Let’s Talk About: Why I Need Representation

why i need representation

Full title – Let’s Talk About: Why I Needed Representation as a Child and Need it Now as an Adult

I’m reviving this discussion post series. Months ago, I wrote a piece on something I was very passionate about – ‘Strong Female Characters’. After that, I couldn’t think of anything to talk about. So now I am reviving this series and will be releasing a Let’s Talk About discussion post every second Sunday!

Today, I want to talk about media representation. Not only is representation of different peoples in media something I passionately advocate and support, it is also something very dear to my heart. In this post today, I will be talking a lot about ethnic identity, because it was something that I really struggled with growing up. So whilst I am talking a lot about Asian representation, my discussions and their inherent intention is for diversity and representation to extend to all groups. I will be drawing on a lot of personal experiences, so if they are different to yours, I would love to hear your own experiences in the comments below!

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1. BECAUSE I LEARNED THAT I COULD BE BEAUTIFUL ONLY LATER IN LIFE

Growing up in a Western country where white beauty was the only type of beauty that was widely celebrated can raise a lot of questions, insecurities, and pain. Social constructs like beauty and what is beauty are things that are taught; they are not inherently understood.

Thinking back to my youth, there were so many instances where I envisioned myself as a tall, blond and white, when in reality I am a short, black-haired, and Asian. The incongruence was so confusing! I felt so conflicted about how I saw myself in my head and what I saw in my reflection. I had set myself this false expectation of my beauty that I could never meet.

It was only when I was in my early twenties did I discover Angry Asian Girls United’s Asian Face Appreciation Day. Then, it really hit me, “Wow, all of these girls are so beautiful! Why can’t I be beautiful too?” From there, I began to teach myself self-acceptance and self-love. It was trying – I had to unlearn a lot of harmful things, and be critically aware of what I thought of others and myself. I began to accept my identity and that it will always be conflicting sometimes (unfortunately contingent on the political climate!), but I should do my best so that it doesn’t impede on my self-worth.

I look back to the years that I spent wishing I was someone else – not doing things or putting myself out there because of my insecurities, and many of my insecurities were rooted to my identity and self-perception.

I wonder about the adults who still feel this way, if they look at themselves and wish they weren’t who they were. I need representation because although I have begun to accept myself and unlearn all my twisted perceptions of beauty, I wonder about the young children who might feel this way too.

I need representation because I want people to believe that they can be beautiful no matter and because of their skin colour.

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2. BECAUSE I DON’T SEE MYSELF ENOUGH IN THE MEDIA

Friends, do you ever feel excited when you see a person of your colour in a movie or a book? That kneejerk reaction of, “Hey, there’s an Asian in this movie! I really hope they don’t die!”

Children should be able to watch or read things and see representations of themselves. It goes beyond making them happy that someone like them is important or a part of something important, but it extends to characters shaping their perception of the world, and teaching them that, yes, you do exist because I do.

Growing up and now, whenever I see Asian characters in the media, I latch onto them immediately. Seeing yourself is such a validating experience – something that people over-represented in the media may have difficulty understanding. When Fan Bingbing was cast as Blink in X-Men: Days of Future Past, I instantly fell in love with her. Sure, she says literally one thing in the movie – “Time’s up!” – but she looks out for everyone and saves so many from being killed. I had my mouth open with a big grin when I saw how awesome she was. I clung onto Fan Bingbing’s Blink like she was salvation.

And I thought later, “Why do I love her so much?” The reason: I never see awesome Asian women in the media. The most I see are the smart nerds that are used to facilitate the growth of a white character, or the fetishized and exoticized Asian woman who (surprise surprise!) has virtually no characterization but is there either because a) they are a love interest for no reason other than the fact the movie needs to have a love interest, b) a tacky deus ex machina, or c) they are exploited for comedy punchlines or for cheap shock value. These cheap representations perpetuate the stereotypes that dehumanize us. They are harmful and hurtful. It is absolute necessary to move beyond these poor portrayals.

I wish I grew up seeing more of someone like me in the media other than Mulan. I wish I had fictional characters that could have been role models, who I knew would really understand me and my struggles.

I need representation because I want kids to grow up seeing themselves in the media. I want kids to grow up and look at a fictional character that looks like them and think, “I can be smart like them too!” or “I can do anything because they can!”

