In my previous blog “Stereotypes,” I mentioned the dismal statistics for writers of color in the publishing industry. Today, I want to talk about the content that writers of color are able to get published. It’s a fact, that a book by an African American writer has a higher chance of getting published if it is about slavery or the civil rights era. The same is true for South Asian literature. Tragedy sells.
Growing up, I didn’t know any South Asian writers. As I grew older and started seeing more books by South Asian writers, I wasn’t always inclined to read them because they just seemed so sad. I was an immigrant and I knew the struggles of being an immigrant, but life wasn’t all sad. I read books by famous South Asian authors like Jhumpa Lahiri and although it was a nice change to see my culture reflected in literature, I didn’t quite connect with the stories in those books. My family and I lived a difficult life, but we also lived a fun and adventurous life.
It seems that most literature published by writers of color today is tragic. Why does the publishing industry only want to publish our tragedies? Does no one want to read happy stories about us? Of course not. It’s just that the publishing industry is still very closed minded when it comes to writers of color and apparently the only way our stories are valid to them is if we are suffering. Writers of color aren’t taken seriously if they don’t write serious tragic stories. The trend of publishing mostly tragic stories about and by people of color needs to stop.
When I began working on my memoir, I decided my book wasn’t going to be all tragedy. I wanted it to represent not just my culture but also the entire range of emotions I have lived through.
I am fully aware that humor is difficult to do. It is especially difficult to put into a book where you have to deliver without the help of body language and intonation of voice. I took a humor writing class in my M.F.A. writing program which helped me become a better writer and helped me figure out which type of humor fits well with my voice. I don’t claim to be an expert on humor but I know that I have more fun writing when I use humor and I get much more fulfillment out of readers chuckling at my writing than crying through it. I am a person who doesn’t take life too seriously and I want my writing to reflect that attitude.
Lately, I have been encouraged by authors such as Scaachi Koul, Balli Kaur Jaswal, Samantha Irby, Issa Rae, Eddie Huang, and Trevor Noah who tell our stories with such depth and lightness. They balance the tragedy with the fun moments that make up life. They are unafraid to make fun of themselves and that is the quality I admire most in people. From them I have learned that in order to write humor, you have to be comfortable with being vulnerable and you have to be able to see the humor in difficult situations.
I hope to continue to see more women of color writing their truths and making us laugh along the way. I also hope to add more laughter and light to the world with my own writing.
You can check out my humor writing here.
Again, thank you all for reading my blog. Please feel free to leave comments below with your thoughts and/or advice.
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Next Wednesday’s blog will be more stories of #browngirlwrites
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These blogs explore my writing process and highlight my favorite writers and books.