Criticisms that POC Authors Face & Diversity in Books | Discussion

Criticisms that POC Authors Face & Diversity in Books | Discussion

Some recent goodreads comments had me heated…

I wanted to talk about how diverse perspectives in books are received by readers and the struggles that POC or diverse authors go through when publishing a book or sharing their story.

Let me know what you think!

Sallya 🙂

hi everyone its Sallya from HustleSZN
and today I wanted to do a video which is basically a short discussion on just
something that I noticed recently that has been irking me a little bit I don't
actually know 100% where I stand on the issue so I figured I would do a video
where I talk about it and hopefully I can get some of your opinions and then
maybe we can have a discussion maybe I can have a better hold on where I stand
at the end of all of this but essentially so far for the beginning of
2019 I don't actually I think no I think I didn't mention it in my 2019 goals
but one of my goals was to just read more books from diverse authors I wanted
that to include both different sexualities different you know
experiences like whatever it might be So far it's mostly just been people
of color that I've been reading I've only read three books and I've liked it
and I am slowly trying to make my way I still think I have not read enough LGBTQ
books for my channel and I just I want to change that um so I will dive into
that very soon too but anyway so far the three books that I've read for 2019 were
Restore Me which is by a POC author but the book itself I'm not gonna include
really for the purpose of this discussion but the other two that I read
we're pride by Ibi Zoboi as well as I just finished American panda by Gloria
Chao first of all I loved both of these books and I will probably do a separate
wrap-up where I discuss what I liked and didn't like about them but in terms of
just the diversity of it and the perspectives that they offer and the
representation I was there for all of that and it actually it wasn't until I
started going on Goodreads to see why people didn't like it or what the
negative reviews were for the book that I started realizing some of the
challenges that exist for authors who want to write a story with a diverse
character or want to bring that different perspective it starts making
you realize that it is actually harder to get people to want to buy these books
or to want to read these stories and just more difficult for people to accept
them in general and I wanted to talk a bit about that I mean I think part of it
is some weird form of racism but that's not overtly what I want to talk about
today mostly I just wanted to discuss some of the negative I guess
perspectives I should think about how to want to
phrase this basically some of the things I read didn't sit so well with me and I
just wanted to talk about them so that's the purpose of today's video and I just
I guess start with some of the comments that I essentially read so for both
Pride and American Panda there was actually similar types of comments for
the reviews that didn't love the book some of them were just story wise like
they didn't like the romance or they didn't like an aspect of it which was
fine but I found that a lot of them actually felt like the main character it
was pushed too hard where they come from and what their background story is and
that to me was kind of weird because when I was reading these books I never
felt like it was being shoved down my throat where I was being beat over the
head with how hood Zuri is from pride or how strict Mei's parents are in American
panda and reading these comments I was kind of like I don't know if these
people recognize that when you're from a different culture when you're from a
different ethnicity or background that whatever that culture is permeates every
aspect of your life and it's not like you get snapshots of it when you're an
outsider for that culture but for that person that is the life that they live
and it's going to be a part of them in every single situation and so it kind of
bothered me that a lot of the criticisms for these books was that they're too
whatever they're trying to be and to me I was like how is that even possible
like how how is a book about a girl from the hood in Brooklyn you know how is it
being shoved down your throat how poor she is like if you grow up like that
that is what is on your mind and that will affect how you see things it will
affect everything you do like I I just felt like it was weird because we never
question I don't want to say White because I don't think that this actually
applies to all Whites so I'm gonna say like Western stuff I guess but what I
mean is that like the default like the white Canadian or white American person
usually American but because I'm Canadian I don't want to leave out the
Canadians so I'm going to say North American Western or whatever like I
don't think that when we go and watch a movie were ever complaining that this is
too white or that that doesn't sound right either because now some people do
but do you don't even like no one's complaining that's being shoved down our
throats how much Western culture is permeating this movie and that's because
that's the accepted and that's the norm and that's what you expect and I think
part of it is that when you cater this book about this Taiwanese American girl
which is what American panda's about when you pitch this idea to a bunch of people
who are from the Western culture based off of these reviews that I'm reading it