I need positive representations that help kids believe in themselves, and help them find their place in this world.

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3. BECAUSE HISTORY AND WHO THE CHARACTERS ARE MATTER TOO

In extension to my second point, a character’s history and their characters matters too – if not more.

While I certainly want to see more Asian characters out there, if the Asian characters are poorly written or are not accurate representations, then not only does it destroy potential to explore othered narratives, but it can also do more harm than good.

As much as I love seeing Asian women in the media, I want writers to critically think about who they are writing about. I want writers to research different narratives and personal histories to create complex characters that people can identify with. A great example was For Today I Am a Boy by Marie Fu. As well as exploring trans issues, the book also looked at the immigrant family and the conflict between Chinese and American values as well as the father’s desire to become the Western masculine archetype. This book mattered because these experiences are real – they are felt deeply by people who share even a sliver of that experience.

I want more than just mere ‘Asian’ characters with Asian-sounding names to appease the masses. I want more than authors including underdeveloped PoC characters in their books just to meet the mere minimum. I want well-written, well-researched characters with complex personal histories, and I do not want their ethnic identity and cultures ignored.

I need diversity because I want our stories and experiences to be told. I want invisible stories and experiences to be heard. I want others to know that they are not alone.

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Though the points above don’t cover the diversity topic in its entirety, the three above really stood out for me when I was reflecting on my struggles as a child. The topic of diversity still remains more important to me than it did growing up. Not only would having more diverse characters be awesome, but including characters of different backgrounds in your stories ties to personal narratives and stories – and that matters. Diversity isn’t just a movement to make better narratives and better stories, it is also a call to give us humanity.

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SO LET’S TALK ABOUT IT

And now I want to hear your thoughts! ♥

  • What are your thoughts on representation in today’s media?
  • Do you have any experiences regarding representation?
  • What do you think can be done to improve representation of different people?
  • How do you feel when you are being represented well/poorly? What are some examples?
  • Why do you need representation?
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58 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About: Why I Need Representation

  1. I find it surprising in my experience how people from different states know so little about Asians (in particular) because they live in a place with little Asians so all they have are stereotypes to learn about us which is really sad. I think representation in books needs work but it’s not nearly as bad as representation in the movies..I mean women themselves are barely represented in mainstream/blockbuster movies how can I expect an Asian female to have a main role in a movie. I want to be the protagonist of my own story and everyone deserves that right.

    • I see! That’s very interesting (and also a little disturbing that they have such narrow sight in this day and age?). Where I live, there are an abundance of Asians, esp because my city is the biggest so the stereotypes are often negative.

      That’s very true; I think movies are bad, and my post inevitably overlapped with movies.

      I have one example in mind – the Hollywood remake of Ghost in the Shell features Scarlett Johansson… even though the protagonist is Japanese and her name is Motoko Kusanagi. So even though it might be some of ‘victory’ for women in general, it’s not a victory overall, esp it’s blatant whitewashing. So I think you can certainly expect Asian females to have a main role! No one should have to lower their expectations.

      I agree – everyone should have that right! Everyone’s stories should be told. And we should continue asking for it, demanding for it, until they listen. :)

      • Yeah, I think they’re mostly more from the southern/eastern states. I live in SoCal so there’s Asians everywhere lol so it’s interesting to see people’s perceptions about Asians. Oh yes, I know what you mean. I think it happened really recently with Emma Stone playing a Hawaiian character.

        • YES I heard of that. I was so baffled by it. Who in the world sat down and thought, ‘yes this is a great idea and it’ll definitely work and no one is going to question it’? :I

  2. I believe representation for people of color is slowly improving. At least on the television front, we have television shows such as Fresh Off the Boat, Dr. Ken, Black-ish and more. However, that isn’t enough. I hope one day it will become a normal thing and we don’t have to rally as hard as we are now. I feel like literature is slowly catching up. There are some campaigns that are really making waves. Like, We Need Diverse Books and Diversity in YA just to name a few. I believe people of color are leading the charge to normalize those mediums and more, so that they actually reflect reality. I can’t wait for the day when we don’t have to fight for representation anymore.

    • Thanks for the insightful comment, Kristen!

