#DesiRepDiscussions - All Things Desi by Maria Hossain

Hey guys!
Over the past couple years, the #DiverseReads movement has gained momentum and people have become aware of reading books that have characters that are not just cis straight and white. After All, this world is a huge place and there are many different, diverse 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 and begin to understand our culture more.
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, Prags from The Inkedin Book Blog (who, really, put all of this together) 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!

Today, on #DesiRepDiscussions, we have Maria, who is talking about various stuff, all desi centric. I hope you have fun reading this!
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Hey guys! I’m Maria Hossain and I’m a young adult writer from Dhaka, Bangladesh. This is my first guest post and I’m both excited and nervous too. So in this post, I’ll talk about six things (six is my lucky and favorite number). They are:

#1 Who I am & What I write and read

#2 My opinion on seeing diversity in fiction, especially characters from my background

#3 Diverse books that I read and loved so far

#4 My favorite writers of color

#5 My own writing

#6 How I think you can add diversity in your writing

I promise it won’t be a long post.

So let’s begin!

#1 Who I am and what I write and read:

So I’m a student of English language and literature of University of Dhaka. I started writing seriously from December, 2013 after I went through severe depression. Writing literally saved me from it. It saved me again when I fell into severe depression in 2015, and so you can guess, writing means a lot to me. I perceive it as my therapist, my knight in shining armor, my best friend and my passion.

What I write? Mostly young adult. So far I’ve written/brainstormed seven manuscripts, six of which have been shelved due to several reasons. I’m a very adventurous writer.So far I’ve written from contemporary to epic fantasy to steampunk fantasy.

I also blog about books, which I began to do this year . So far, I’ve reviewed around 15 books on my blog and I aim to blog about 50 books by June next year, before my birthday. I’m excited to tell you I got my first eARC from NetGalley only a few weeks ago and I can’t wait to receive more books.

#2 My opinion on seeing diversity in fiction, especially characters from my background:

Image result for an ember in the ashesFor a long time I didn’t see someone from my background in North American literature. Almost as if this world had no Bengalis like me. It was almost always white characters in my favorite books. So I could relate on some levels with those characters but not all.

So you can guess how ecstatic I felt when I learnt about diversity movement and attempts to diversify publishing industry more. My first diverse read would be An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir and it was that book where I saw a protagonist like myself. I could relate so much. Trust me, if you’re from a marginalized background and you find a character who shares your identity, you’ll feel acknowledged and cherished.

#3 Diverse books that I read and loved so far:

Image result for roshani chokshiI already mentioned Sabaa Tahir. Her fantasy was the first where I saw characters from my background as protagonists, not a cardboard characters like in most Hollywood films.

Then there’s The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. The character felt relatable to me not just because she’s South Asian, also because she was forced to get married by her family, the way a lot of Bengali girls are, but like a lot of Bengali girls, she seeks a marriage of love and respect and to not let her life be only about marriage and childbearing.
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Thirdly, I loved loved loved Karuna Riazi's middle grade fantasy, The Gauntlet, where I felt the most akin to the protagonist, who was both Bangladeshi and Muslim like me. This book is a must read if you wanna know about our culture.

I’d never forget to mention The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, for though this book didn’t have a protagonist from my background, this book is so poignant and touching, you’d not need to share your background with the protagonist. You just get her point. I’d recommend this to everyone.

Image result for sabaa tahir#4 My favorite writers of color:

There’s the Queen Sabaa Tahir. Then there are KarunaRiazi, RoshaniChokshi, Angie Thomas, TomiAdeyemi (whose stunning debut I received as eARC from NetGalley).

Writers of color whose books I’m excited about?

Image result for roshani chokshiJulie C. Dao, Nic Stone, Justina Ireland, HafsahFaizal, Sabina Khan (a fellow Bangladeshi writer), and many more.

#5 My own writing:

I already told you about my adventurous writing interests. But if you want me to pinpoint one thing in common in my writing, it’ll be that all my stories were set in the past.

Yup, I’m a big history nerd. I love everything historical and love to do research on my story’s setting.

#6 How I think you can add diversity in your writing:

Truth is, there is no trick. If you wanna write a character from marginalized background in your book, first you gotta make sure it isn’t because diverse books are published and praised a lot now. Diversity isn’t a trend. It’s rather a literary movement that encourages and emphasizes more diversity in publishing and more acknowledgement of marginalized people and their culture and experiences. So banish the thought that including a character from marginalized background in your book can sell it. That’s the most incorrect and harmful notion.

Second, if you want to write a character from marginalized background, do your research. Seriously, if you hate research but want to write about people from marginalized background, you gotta either learn to love researching, or write a white/cisgender/heterosexual/able character instead. There have been so many harmful problematic books about marginalized people it’s worrying. So do your research thoroughly.

Third, hire sensitivity readers. If you’re new to this term, sensitivity readers are those who are paid for reading a book and providing the author with honest feedback on sensitive contents of that book. If you can’t afford to hire sensitivity readers, then find someone who is an expert in those contents and offer to read their works (if they’re writers too) in exchange for sensitivity-reading yours. But do not think just because you’ve hired a sensitivity reader for your book, you got the safe pass to excuse your contents should they hurt readers. There have been several incidents like this. The thing you gotta do after you receive your sensitivity readers’ feedback is to go through them, ask their opinion on how to fix anything if there truly is some harmful contents, and adopt them. They’re sensitivity readers for a reason. They know more about those contents than you do. So be grateful, patient and don’t be rude or condescending.

So that’s all I have to say for now. Hope I didn’t bore you guys. Thank you for having me!

Connect With The Author:

What do you think of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement? 
Have you read any books/ watched movies that celebrate the Desi culture?
Do say hi to Maria ~ she'd love to hear from you!

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