13 June, 2017

READING DIVERSE: Biracial families and culture

What I learned about biracial families, depression and culture differences.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

I must make a confession, when people started to ask for more diversity I kinda thought they don't look around first. I had for some reason an impression that we already had many diverse books. That, however, turned out to be not true. The more I look for diversity in books the more shocked I get. We can find any kind of book with white straight characters. But what if I want to read a fantasy story with a non-white trans character? Even if I look for non-white gay character, it is as difficult to find as a needle in a haystack. When it comes to diversity, there is a lack of it, and it's not just that we have only few, some genres have almost none whatsoever diverse stories. 

And yes I am white straight female and as for representation there is a huge amount of books with characters like me but I do not care for white straight females. I want to learn from books, I want my view and understanding to broader and I want to correct my mistakes. And for that I need diversity!

Everything I Never Told You is a book written by a wonderful author Celeste Ng and was a huge influence on how I see diversity and so I am eager to share my experience with you!

  • Chinese immigrant characters taught me difference between USA and Europe
As most of you know I live in Germany and so my experience with USA comes second handed. Celeste Ng told a story of a man who was a child of immigrant family in USA. His parents worked simple jobs and he was ashamed of them. Why? Because apparently in USA Chinese people are treated like lower class! I was so shocked, yes we also have a stereotype of Chinese in Europe but that is as opposite as it gets. All Chinese people here are considered super smart and almost above class! And because it was such a huge shock to me I was reluctant to believe it at first, but Joce, who is Asian herself living in USA shared her own experience after reading this book and it turns out this is really happening, Chinese people are treated different in USA than in Europe. If not for this book, I would still be super ignorant to this important thing and just assume Asian immigrants are seen same as in Europe. Treating people as lower class just because they are Chinese is not acceptable!

  • Biracial character taught me how hard it is to 'fit in'
If you read something like To All The Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han you will kinda get an impression that biracial characters are treated equally as white ones. Well that is not true! Celeste Ng talks about the struggles our teenager biracial characters had to go through, how they are often stereotyped and in general how unfair most people are. You never really think about your own behavior till you are shown it from the side and then you start thinking that 'oh no I also have done it and this is so wrong!'. If not for this book and its biracial characters I would have never learned that what I sometimes do is actually wrong. 

  • Depression is as devastating and as real as cancer
This book besides its representation of biracial characters and culture differences also deals with depression. As a scientist I understand the mechanism of depression but as a human being I find myself sometimes mixing up depression with laziness. In Everything I Never Told You a teenager Lydia is dead from page one and her story starts to unravel from there. At first Lydia is pictured as this  perfect dream child but eventually we learn that it was all a lie. She was doing it for her parents when in reality she was alone and depressed. The way depression is described in this book...it makes you wanna say 'oh but if I was there I would have made friends with her'. But in reality, would you have really? How many people we pass on daily basis that are lonely and you never stop to just ask if everything is alright or if they need company? So what Celeste Ng did here made me to double think if I should ask instead of just walk by. 

  •  Real characters and real situations
What was also present in this book and I think is very important was underlining that not everything is because of your 'outside'. The father of Lydia had an argument with her mother who was white and his biggest argument was that it is wrong and that he is bad because he is Chinese. I see it very often people saying 'Because I am black?', 'Because I am gay?' or even 'Because I am a woman?'.  Of course the father eventually understands that the mother did not have a problem with him because he was Chinese but because of what he was doing, because of his character. I agree very much that there are many cases where it is pure discrimination because of how you look or am but there are also often cases where this 'look' is used as an excuse by people themselves. I respect Celeste Ng very much for underlining this problem. However, I do understand where this comes from too, if nobody discriminated people because they are Chinese or gay or women in the first place such phrases would not exist.

There are so many things I can discuss that were addressed in Everything I Never Told You but I want to allow you, dear readers, to discover some for yourself! This book is certainly a hidden gem and I cannot recommend it enough!  

Have you read books featuring biracial characters? Have it changed the way you see things? Have you any books with biracial characters that you can recommend me?