Hello everyone, welcome to the second edition of The Diversity Corner! ♥
ICYMI, I talked about Muslim representation in books on my first edition, you could read it here. Today I’ll be talking about Asian representation and I teamed up with several Asian bloggers to put this post together! 😀 But before we get there, as usual, I’m bringing you some diversity-related news and updates ♣
P.S. it’s gonna be long, so grab your drink, settle into a comfortable position, and read 😉
Diversity news & update is basically an update about diversity related news that I could find around the blogosphere or the publishing industry.
This month has been tough, not for me personally, but for the bookish community in general. So many stuffs happened from the good to the bad, and I’m gonna try my best to sum it all up ♣
ARO/ACE ERASURE IN RIVERDALE
Going off books for a while, but I feel like this is relevant. You probably have seen both the tweets & the show, but if you haven’t here’s a quick recap : Riverdale is a tv series based off of Archie Comics. In the comics, the main character Jughead Jones is canonically aromantic & asexual but in the tv adaptation it was changed. Jughead wasn’t aroace anymore. Changing the MC sexuality isn’t okay, it’s erasure. So many aroace people have been waiting for canon characters who would represent them but now their only chance was taken away. I’m not gonna talk too much because this isn’t my lane, but here are several posts from aro/ace bloggers regarding this topic :
- A comprehensive thread by @queerroyalty
- Why AroAce Jughead Is Important: A Message To The Riverdale Writers
- We are not the same – on Raphael, Jughead and Aro/Ace representation
THE BLACK WITCH HAD BEEN CALLED OUT FOR BEING RACIST, ABLEIST, AND HOMOPHOBIC
If you’re on book Twitter, you probably have noticed that The Black Witch by Laurie Forest had been called out for being extremely problematic. I haven’t (and will not) read it, but I’ve read enough reviews to know that it’s offensive and hurtful. I made a Twitter thread about it here :
I hope people won’t continue supporting problematic books but at the end of the day, it’s your choice. I just hope everyone will make a wise decision 🙂 here are some reviews and blog post related to it :
- Review by Austine @ Novel Knight
- Review by Shauna @ Book Store Babe
- Review by Cait • A Page with a View
- Not a Half-Breed: My reaction to The Black Witch by Laurie-Ann Forest by Tatiana
JULIE LONEWOLF, A WOC, TOOK HER OWN LIFE AFTER BEING HARASSED
This is one of the most heartbreaking story I’ve ever heard. Even worse that I’ve never heard about her before, and the first time I did was because she died 😦 Julie took her life in February after being targeted, stalked, & harassed by members of the online writing community. I hope nothing like this will ever happen again. Here’s a thread that talked about it in details.
THUG IS ON NYT BEST SELLER LIST!
On a better note, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is now on New York Times Bestseller List!! This is a notable achievement for black woman & author and I hope more and more amazing #OwnVoice books like this will get the recognition they deserve ♦ I’ve read it and the hype is totally well deserved. My review will be up early April 🙂
SAINTS AND MISFITS COVER REVEAL ♥
Another good news. On March 16th, S.K. Ali finally revealed the cover for her debut novel, Saints and Misfits. I was so excited because it’s about a Muslim hijabi girl!! And the cover… we have a hijabi girl on cover! It’s also really cute so double win for us 😀
In this section, I’m going to introduce some incredible diverse book bloggers along with some of their most notable posts. I’ll also try to match it with the theme, i.e today the theme is about Asian representation, then I will introduce you some of my favorite Asian bloggers
CW @ READ THINK PONDER
I’ve been in love with CW’s blog ever since the first time I stumbled across it. She lives in New Zealand but her parents are South East Asia and she’s a wonderful advocate of diversity. All her posts are so important and eloquent, her blog so pretty and her graphics are amazing, not to mention that CW is one of the sweetest person I’ve ever known ♥ Definitely follow her if you haven’t already 😀 some of CW’s most notable posts :
- Festive Book Recs: Happy Lunar New Year!
