You don’t have to write diverse books

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The other night, I had an interesting conversation with a friend. She’s an aspiring writer and doing research on books where the story is written by an Asian author but doesn’t have Asian characters.

We were meeting for drinks because it’s been a while and she mentioned wanting some recommendations. “I want to write a book where the main characters aren’t Asian.”

I wasn’t surprised by her response but I did wonder why. There’s so many books coming out right now discussing the struggle of being a person of color in America and in the world. But she was pretty clear. She didn’t want to write a book for the sake of her race, she wanted to write a book for the sake of telling a good story.

It’s not uncommon that people of color write stories that don’t speak directly to diversity. People write the characters and the stories that inspire them. It doesn’t have to be about race. And perhaps a lot of POC writers feel pigeonholed to write about their experiences; that books need to be all about diversity and how much of a struggle life is.

But not everything in life is a struggle. Sometimes it’s a beautiful moment in time and those stories are just as worthy a read as any other.

And the truth is that sometimes when we highlight diverse stories we end up burying the simple fact that we are all people and we all have lives to live. So why choose to write about diverse themes?

I think it’s because everyone can write about anything. There’s something more intense in a diverse story because it’s bringing up topics that people tend to ignore. We don’t talk about race and how people in this or any country are treated. We know we’re not racist but that’s the extent of our knowledge. It’s not about educating the masses, but sharing the stories that don’t get told.

Our conversation went on and she described how isolating and lonely her childhood was being Asian and growing up in a predominately White town. I knew exactly how she felt and how torn you are between who you are and who you’re around.

I understood exactly where she’s coming from and how rehashing those memories for the sake of a story didn’t feel like the best use of her time. She could be writing anything because anything is possible. I sometimes feel like the themes of my stories need to be about being Asian, but I’m more than my race and I’ve got more to write about than being Asian.

We all live similar enough lives to connect with anyone and a story written by a person of color that isn’t about being that race is recognizably still good writing. Perhaps writing a story where the emphasis is not on being diverse will help readers see that we’re not so different.

We are all writers here. We all have stories to tell and some stories are much more relatable than others. So write your stories and come up with ways to rewrite all the genres. Make the stories your own and don’t feel pressured into writing a diverse story.

Write what you want. People recognize a good story no matter what the subject.

Here’s some authors who were able to reach beyond diversity:

  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
  • The Mothers by Brit Bennett

The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang – Book Review

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I think the last time I read a book by an Asian woman it was Amy Tan. When you’re growing up in the 90s in America, there’s not a lot of stories that feature Asian characters. All I had was The Joy Luck Club and that was pretty much it.

Nowadays, you can read so many stories of so many people and feel that sense of connection you need when you’re a young minority growing up in America. I think The Wangs vs. The World could be that kind of book; a benchmark for younger people to remember where they’re from, who they are, and most importantly how their families arrived here.

28114515 Synopsis (from Goodreads.com) – Charles Wang is mad at America. A brash, lovable immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, he’s just been ruined by the financial crisis. Now all Charles wants is to get his kids safely stowed away so that he can go to China and attempt to reclaim his family’s ancestral lands—and his pride.

Charles pulls Andrew, his aspiring comedian son, and Grace, his style-obsessed daughter, out of schools he can no longer afford. Together with their stepmother, Barbra, they embark on a cross-country road trip from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the upstate New York hideout of the eldest daughter, disgraced art world it-girl Saina. But with his son waylaid by a temptress in New Orleans, his wife ready to defect for a set of 1,000-thread-count sheets, and an epic smash-up in North Carolina, Charles may have to choose between the old world and the new, between keeping his family intact and finally fulfilling his dream of starting anew in China.

Outrageously funny and full of charm, The Wangs vs. the World is an entirely fresh look at what it means to belong in America—and how going from glorious riches to (still name-brand) rags brings one family together in a way money never could.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

My thoughts – I struggled a little bit with deciding on a rating for this book. On some levels, this book really didn’t capture me as well as I thought it would. On another level, it was amazing and relatable as a 2nd generation-er in America.

As  I mentioned before that this could possibly be the kind of book that new generations growing up in America would want to read. However, it’s not every author’s intention to write a book to hit one minority in this country. The story is also relatable to anyone who’s ever had family strife.

I was lucky enough to be in a family that’s worked hard to build their fortune and have a couple of finer things . It’s always nice to live in comfort and my parents worked hard to give that to us. However, losing your entire fortune could happen to anyone. A dad so determined to piece their family back together can definitely happen to anyone. Disconnected siblings that find solace in each other one day will always happen over and over again.

This family isn’t just about being Asian American, but also about the struggle of life. While not everyone dad is off to another country to claim some land he inherited as a kid, but every family can relate with the strain and turmoil it takes on to stay together. And especially so when you’re not from around here.