      I agree with you on the Asian front. I especially liked FotB because I related to it a lot – especially with the familial values thing, which is often met with raised eyebrows and confusion when I share this part of me with others.

      I agree with literature! I’m seeing a lot of authors incorporate PoC into their narratives, which is a good start. PoC absolutely have to champion that fight, otherwise it will mean very little. And youth are more aware now, compared to when I (and you, maybe) were younger, which is always pleasing to see. :)

      I can’t wait too, but until then, we have to support each other!

  3. I really love this topic! I also suffered from wanting to be somebody else when I was younger and I think I just needed to see more Asian main characters who were strong and confident. The only Asian character that even comes to mind when I think back to my high school years was Cho Chang, and she was the girl who wasn’t chosen.

    Even though there are more books that feature POC main characters, I don’t think there’s enough. A lot of the time authors don’t bother doing a whole lot of research on the cultures that they’re writing about. So I find that even books that have POC characters feel like white characters with a label of “Asian” or “African American” slapped on them (e.g. A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall, Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon). I also think that diverse books with POC characters need to be written by all sorts of authors and not just authors who come from that particular background.

    • Thank you for sharing that, Jenna <3

      Me too! I clung to Cho Chang as a kid… except Cho Chang is a really awkward Chinese name, but hey, I still loved her.

      I completely agree with all your points! They either don't research or use stereotypes to base their worldbuilding or character development. I COMPLETELY agree! You assume some of the characters are white until you see their surname or the offhand comment, but it doesn't really challenge anything? It inclusion doesn't even really mean much. To me, it's just meeting the bare minimum, which isn't enough at all.

      I agree. ^_^ Different authors bring different perspectives and ideas, which would be awesome. As much as I love stories, sometimes the inherent idea behind them is usually the same or too familiar.

      • I can see why YA still lacks representation though. If authors can’t be bothered to put in the proper research, then they’ll always just stick with writing your typical white character. It’s probably safer to do something familiar than it is to try something different and get burned for lack of research. I’ve seen a couple of reviews lately of Soundless by Richelle Mead, and they were all unsatisfied with the amount of Chinese culture in that book.

        • It’s true, though I hope these institutions realize that they’re starting to get boring and fast, and that it’s not working anymore.
          I’ve read reviews of that too, but I heard that the mythology is sketchy and lacks any sort of depth. I guess I’ll find out for myself when I read it. ^_^

  4. Wonderful post CW! I’ll draft a reflection regarding a lack of representation (hopefully in between the Nanowrimo sprints) to answer the questions at some point!

    I discovered the Angry Asian Girls Tumblr when I was at university too <3. Though I still struggle with self-acceptance. (E.g. Taking a photo used to be a great source of anxiety but I'm slowly finding the fun in photos again.)

    Have you seen the trailer for this new Australian tv show? It's adorable. I like the SBS channel in Australia because of its diverse content. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXpwQw_QaNI

    On the other hand, an Asian American actor shared his experience of what it is was like trying to find roles with depth in Hollywood – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdxz2htgPiQ

    I shouldn't be surprised that Hollywood has decided to reset Death Note in the US with a white lead but it's annoying how systemic structures prevent opportunities for equality. I listened to a great podcast, which also discussed the limitations in the US publishing system: http://t.co/AXtJ38YAI9

    Supporting the books that do show a diverse landscape gives me great joy. Sometimes, I wonder if I should try to branch out into script-writing, graphic novels or editing later in life, since those avenues/mediums also hold the possibility to empower a wider audience.

    • Thank you so much Glaiza! ^_^

      Oooh yes please, I’d LOVE to see your discussion post! I just really love this topic, and I love hearing everyone’s thoughts about it – it’s so validating to know that some people went through the same struggles that I did. I honestly thought I was alone.

      Ahhh I never took selfies for that same reason! It just reminded me of that dissonance and my identity crisis. I’m trying to like it too, and teaching myself that it’s not vain and that I should enjoy it. n_n

      Oh wow, thank you for sharing that video. Is it weird that I teared up a bit watching it? I don’t know, I think it struck a chord deep inside me. I’ll have to watch this – I enjoyed FoTB so I want to see more of these shows!