feels like they're used to experiencing Taiwanese or Asian culture even in small
doses like when they decide to go out for Chinese food every month or whatever
that is them being cultured and experiencing that culture and that's
enough for them but when they read this you know 300 page book and it's part of
every single scene and it's always there suddenly it's too much and it's being
shoved down their throats or beaten over their heads and to me that just seems
weird like how is that too much culture for you do you know what I mean like I
just feel like I just want to see does that is that make anyone else
uncomfortable or does that sit weirdly with other people because I feel like
that criticism just means that you're not that open to that culture and that
you don't recognize that like your culture or wherever you come from like
that is a part of you in every single situation it's something that you always
think about it's something that always affects your decisions and always will
affect the lens through which you're looking at something so how is it too
much like I I guess that's what really bothered me recently about these
comments it just made me realize how difficult it can be for people who want
to make these stories about characters who don't follow the norm and try to
target that to a mass audience I like finally kind of saw some of the
difficulty I guess maybe I was naive before because I've always loved these
stories I've always thought you know it's so fresh it's so relatable in
comparison to everything else that I've read but I guess realizing that I'm
probably a minority in that and that despite that the mass majority of people
when they read this their first impression is that like it was cute it
was fun for five minutes but a whole book wasn't necessary I got the point and
that to me was heartbreaking I just feel like I don't think you got the point if
you were sick of it after a few chapters so I don't even know if this is a
discussion anymore or like a rant but it's just really frustrating to
read these comments and I was like when you deduct stars from you know this
primarily Western based fantasy novel it is because of some really big mistake
like you're really really analyzing you're very forgiving about a lot of
things and then when it comes to these diverse books it's like the smallest
thing you're just throwing stars off I guess what I'm trying to say is I feel
like the standard with which we judge them are so different if a Western novel
did the same sorts of flaws I still think it would be rated higher than
these books with diverse characters it's just frustrating I think there's so many
reasons for it too, I think one there's not enough of them first of all so when a
single book is put out there there's this expectation for it to be the
greatest most representative most all-encompassing of what it means to be
that nationality or to be that sexuality and so there's just a lot of pressure on
it and I think obviously the more that we publish books about diverse people
that hopefully that will go away and hopefully you know if people become a
bit more mellowed out and judge it appropriately for what it is I think –
and this was touched upon in American Panda is that it's also difficult to
market these books to the people of the nationality which it is representing and
that's for a couple of reasons – it's because so let's say I was Taiwanese and
I read this book American Panda and it didn't match exactly my experience that
maybe I wouldn't have felt seen and then suddenly I would have criticisms of it –
so that was another complaint is that you really have to hit home with the
person of that ethnicity for them to think that this is a real representation
of their culture on top of trying to convince these other people who may or
may not care about your culture that this is interesting and fascinating and
important and then you take into account that there are people from that culture
who probably don't even necessarily associate with their culture or are
trying to reject it or have adopted more of the you know Western lifestyle which
is always the case right like like I think kids of immigrants at least are
always like not 50/50 whatever the percentages might differ from people but
everybody picks and chooses different things from the two cultures that they
amalgamate into whatever they choose to do and they always have a bit of both
influences so on top of all that you're trying to represent these people who
even though we all have had a similar experience
everyone's come out of it slightly different and probably looking for
something slightly different in these novels that they read I suddenly realize
how difficult it can be to try to take this story that's shared by so many
people this experience that's shared by so many people make one novel that is
relatable enough to everyone so that it can be marketable to everyone so that it
can sell and make books and it just it made me kind of sad to think that it's
that hard for them to share their story because at the end of the day I feel
like we're not gonna get more of them if we don't support them and if we're being
this critical of them in the earliest stages like that's just not fair and I
think it's not fair necessarily even to judge them with the amount of like to
judge them even at the same level of some of the Western stuff we read
because that industry has been going on for years and it's had so much time to
develop and you know it started off as trash probably too and then you know