- Let’s Talk About: The Diversity ‘Catch-22’ – Misrepresentation vs. No Representation
- Book Recs: Fantasies by Asian Authors
- Let’s Talk About: My Problem With The Word ‘Diverse’
SHENWEI @ READING (AS)(I)AN (AM)ERICA
I just started following Shenwei’s blog recently but I can vouch for its amazing contents! They wrote a lot of important posts & review mostly Asian and/or diverse books ♦ their blog is really a precious resource for someone who’s looking for diverse read recommendations 🙂 Shenwei also offered sensitivity reading services so definitely check out their service! Some of Shenwei’s most notable posts :
- Asian Reads: Grandparents Edition
- February TBR and Book List: #ReadYourResistance and Black History Month
- Asian Reads: Asian Boy Love Interest in YA Edition
For this month discussion, I teamed up with 7 fabulous Asian bloggers. Here we have CW @ Read Think Ponder, Shenwei @ Reading (AS)(I)AN (AM)ERICA, Anisha @ Sprinkled Pages, Wendy @ Written in Wonders, Shahirah @ Book Loves Reviews, Jeann @ Happy Indulgence, Janani @ The Shrinkette, and me, yours truly ♥ We are Indonesian, Malaysian, Taiwanese, Indian, and Chinese. I need to make it clear that we DON’T represent all Asians. We don’t even represent all the people from our own ethnicity, so what we said here might or might not be accurate to other Asian readers 🙂
There are a lot of books with Asian characters and/or set in Asia, but most of the characters are sidekick, or stereotypical. Today we’ll be talking about Asian representations in books ♣
The Common Misconceptions
THE TIGER PARENT NARRATIVE
I’m sure you’re all familiar with this, Asian character with strict and oppressive parents who only want them to focus on studying. While it’s true that a lot of us have strict parents and place high values on educational achievement, there are those of us with much more chill parents. Shenwei, Anisha, and I are on the same page in this. My parents do place a high value on educational achievement, but it’s not the ONLY thing that matter.
ASIANS ARE NERD, OVER-ACHIEVER, AND GOOD WITH MATH
Another overused stereotype that you must have read AT LEAST once 😂 not all of us are academic genius and bad with sports. Some of us might be, but then again, it’s kind of dangerous to assume that all Asians are the same while in fact I know a lot of people who are very well rounded. A lot of us aren’t do good with math or science and instead are good with art and sports. We need more variety in Asian characters.
ASIANS = CHINESE
In a lot of books, we’ve seen Asian characters depicted as only those from China, having slanted eyes, and are petite, pale, and skinny while the truth is, Asia is a large continent. Asian people come in all shapes and sizes and skin tones, and we should celebrate that diversity instead of boxing them into a stereotype that can lead to serious issues. Not all Asians have fair skin – black Asians and brown Asians exist! More so, skin colour is not limited to ethnicity and geography. People from South Asia are brown, and even people from Indonesia, which is part of South East Asia, are light brown. Another is the idea that Asian women are these delicate, meek, passive exotic flowers. It’s such a harmful stereotype, because it affects how people perceive us in real life.
MORE COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS :
- The stereotype that all Asian Americans are upper-to-middle class. There are significant populations of Asian Americans who are living in poverty.
- Mainstream Western media focuses on the exotic aspects of Asian cultures like food and entertainment, reinforcing the idea that we’re only valuable for white people’s consumption, rather than recognizing our stories and voices as equals.
- The idea that Asian women are submissive. We are so different from each other, some of us are quiet, some of us are loud, some of us prefer to listen, some of us prefer to speak, some of us will take a seat back, some of us will lead the way. These differences should be celebrated
Asian Cultures in Real Life
The truth is, there are a lot of cultural differences of Asia from those of the Westerners. But instead of those stereotypes you all see in books, we’re bringing you some of Asia’s most notable cultures 😀 of course, all of these are based on our own experience so it might or might not apply to all Asians 🙂
- Respect for elders and high value placed on family are common across many Asian cultures. Shenwei, Jeann, and I all agree on it. We generally do not call our elders by their given name, we typically use a title or familial term if they are related to is. This extends even to people in your own generation. As an example, we don’t call our older siblings by their given names even if we’re only a year apart.
- More of a collective, such as family, focus rather than individual one. Most of Asian families are very close compared to other cultures. If you look at the Malay/Indonesian families, you can bet our family tree expands wide beyond our imagination where we can’t possibly name every one of the family members. It’s not unusual for three generations to live together in the same home.
- Shahirah believes the way we approach marriages and careers are a bit different than the way the Westerners do and I have to agree with her. We can see in conservative Malay/Muslim families where values of purity and innocence (like a girl’s virginity) are put at high importance when marriage takes place. Other values include our interaction with the opposite gender, how we approach feminism as a culture, and society’s expectations for each gender.
- Food has importance beyond filling your stomach, and food has a lot of symbolic meanings
- Shenwei said that it’s rude to impose on other people, so whenever they’re a guest at someone’s house they tend to decline offers for food/drink unless they’re very close friends with the person.