      I watched the video and WOW I love this Edward guy. WOW. And he’s so right. I’m heartbroken that he was told to his face that they weren’t looking for Asian actors when, ermm, Light YAGAMI? Or that they “weren’t going ethnic”? What the hell does that even mean??? (I know what it means but UGH IT BOILS MY BLOOD.) It all goes back to what Viola Davies said (as Edward mentions too). The opportunities aren’t there. That breaks my heart. It makes me feel emotionally exhausted and hurt.

      But thank you for sharing, Glaia. I didn’t know DN was getting a Hollywood remake. I’m going to tell all my friends about this remake.

      I think you should do it, Glaiza! If it’s something you believe in, I think that’ll be incredible. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4eNDPImQmw) <3

      • I’m so glad you liked the clip! I really need to watch FoTB. Thank you for linking me to the #IAm series <3. Constance Wu's words really resonated with me – even though she was talking about acting, I completely agree with her point about not only being results focused in any creative industry. I enjoy the actual process of writing a story, despite the many ups and downs of it. I get the sense that acting is a slightly unconventional path too. Edward Zo was definitely on point in his video about the lack of opportunities. I also agree with the guests in the #IAm series – Hollywood is just being slow and stupid in regard to business – especially when other ways of distributing content like Netflix and Youtube prove that there is definitely a large audience out there who enjoy seeing these actors/creators and their work on screen.

        • It’s not too bad! FoTB’s jokes can be a little appropriative of black culture, but otherwise I think jokes (that Asians are more likely to understand) are very validating and… sort of nice!

          I completely agree – I adored Constance Wu ever since watching that video.

          Also, thank you AGAIN for sharing that Edward Zo video. I showed my sister and she sort of fell in love with him (haha!) and then she showed her friend who showed her friend…

  5. I’m white so I had never had the same experiences as you nor I’m ever gonna have them. But I agree with you about why we need diversity and why representation is important. I’ve seen lots of people more or less like me growing up and it saddens me a lot to think there are a lot of people who didn’t and, because of that, don’t think they’re beautiful or important.
    Racial diversity is important but the only thing I can talk about of experience is sexual diversity, since I’m bisexual. There are so few media that represents bisexual well. They’re reduced to offensive tropes, as ‘people just experimenting’ and (expecially with females) as fetishization and it bothers me a LOT. I cling to bisexual females a lot in media and then it disappoints me when they fal to those tropes .-.’ Like with bisexuality, there are a ton of other sexualities that are badly (or next to none) represented, just like other races and ilnesses (including mental ilnesses).
    Diversity in media is the first step to ending prejudice and honestly that’s why I need diversity, so people like me, you, and others stop being prejudiced against just because we’re different.

    • Hello Ritta! Yes, it is very hurtful, but it helps when we have people that support each other and help us find beauty in each other and ourselves. ^_^

      Thank you for sharing that with me. I hear you; erasure and fetishization is so painful and sickening, and when they reinforce stereotypes, it is like they are talking about you in one way or another. So I understand how you feel. I agree that there will be different identities that get more representation than others, so I think that’s why a wide variety of representation is so important, and it’s important for us to always challenge those representations that don’t do us justice.

      You are so right. I think it comes down to being that simple too, so you make a great point. Difference should be celebrated. ^_^

  6. I feel very passionate about this topic! While I fit into both the Asian and Western (British) identity, and I don’t struggle with my own identity representation, my heart is very involved in the struggle that people who are not of Western culture, go through. Everything on the media is Westernized, and it makes sense as media evolved in Western countries however, to go as far as to omit and even mid represent those from other cultures is wrong and saddens me, which is why I praise diversity in books so much.
    There’s nothing worse than going out to see a book to movie adaptation expecting an Asian or African American only to get a White person instead. I’ve heard it happen before!
    Of course there’s the problem of misrepresentation and only including other culture identities for the heck of a bad joke or pun or simply to check off the box of “diversity”. That’s not what we want! We want complex and well constructed Asian characters or whatever other culture it is. There really is no point in putting an Asian name or face to a character when their actions and beliefs do not coincide with their appearance.

    I LOVE THIS TOPIC SO MUCH I COULD GO ON FOREVER 🎶 THANK YOU FOR THIS TOPIC CW! 💕💖

    • Thank you for such a thoughtful comment, Josie! ^_^

      Thank you for understanding. It can be really hurtful sometimes, especially when you get into debates with people about your culture and then they draw on movies that poorly misrepresent you as ‘evidence’ of their argument. So diversity and representation really matter because they shape how people think about you!

