Oh my God–is that Alex….WRITING A DISCUSSION POST??? Why yes, yes it is!
I’ve been terrible about keeping up with discussion posts, but I recently read a book that made me inspired to write something. That book is When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. If you follow me on twitter, you know that I loooooooved this book. Besides being an amazing book, it also made me learn a lot about a different culture. It opened my eyes to a ton of things I never gave much thought to previously.
And boom, this discussion was born from a simple question: Why is it important to read diversely if you’re not marginalized? (Note: I’m only going to focus on reading books about POC as a white person)
I’m white, and I know there are many, many things I am ignorant of in this world. I know that I have infinitely more privilege than people of color. Yes, I may have marginalizations of my own that put me at a disadvantage, but I am always aware of the power I hold in society.
That being said, I only really started to actively search for diverse books last year. My friend, Ava, constantly goes out of her way to read and review diverse books and (unsurprisingly) the books she reads seem to be much better than the ones I read. I’ve been reading diversely for awhile, but I didn’t go out of my way to do so.
Now, I definitely will.
As a white person, I am grossly ignorant when it comes to different cultures. I may know simple facts, but learning facts is not the same thing as reading about an experience from a marginalized author (specifically #ownvoices stories). While authors of color (or any marginalized authors, really) are under *no* obligation to write their own experiences, I am forever grateful for the ones that choose to do so. (That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate non-#ownvoices stories! I am grateful for any story written by marginalized authors).
When I read When Dimple Met Rishi, I never intended for it to change my life so completely. I thought it would just be a cute story that happened to have two Indian main characters. And yes, that is an accurate description of the book I read. However, it also opened up a new door and exposed me to a culture I knew so little about. I learned about arranged marriages, family dynamics, the everyday microaggressions that come with being Indian–all of it enlightened me.
I learned so, so much. I never thought Indian people were somehow “lesser”, but this book did make me have way more respect for a culture. I definitely couldn’t have learned what I did from this book if a white author had written it. The information in this book could only come from an #ownvoices author, and I am so grateful Sandhya Menon wrote this book.
While I loved this book, I know it wasn’t written *for* me (and I even said this when I met the lovely author at ALA). Yes, I can read it and enjoy it, but ultimately, it’s for brown teens who want–need–to see themselves reflected in literature. It’s yet another reason why we need to push for my diverse books in kid lit; children deserve to see people like them in the books they read.
Fellow white people, this next part is for you.
You probably have no idea how much you are missing out on. I certainly didn’t. But after I read this book, I realized I’ve been so blind to so many things. If I learned this much from just *one* book, can you imagine how much I’ll learn from 5 books, 50 books, or even 100 books?
We owe it to ourselves and the people around us to educate ourselves. And besides–it was SO much fun to read this book and learn something new. Reading about the same allocishet white able characters can get boring, and When Dimple Met Rishi was a lovely change of pace. Please, stop reading books with only white protagonists.
We need to educate ourselves, and the best way to do this without relying on people of color to use their time to educate us is to read books by authors of color. Buy the books (or borrow), read them, write reviews, shout about them on twitter–but don’t stay silent anymore. Just one book expanded my horizons, and I’m very excited to see what else I can learn about diverse cultures around the world.
Reading diversely helps make us aware of the struggles marginalized people go through every day. It also highlights the good parts of their lives; the holidays, the celebrations, the actual people who belong to that group. People of color aren’t a monolith and reading multiple books about a certain culture can help us realize this and acknowledge the plethora of experiences belonging to one group of people/culture. We should also be aware that there are intersections of marginalization, and this can greatly effect an experience a person has (for example, a white queer person does not have the same experience as a queer POC)(And that experience also belongs in YA).
I’m so glad I decided to pick up When Dimple Met Rishi. It was a great book and it changed my whole world. Thank you, Sandhya Menon, for this glorious, wonderful book.
Fellow white people–let’s get to reading, shall we?