made its way improve made its way people complained at some point they were like
we should throw some feminism in there at some point they were like we should
throw some of this or that and change stuff up and so I feel like these books
with the diverse characters or these diverse authors it's in its infancy and
I think it's not really fair to judge it by the same standards I also think
because there's such a limited market for authors of color or from different
backgrounds sexualities whatever religions and stuff I think because of
that the few that make it through have to be so much better than they're like
15 white people who make it through because you know by default if there's
more spots for these other authors then you don't necessarily need to be as
good but if you're fighting against like not only are you fighting against all the
white people you're also fighting against all the other black people because you can
be the only black one there like I just feel like I don't know it just made
me really frustrated that it's that difficult and I guess the whole point of
this video is I I wanted us to try to support people more and to just
appreciate these stories for what they are and not necessarily even have to
feel like we've related to them on some level like don't get me wrong the
reasons that I loved Pride and American Panda recently was because I was able to
relate to them on a level that I probably haven't with so many other
books there are stuff in American panda even though I'm not Taiwanese her
relationship with her mom like in my own life it's something
that I've gone through so much that whole idea that when you're raised here
and you start learning about feminism and some of the rights that women should
have sometimes your own culture and the traditions that your culture has that
your parents are putting on you are not the nicest towards women and trying to
help your mom come to realize that and also have her start challenging her
culture like it's something I mean I'm sure white people go through this too
to be honest but seeing that from that perspective that was something for
example that even though I was Persian I was like I can relate to this 100% and I
think that even if these stories don't mimic exactly how your experience was
they probably still have value and I think just supporting each other in and
of itself is super helpful but I also think to recognize that for a lot of
these people a lot of these authors these stories that they write that are
very autobiographical especially if you think of a very large expanse of sea as
well so if I include that one along with American panda I think part of the
reason these people write these stories isn't even for us it's literally for
them to get this story off their chest there are a lot of people out there who
don't realize what it's like to live your whole life knowing you're gonna be
misunderstood at every step of the way and that's in so many different ways
from people not recognizing your name always misspelling it to people never
understanding you know your family dynamics are never truly understanding
why you do what you do or never understanding why you don't know
something or why you act a certain way or where you're coming from when you're
trying to explain certain things like when you are not the main like when
you're not part of that main culture or when you are only half part of it but
there's this other part that's also influencing the way you do things you
learn that you're always gonna have to explain yourself and that you might not
make sense to people and that you're never fully gonna be seen and all these
little struggles that you're going through you recognize that no one's
really gonna understand them and that you can tell them they may be care that
maybe don't care but no one's gonna relate to you on that level and that's
something that I think a lot of immigrants or a lot of people who don't
follow that norm like I assume this is probably similar for LGBTQ or members of
that community as well although I can't speak from experience but I assume it's
similar to that is that there's always gonna be this part of you that you can't
share with them and that you know will always be
misunderstood and caring with that sorry carrying that with you for your
whole life is this huge burden and I don't think some people realize that and
so when these authors finally get that voice when they finally have a platform
they share that story and I don't think that story is for us I think it's them
finally wanting to share with the world like this is what I went through and I
want people to know and like that's it it's not meant to be the most relatable
thing for everyone out there it's meant to be their story and meant to show you
that this was one experience and it's just for us to recognize that they went
through that and they had that hardship in their life and that's it at least in
my opinion that's what that story's about and once they get that story out
then they can open this discussion and other people can share their stories and
we can start to make a more comprehensive view of the whole thing so
yes I don't think we should even really be judging these stories like I think I
think they're more for themselves and I think it's just to give you a look into
their life yeah and I guess the way that people who are
constantly misunderstood it's never just one or two big events that make you
frustrated it's all the tiny micro aggressions it's all the tiny little