      Yes, it happens time and time again and is still happening now. A movie I really liked (Ghost in the Shell) is being remade into a Hollywood film and ScarJo has been cast… the character she’s been cast for is called Motoko Kusanagi… so… erm… okay?? White actress = Japanese name, okay?? And then I just learned that they’re remaking Deathnote and the character Light Yagami has been cast and the actor is white… sigh. :|

      Haha, yes! We need more than just slap-on Asian named characters.

      Thanks Josie! I’m glad you enjoyed this!! <3

  7. YES, YES, and YES. I feel you so much on the short, black-haired and Asian traits, because I, too, am all of those things. This post touches my heart not only because I am Asian and I love it how you explained how other people need to see Asians in a more positive light, but also because you mentioned that you need more Asian icons, be it popular or not, to inspire you other than Mulan. Asians, especially Asian women, aren’t seen as striking characters because the media always follows and praises social stereotypes. I, too, had fantasies of being white and blonde just so I could feel pretty. I always wondered why Asians were portrayed as nerds and geeks. I find it wrong how media underestimates Asians. I look forward to the day where your visions for Asian characters are highlighted the way they should be. And thank you for this post! <3

    • Hi Maan! Haha YES thank you for understanding me! I still feel amazed when someone tells me that they felt the same things that I did, or understand my struggle. For so many years I thought I was alone in feeling the way I did.

      I completely agree with you. Not only do we have to challenge stereotypes, but we also need characters that show us for our beauty inside and out INCLUDING our culture and identity and our struggles. I look forward to it too, for a book or movie that does this perfectly.

      Thank you! I enjoyed writing it, even if it was a bit closer to home. Thank you for sharing your experiences with me. :)

  8. I agree too! I am an Asian as well with typical black hair and narrow eyes and even in my own country the people want to change their look to look like Americans and Europeans… I think representation is also vital in books, because you don’t see a lot of Asian main characters in famous novels, especially in young adult.

    • I know what you mean. :c I was talking to a friend who is Korean and she said that pressure is SOOO pervasive and powerful. It breaks my heart. You are beautiful just the way you are!! Don’t change yourself!! :(

      That’s true, we definitely don’t and we need more! If not for us, then for the children who need role models other than their parents. This makes me want to write a book – maybe I should just do it myself!

  9. I’ve never had that struggle in regards to my own background, being a white partly Irish Australian. I think our fiction diversity isn’t too bad here, but not even close to representing how diverse our communities are. Australia has a massive Asian community, along with Greek, Italians and middle eastern backgrounds, but I can’t recall many authors worldwide who have really thought outside the box and have created well developed and thought out characters. The ones beyond the typical white heterosexual character that was created because they were awesome, and not just to jump on the ‘diversity bandwagon’.

    I’m so disappointed that the lack of representation for all walks of life would make anyone self doubt and I’m so, so sorry that it made you feel that way. Your story is why authors, producers, illustrators, agents and media artists need to step up and truly represent our communities, not just the majority because that easier. Thank you for sharing your story and I hope it brings comfort to those struggling with self confidence as well <3 <3 beautifully written.

    • Hi Kelly!
      It isn’t too bad in NZ also – I’d say we fare well in comparison to other countries, though the media has fueling xenophobic sentiment as of late, which puts me in an awkward position because I’m Kiwi by birth – and I still get lumped with the rest! You can’t win, haha.

      To be honest, I can’t either. At least, not in mainstream media. So I’m on a perpetual hunt to find books that have characters that are honest and raw in their identity.

      Thank you. It is extremely subtle and pervasive. When you are young, you don’t possess the vocabulary for your feelings, so you feel a) alone in your pain, b) completely alienated from your body, c) extremely confused.

      Thank you again – and yes, I agree! I am still surprised when I talk to people and we share that childhood history of being confused by our identities. But the most important thing is to engage in discussion, I suppose? As we are now? :)

  10. Thanks for writing this – it really resonated with me. I’m a visibly half-Asian person who grew up in a region that was 96% white; only in adulthood did I realize how viscerally comforting it can be to see diverse faces represented in the media & read stories relevant to my own experiences.

