When I was growing up, as an Indian-American girl in the United States, I didn’t know any writers or authors that looked like me and told the story of my family. I fell in love with writing when I was nine years old, but I didn’t know that it was something I could do as a profession. I didn’t know people like me made a living off of writing.
A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to an author speak who I will not name (out of respect and because I can’t remember). She was an older White woman and she was talking about how she came to write her book. She spoke about going into refugee camps to get a story. After visiting several refugee camps and meeting many refugees, she kept repeating the phrase “I knew there was a story there.” There were a few things that concerned me about her talk:
Her life is so boring that she has to go to a refugee camp to dig up a story to write about.
She kept saying “there was a story there” as if the only reason she went to a refugee camp was to get a book deal.
She never once spoke about helping the refugees tell their own stories, advocating for them, or even sharing proceeds of her book with them.
To put it simply, it sounded like exploitation.
In that moment I thought, I would much rather read a story about being a refugee from an actual refugee than from her and I’m glad I have my own stories to tell.
It was in that moment I realized how important it is for me as a brown woman and an immigrant to tell my story before somebody else capitalizes on it. I realized that I don’t need to go prying into other people’s lives to find things to write about. My life has rarely been written about. There is already “a story there.” A story so unique and adventurous that I can’t find it in any book I’ve ever come across. There aren’t many things more unique and adventurous than the life of a woman of color living in the United States. In that moment I got all the confidence I needed to finish my memoir and get my story out as soon as possible.
I’m writing this today to tell those of you who have been doubting yourselves and your ability to write, draw, sing, whatever your artform may be: Your story is important and it is your responsibility to get it out. No one can tell your story better than you so don’t let them. Whatever your medium, go create something that tells people about you.
Thanks for reading! Please feel free to leave comments below with your thoughts and experiences.
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