be a greater focus on what makes us all similar, as opposed to what divides us.
3 responses to “Being different doesn’t have to mean being divided”
I think you were very lucky to have such a positive upbringing in this regard. Needless to say, this is not always the case.
I have a character, a teenage girl who is both illegitimate and biracial, and both of those facts were (this is mostly backstory, but we can infer) thrown up to her repeatedly during her upbringing, probably in fairly blunt language. This had a big effect on her attitude toward a lot of things.
Not that she’s evenly biracial, but, as you point out, if you’re not 100% white you’re often lumped in as whatever the other part is (as if it’s a “taint,” as in fact it is sometimes called). One character referred to the girl’s biological father as having “a touch of the tarbrush” (a phrase that shocked a couple of my beta readers).
We’ve talked before about the insidiousness of the “positive” stereotype, too — for example the “Asians are good at computers” cliche which can function as a “glass ceiling” in those sorts of jobs, cutting off promotion into management positions of IT departments. It sounds like it’s a positive thing, but _any_ stereotype comes with built-in limitations.
For sure I was fortunate to grow up in an area/community where being mixed race was not a big deal — or at the very least, not a bad thing. Not everyone is that lucky, although I think/hope acceptance is on the rise. And that’s part of why writing about diverse characters is important too. So that each generation can learn to be more inclusive. Whether a character’s experiences are positive or negative, the fact that their story is interesting and “worthy” of being told says a lot.
I love that second quote about focusing on what makes us similar instead of what makes us different.