    I’m way past the age of watching Disney movies, but I’m really excited to see that the newest Disney princess will be of Polynesian descent :)

    (On a completely different note – the illustrations on this blog are beautiful! Do you draw them yourself?)

    • Hello Paloma! Thank you very much for sharing your experience with me. I completely understand what you mean – I think at a young age, you don’t possess the vocabulary for the sort of feelings that you have – the alienation is very disconcerting, and yet no one really talks about it so it sort of sits inside you. Similarly to you, I only discovered notions of diversity and whatnot late at university. And yes! It is incredibly comforting and validating.

      Haha fair enough! I am excited too; in New Zealand there’s a large population of Pacific Islanders in my area, so I hope the children here will grow up feeling like they can find a friend with the new princess! ^_^

      Thank you so much! Yes, I draw them myself – I have a tablet and draw everything. :D I used to draw them on paper, and then scan them onto the computer to trace, but I’ve practiced enough that I don’t need to do that anymore! :)

  11. Giiiirl how do you voice out exactly what’s on most (if not every) Asian’s mind!! Great discussion post, CW!
    I’m Asian (Filipino to be exact) and I’m with you on this. Except for The 5 People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, I’ve never encountered any other characters (except on locally published books) bearing the same nationality as mine. So like you, the excitement was solid!
    And yup, I hate how the media stereotypes Asians as nerds, bookworms, etc. Classic example: Pitch Perfect. I despise myself for watching that movie which dug gold out of racial discriminations.

    • Aw Trisha! Thank you! I’m really glad you were able to connect with my discussion post. What I wrote means a lot to me, so the fact that you share how I felt – in whatever degree – means something. Thank you!

      Me too, actually! Oftentimes the ethnicity that get represented are Chinese/Japanese/Korean. Which isn’t bad at all, but there’s so many of us that miss out. (And ooh! I’m going to check that book out – is it any good?)

      I heard the second one was just BLATANTLY racist. I never went to watch it, and one of my friends felt uncomfortable watching some parts because of those scenes. :I

      • It’s the best Mitch Albom book personally! So far, It’s the best picture of afterlife for me :)
        ABSOLUTELY RACIST! It angers me how they made total discrimination on the fat, the gay, and the Asians! (>_<)

        • Oooh okay I’ll definitely read this book then! (Added it to my list!)

          It angers me too! But it’s okay, it’s important for us to support others when these things happen, and look after our brothers, sisters and siblings. :)

  12. God CW, so much agreement with this post!
    I’ve actually grown accustomed to seeing white, cisgendered characters in literature, which is why I’m such an advocate of diversity in our characters. I mean, reading about PoC’s these past years have really opened my eyes on how different and unique books can get with diversity. It’s a jewel that I believe every reader should know about!
    It also really saddens me to see authors placing a PoC or LGBTQ+ character just for the sake of having one. (*COUGH* Cho Chang *COUGH*) I mean, I can’t even say I appreciate the effort because it’s not really an effort if you just stick them in. It’s an effort if you actually spend a little time developing their characters NOT around any stereotypes (the smart Asian, for example) and maybe researching a little about their culture. Either way, I feel like more and more authors out there are incorporating great, diverse characters that are represented accurately. Awesome discussion!

    • Hi Alia, thank you so much! It’s really awesome and validating to hear someone understand how I feel! So thank you!

      I’m in complete agreement with you. I felt that way too. I think the book that really started “I NEED DIVERSITYY!!!!!” for me was Girl in Translation (though it wasn’t a fave, but some parts of it made me really happy), and later For Today I Am a Boy. It IS a jewel. When I find these books, I want to share it with everyone so maybe they can find themselves in the narratives. It’s a gift!

      HAHA oh my goodness, YES CHO CHANG. You have probably seen this but if not – have you seen this video? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFPWwx96Kew)

      I feel that way too. And the fact that it is getting better is awesome. I can’t wait to see what the future holds, and where literature and books will be in years to come. :D

  13. Oh gosh, I loved this discussion post, Chooi! Just know that if I did one of those monthly recap posts where I shared my favorite posts in the blogosphere, like how other bloggers do, this would definitely make it for this month’s! <3

    I am totally in agreement with your statement about how it's great if an author decides to add an Asian character but it's even more wonderful (and is more important) for them to actually think about where the character is coming from and to add depth so they’re just not any random character that happens to be Asian.