things that you know that mean nothing to that one person but when you lived
through that fifty thousand time how you answer that question like where are you
from no where are you really from though you know or when people assume you're
certain sexuality but you're actually something else and just constantly
having to tell people and then having them give you whatever weird look or
whatever it is that little experience that you go through over and over and
over and it never stops and to those people seem small but for you it's like
this never-ending you know these little things that chip away at you I feel like
that's why it's a burden and then we make the story or we I guess people of
color make this story and then to have someone tell you that this was too much
this was just like you kept telling me how poor you were you just kept telling
me how good you were and you kept telling me how Persian or
Asian or gay you are and you were shoving it down my throat it was just
too much it's like like it's also too much when I have to deal with this on a
daily basis 24/7 and you can't handle it for one book I don't know it just it
really makes me mad it really frustrates me because now I can see why it's so
difficult for these authors to share their stories and to have people accept
it and were constantly criticizing when really we
should just be supporting hopefully if we can support these stories then we can
move on from this and finally just have stories where people are diverse from
different backgrounds and that doesn't necessarily need to be the whole story
it influences the story and like plays a role in the dynamics of the story but
doesn't need to be the be-all end-all of this story but right now I feel like
we're at a point where people aren't even woke enough to understand what it's
like to not be exactly the norm that society expects you to be so we're stuck
at this level where people need to just tell you their story like this and I
think I mean again I haven't read enough lgbtq+ books but I feel like that genre
is moving on a little bit because I think it's been, there's been
more books around it and I think that it's moved on past the all gay stories
are about coming out or just being gay and repressed and then coming out and
it's moving on to like you know different genres different things and
now it's just being incorporated and I feel like a number of the ashes is also
another good example and what's the Tomi Adayemi book children of blood and bones
those are other good examples too where it's fantasy but it happens to be a
person of color as the main character and I think that's the eventual like
future of it not necessarily just fantasies but moving even past that
where we don't need to describe every microaggression for people to even
understand that it's a thing and to educate people we can move past that and
once everyone knows that that is the reality that they face go into more
nuanced stories and go into or not more nuanced but move into a different
direction where it plays a role in the story but doesn't necessarily need to be
the only selling factor because right now I think it's targeted to those
people like I don't know I think it's in a weird stage right now where there's
not even enough stories so that fact in and of itself makes the story but I want
it to become so bland and well not so bland but I want the market to become so
saturated with stories like that that we can then move past that and have this
whole genre develop further or you know not even be a genre do you see what I'm
saying I hope I'm making sense like I want us to move past a book being unique
simply because there's a person of color in it I want that to become so normal
that we can then move on to the next step
yeah I'm gonna leave it at that okay I think that is it for my little rant
discussion I tried really hard hopefully I was sensitive in talking
about this and I really hope I didn't offend anybody inadvertently or use the
wrong terminologies I was a little worried because I knew this was a taboo
topic but I tried my best to be fairly objective about it and I just wanted to
give my opinion I'm more than happy to hear what other people think and if you
are one of those people who has read a book about diversity or about some
different experience and you felt like it was just too much and it took away
from a story please talk to me I'd love to hear I won't hate on you or anything
I thought could just see your point of view so yeah that is it for my
discussion I will see you next time or soon or something bye


  1. wtf that is such a ridiculous complaint to make. definitely racist because isn't that part of the experience of reading? u put aside ur own world for a bit and immerse yourself in someone else's. that includes their culture, beliefs, issues, etc. that sounds so crazy to me so you're not alone. if it was a fantasy book and the world-building was that in-depth they wouldn't complain as much. were there a lot of comments like that for those books? o.O and i feel u so much on the micro-aggressions thing. i wasn't so aware of the fact that i was asian til i moved to vancouver. that sounds weird but i feel like in other places I've lived I've just felt like myself (amongst other labels) but i feel like in vancouver specifically, I'm hyper-aware that I'm asian. there's this divide between people that's unsaid. * edit * holy crap sorry for the essay LOL great video sallya!

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