Now that we covered some important misconceptions and Asian cultures in general, it’s time to talk about what we need to see more in books involving Asian characters ♥
What We Want to See MORE
For me, it’s definitely more intersectionality. I want to see more Muslim South East Asian characters because most books I read only feature Muslim characters from South Asia (India, Pakistan, etc). I also want to see more Asian characters who belong in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. We are not as liberal as the Westerners so I want to see how those issues being handled. Now let’s take a look at the others’ wish list ♥
SHENWEI → More depictions of religion and spirituality that don’t exoticize them or depict them negatively. Asian religions are often stigmatized as wacky at best or backward at worst, so I want to see more positive and empowering representations of religious Asians.
ANISHA → More Indian MCs & maybe more ‘normal’ Asians. People who, other than study, actually have lives and are not sidekicks to someone else’s story.
WENDY → More ownvoices representation of cultural festivals and traditions, e.g. (from China) Lunar New Year, the Mid-Autumn Festival, etc. Intersectionality is also important, because the way mental illness and queerness interact with Asian cultural ideas and values are unique experiences which are rarely, if ever, represented.
SHAHIRAH → I would like to see more of Thai/Vietnames/Malay/Javanese/Korean/Syrian cultures infused, not only in YA, but historical fiction and general fiction. For instance, Korean culture is so different than Japanese/Chinese but people tend to assume these are similar to one another.
JEANN → More discussion about Asian cultural traditions, like being brought up to respect and honor your parents and elders and eating with chopsticks to be integrated into books. More discussion about having to fit into two cultures when living in a Western country.
JANANI → More characters from underrepresented countries (Pakistan. Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Indonesia, etc.) and the diaspora. Too often, Asian and Chinese have been used interchangeably especially in the US. As for Indian rep- I’d like to see more South Indians characters (usually Indian characters are North Indian) and more queer/disabled/intersectional Asian characters.
CW → I’d love to see characters go to eat yumcha/dimsum, have older folks come together just to play mah-jong and have fun, and tea ceremonies in Chinese weddings. As far as values go, I’d really love to see a character that tries to uphold filial piety – that is such a big value in Chinese culture, and something I hold onto very dearly myself.
How to Describe Asian Characters
Often we see authors and publishers being called out for using certain phrases to describe Asian characters. We don’t want more of it. We want Asian characters to be described properly and not in a hurtful and offensive way. So here’s a list of how not to describe Asian characters 🙂
- Don’t use the word “exotic.” Just don’t. We’re normal.
- Don’t say someone “looks Asian” because there are so many different physical traits possible among Asians. At the very least specify a geographic region, like East Asian or South Asian.
- Don’t focus too much on describing Asian characters’ eyes unless they are relevant (expressing emotion, for example).
- Don’t call them “Oriental.” This is an obsolete and offensive term.
- Don’t call Asians in white-dominated diaspora FOBs or fobby (FOB=”Fresh Off the Boat”) because this stigmatizes people who aren’t “sufficiently assimilated” into mainstream white culture.
- Don’t use the term “Asian accent.” There’s no such thing. Accents are based on specific languages. “Asian” is not a language.
- Don’t use food term to describe our physical features
- Don’t use the stereotypes and misconceptions above
- No talking about our “skinny frames and good skin” please. Not all Asians are a monolith
- Not all Asians are only from East Asia (Korean, Chinese, Japanese, etc.) and there are many other South East and West Asian countries out there that are (almost never) represented in YA
I’ve come across so many books that portray Asian characters in a stereotypical way, but some books are just straight up problematic and hurtful. I only just noticed this but turned out there are so many books that fall into the latter category 😦 Here are some of the books that have problematic representation.
ELEANOR AND PARK BY RAINBOW ROWELL
Shenwei stated that this book is one of the worst offenders and it always makes them angry to see how popular it remains despite the criticisms from multiple East Asian readers. CW also agreed on it and kindly provided us with the links to those own voice reviews :
THE LUNAR CHRONICLES BY MARISSA MEYER.
I really loved this series but I have to admit that it is, in fact, problematic. Shenwei said that the world building for that series relies on imagining all of Asia as a single political entity called the “Eastern Commonwealth.” If that wasn’t bad enough on its own, she even made it a monarchy based in “New Beijing” ruled by a Japanese family, which is incredibly offensive given Japan’s history of imperialism in China and the rest of Asia. Moreover, Cinder’s character is ethnically ambiguous and frankly, probably white, so it’s something of a white savior narrative. The reference to Chinese and Japanese culture in Cinder are twisted out of shape and nonsensical.