    And I’m so sorry about the insecurities you felt while growing up. I live in an area that is predominately of non-Asians, mostly white people, too, actually. However, the schools I went to happen to have a lot of Asians (for some strange reason; because I swear it’s hard to spot an Asian outside school) so I never really had to battle with insecurities the same way you did. I’m so glad that you overcame this and feel more confident and comfortable enough to share this with us. The fact that you could relate with your own personal experience made this post so much more awesome!

    And discussion posts every so Sunday is going to be great! Looking forward to reading them, Chooi!

    • Hi Summer! Awwwww, THANK YOU that really means a lot to me. :’) I was a bit apprehensive writing this because it’s REALLY personal to me and close to my heart, but thank you so much for your support!

      Haha thanks! To me, it’s just a bit lazy. And people are starving for representation, so even though it’s not much, we jump on it happily anyway. Who can blame us? But I want more! PoC deserve more too.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with me! My high school had a reasonable proportion of Asians, but I think being around attitudes was the difficult part. It was heartbreaking when your friends complained about their features being not white enough (not those words per se, but they’d be like, ‘my nose is too flat, my eyes are too small,’ etc.) or even the casual racism! But I am truly glad that you didn’t have those insecurities – and thank you again for being empathetic to mine. ^_^

      Haha, I look forward to it too! I have about 4 draft… so hopefully they will last me awhile! :)

  14. Fantastic post, CW! I will certainly be sharing it <3 I agree with you, I feel like a starved kitten when it comes to great Asian female representation in western media. So much so that when I do find them, I cling on even though they're not particularly ground-breaking as a character e.g. the main girl in Pacific Rim, FBB in Xmen as you mentioned – I also get inordinately happy when a female Asian breaks it into mainstream media e.g. Li Bing Bing or Joon Ji Huyn. It's sad that we have to go looking for scraps – and it makes me periodically retreat into Asian fictional worlds e.g. our own drama or novels where I am the norm. I also want more of these novels to be translated into English, the world needs to know about Huang Rong and Little Dragon Girls and fangirl with me!

    • Thanks Aentee! c:

      Haha yes, I completely, completely empathize. I loved Mako Mori! She was such an awesome protagonist – I felt like it was more her story than Raleigh’s. Ah yes, completely agree! We need more Asian females in media, and it needs to overcome the exotic Asian flower stereotype, which grosses me out, or the whitewashing (ScarJo with the new Ghost in the Shell and now the new Deathnote).

      I know what you mean by the retreating thing. My way of coping is ranting to all of my friends. XD I’ve never heard of those before – I googled and it sounds gorgeous! I remember doing a Chinese philosophy paper and really connected with Confucius… unfortunately that, and Empress of China and two other HK dramas, are the extent of my Chinese folktale/story knowledge. ;_; /ashamed

      • Omg, you totally need to read some of Louis Cha’s works, especially if you understand Mandarin – or watch some of the spin off drama at least. I recommend Legend of The Condor Heroes most of all, the main heroine is AMAZING and uses her intelligence to basically own everyone around her. All the main females are allowed to be drop dead gorgeous AND intelligent AND great at martial arts – it’s the best.

        • Noted, Aentee! Unfortunately my Mandarin is REALLY bad, like conversational at best so I don’t think I’ll get the best out of it. Though, I am slowly teaching myself again. It sounds really incredible though! I’ll make it one of my goals – to fully understand Legend of the Condor Heroes. <3