MEMOIRS OF GEISHA
It’s a book CW used to love in her youth, but is extremely problematic – not only did the author violate her conditions of anonymity by naming her as a source and profited off her life story, but Memoirs of a Geisha has a very Orientalist narrative that exoticizes Japanese culture, which can be very harmful. CW suggests reading Geisha, A Life by Mineko Iwasaki, the geisha that Arthur Golden stole from.
More books with problematic representation :
- Soundless by Richelle Mead, tries to pass itself off as Chinese but fails miserably in the execution. It’s also very ableist in its portrayal of the main character’s disability.
- Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff. It’s cultural appropriation of Japanese culture and portrays Japanese culture as exotic.
- Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow. It featured a biracial side character and he was referred to as a “half breed”, someone who had “squinty eyes and a big beak-like nose” and most offensively, someone who “could act really white even though he isn’t a white boy”.
Alright, now let’s talk about the books that portray Asian characters correctly. Hhere are some recommendations of books with Asian characters and/or written by Asian authors. I am beyond excited because there are a lot! Too many to fit on this post alone hahaha in case you haven’t noticed, we’re already at 3000 words here and I don’t want to bore you 😛 so I’m gonna keep this brief and if you’re interested to know more about these books, go check them out on goodreads (I’ll provide links) ♥
BOOKS TO LOOK FORWARD TO
Here are some of upcoming releases books with Asian characters and/or written by Asian authors. We have read some of the ARCs and are excited for the rests, so prepare your money and start pre-ordering these books! 😛
In this last section, I will show you some diverse books that will be released in the following month. Since this is March, I’m gonna make a list of April diverse releases that I’m most excited for ♥ If you have more recommendations, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or link me to your post
THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED BY BECKY ALBERTALLI
Release date : April 11th
Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.
Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.
There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?
THE EDGE OF THE ABYSS BY EMILY SKRUTSKIE
Release date : April 18th
Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to the ruthless pirate-queen Santa Elena and set free Bao, the sea monster Reckoner she’d been forced to train. The days as a pirate trainee are long and grueling, but it’s not the physical pain that Cas dreads most. It’s being forced to work with Swift, the pirate girl who broke her heart.
But Cas has even bigger problems when she discovers that Bao is not the only monster swimming free. Other Reckoners illegally sold to pirates have escaped their captors and are taking the NeoPacific by storm, attacking ships at random and ruining the ocean ecosystem. As a Reckoner trainer, Cas might be the only one who can stop them. But how can she take up arms against creatures she used to care for and protect?
Will Cas embrace the murky morals that life as a pirate brings or perish in the dark waters of the NeoPacific?
MEG & LINUS BY HANNA NOWINSKI
Release date : April 18th
Meg and Linus are best friends bound by a shared love of school, a coffee obsession, and being queer. It’s not always easy to be the nerdy lesbian or gay kid in a suburban town. But they have each other. And a few Star Trek boxed sets. They’re pretty happy.
But then Sophia, Meg’s longtime girlfriend, breaks up with Meg. Linus starts tutoring the totally dreamy new kid, Danny—and Meg thinks setting them up is the perfect project to distract herself from her own heartbreak. But Linus isn’t so sure Danny even likes guys, and maybe Sophia isn’t quite as out of the picture as Meg thought she was. . . .
From crowdsourced young adult imprint Swoon Reads comes Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski, a fun friendship story about two quirky teens who must learn to get out of their comfort zones and take risks—even if that means joining the drama club, making new friends, and learning how to stand on your own.
- What do you think about all the things that happened in the bookish community recently?
- What do you think about Asian representation in books? Do you find a lot of books with (accurate) Asian rep? Did my discussion clear the misconception and help you understand more about us? 😀
- What are your favorite books with Asian protagonists? Are you interested to read the books on my recommendation list?
- I had a hard time coming up with diverse books for April release, but who else are excited for them? ♥
Alright everyone, that’s the end of the second edition of The Diversity Corner! As usual, it took me so much time and energy to put this post together but judging from the response to the 1st edition, I’d say it was worth it ♦ Thank you so much for all the bloggers who had helped me with this post.
NOW LET’S TALK! Go answer my questions, go ask your own questions, or we can discuss anything! As usual, I’m looking for advice to improve and kindly asking for you to share this post 🙂 next edition will be up on April 22nd!
In the light of the appropriative nature of Maggie Stiefvater’s upcoming release All Crooked Saints, I want the next edition of The Diversity Corner to be about Latinx Representation in Books. BUT, I’m in no place to talk about it at all, so I’m looking for Latinx book bloggers to guest post on my next diversity corner ♥ if you’re interested or have recommendations, please let me know in the comments below and then we could talk about details. Thanks in advance! 😀
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