  15. CW I LOVE this post so much! You are such an inspiration to me! Honestly, I am so honored to be able to connect with you and learn from you. This post really hit close to home because I want more books about people who don’t quite fit into one category or another. Technically, I am Hispanic, both parents identifying as Hispanic. However, I grew up in a military family, we moved ALL the time. This was a good thing because I was exposed to different race and cultures while growing up and those experiences have helped me to connect to a wide range of people from different backgrounds. But something that continues to confound me to this day is the fact that I wasn’t raised in a particular culture. So while I may look Hispanic I do not feel Hispanic, if that makes any sense. I was whitewashed without knowing it and actually felt out of place within my own extended family when we went to visit them because I couldn’t identify with them, with how they talked, with the things that were integral parts of their life, etc. This was only made worse by the fact that growing up (and to this day) I am commonly mistaken for “some sort of Asian”, which in it’s own right is offensive because I’m like, ‘there are several Asian cultures you could have place me in, but “some sort” was the only thing you could come up with’, or some people think I am Hawaiian or “some other” Pacific Islander. I grew up not only not feeling confident in my own racial identity, but was constantly reminded that I wasn’t enough to “belong” to one either. I was “OTHER”.
    Despite being this “OTHER”, I still didn’t understand why I was expected to behave as if I was raised in a particular culture (one the people around me couldn’t place any damn way). And all because my skin isn’t white, because my hair is as black as night, because my eyes are the darkest shade of brown they’ve ever seen, etc. I don’t think that is fair, to pressure someone to not only identify with one category of race, but to expect everything they do to come from that place. Everyone is different, everyone has different outside influences that affect the way they are, race is only one facet of that and it has always been one that I could never place myself in. And I wanted/still want to. I want to find an actress or a model or anyone really who knows what this “OTHER” feeling is like, who is beautiful and can show me that I don’t have to be one particular race to be considered beautiful.
    I am often asked what I am. Rather than retort with something snippy like “I’m human, that’s what”, I inevitably launch into the long version of how I don’t really know. I have Hispanic lineage, but I’m not from a particular country like Mexico. My entire family traces its roots back to Texas. That’s all. (Presumably we have Mexican descent thanks to the acquisition of Texas into the US from Mexico.) I know I have Native American heritage, though no one seems to know which tribes we descend from. My grandmother believes her father was half Japanese, though she doesn’t know for sure because she was given away to another family when she was just a little girl. All in all, thanks to a lack of tracking lineage, no supporting documents being able to tell me “what” I am, and not being raised with “culture”, I simply don’t know.
    So I agree. We should have more representation in the media, But for me, I want “OTHER” representation. I want to know that someone else knows this feeling. And that I am not alone in feeling it either.

    • Wow, Nicolette! Thank you for sharing this story with me! I can tell that this means a lot to you, and that this has occupied your thoughts a lot.

      What you said makes absolute sense! I understand how you might feel – feeling a little displaced. I feel that way too – I was born in NZ, the 3 Chinese dialects that I can speak are really, really bad so it is hard for me to connect to non-English speakers. I completely understand the need to belong somewhere – and I’m sorry that you feel that way, I really am. I understand how painful it can be, and how confusing it can be too.

      Feeling othered is not a great feeling, and I understand that completely. :( I think it’s great that you launch into your own story! These discussions don’t take place enough, and sharing your own experience is both brave and a great avenue to connect to people or facilitate understanding.

      You’re a fantastic lady, Nicolette, and I am definitely honoured to be able to connect with you and learn from you too. And you are definitely not alone! I don’t know if this will help, but maybe these Tumblrs will help you somehow? http://weareallmixedup.tumblr.com/ and http://thisisnotlatinx.tumblr.com/faq Sending you lots of love, girl. I am here for you!<3 <3

      • Awww!!! CW❤️❤️❤️ Thank you so much! I will look at those tumblrs, just reading the links I already can tell I’ll find my jam, lol. Happily accepting all the love and sending you back some more too! I hope you hear good news soon from grad school! 😘

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  19. This entry is relevant to my interests. I’m Chinese, and yeah, I understand just how it feels to cling to any Asian character I see, even those with bit parts. It’s especially become jarring since moving to Vancouver, which is about half Asian, yet seeing our race be so neglected (let alone the fact that Asians on TV tend to have such a narrow range of personalities especially compared to Vancouver).

    One of my reasons for getting into writing was to correct the imbalance, since I grew tired of simply waiting for the glacial pace of Asian representation.

    • Hi there!
      I completely empathize. I share similar experiences, and I understand that jarring feeling – I grew up and live in a city in NZ which has a growing population of Asian ethnic groups. Unfortunately NZ has a history of xenophobia, which is an attitude that persists, and manifests in very implicit and microaggressive behaviours, even today.

      I completely support your endeavour. We need more storytellers and writers, and your work is something I greatly appreciate. I hope I will get to hear of or read some of your stories. :)

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