I stumbled across this challenge the other day on May’s blog and my excitement grew the longer I read her post. A challenge that had you reading as many books by Asian authors as you could? That the entire book community could participate in? AND YOU CAN GET BADGES?! Sign me up!
Honestly though, I was a goner by the time I read that the challenge was to read books by Asian authors. I’ve only recently begun to understand the importance of representation in books. Again, I’m going to mention Aru Shah. (You guys are probably sick of hearing about this book, sorry!) I knew it existed for the longest time, but I never picked it up, even though the fact that Aru was Indian intrigued me. That wasn’t enough to get me to pick up the book though. I’d read other books with Indian protagonists – The Star-Touched Queen, When Dimple Met Rishi, and From Twinkle, With Love – but I flat-out- to borderline-hated the characters and plots in them.
Then I saw Aru Shah at my local library and I thought, Why the hell not? So I checked it out and started reading it.
I was not prepared. Seeing aspects of Indian culture represented so clearly and beautifully in a book, and reading about the gods and goddesses I grew up listening to stories about – it was like getting slammed in the face. I was engrossed immediately and I couldn’t read it fast enough. I think I finished it in a morning or something like that, which, just so you know, is a record for me. And when it was over, I stared up at the ceiling, really close to crying.
I didn’t realize how much it would mean to me to see Indian culture, the part of myself I’d never seen represented before in a book, actually in a book that I connected with. I’ve always had a weird relationship with my Indian heritage – I find myself struggling to reconcile myself with it more times than not. It’s not even that I don’t love it or don’t feel proud of it, because I do. I love my family and our culture. It’s just my family always says that I’m too “American” and not “Indian” enough. There’s actually a term for it, according to my parents. ABCD. American-Born Confused Desi. (For those of you that don’t know, Desi can mean Indian.)
So I’ve always felt a little small when I’m around them, and I never felt confident in my Indian DNA. But Aru Shah and the End of Time restored some of my confidence in that part of myself just by showing me an Indian girl running around, making mistakes, trying to fix her mistakes, and succeeding. And as I said, I’ve read other books with Indian protagonists. But – this was a huge thing for me – I saw elements of my culture reflected (which was extremely gratifying) in those books, but not myself. I couldn’t see me in any of the Indian characters I read about, and that frustrated me to no end.
So Aru Shah was the first book I ever really, truly saw myself in. And seeing those parts of me reflected back hurt – in the best way possible. But it hurt so much that I got so close to crying, even though I didn’t understand why at the time.
So – wow, I got off on a long tangent, sorry about that – what I’m trying to say is that rep is important, which is something I now realize. And supporting marginalized authors is also important, which is why I’m joining this challenge.
You all can sign up to join this challenge too! (Please do.) Just go to this post of Lily’s, read through the rules, and sign up. Before you sign up though, you have to figure out how you’ll be tracking all the books you’re going to be reading. Since I have a blog, I’m going to be tracking my progress through this post actually (so every time I read a book by an Asian author, I’ll be adding it here) and I’m also going to be creating a YARC bookshelf on Goodreads.
Also, you know the badges I mentioned? Hehe, well…they’re all so adorable. Depending on how many books you read, you get certain badges. These are the levels:
- Philippine tarsier: 1-10 books
- Indian cobra: 11-20 books
- Malayan tapir: 21-30 books
- Giant panda: 31-40 books
- Asian elephant: 41-50 books
- Bengali tiger: 50+ books
Frankly, I kind of want the Indian cobra (I love snakes), but the giant panda is also so cute, as is the elephant.
…But I’ve always had a soft spot for tigers (they are so ADORABLE FIGHT ME), so.
This is the badge I’m aiming for! The Bengali Tiger! (Seriously, none of you can look me in the eye and tell me you don’t find this little baby adorable.)
I’m probably biting off a bit more than I can chew, but I really want to do this.
…And I really want this badge.
So I’m off! Here is the…right now very empty list, but hopefully it’ll be much more full by the end of the year!
- A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
- Wildcard (Warcross #2) by Marie Lu
- The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves #1) by Roshani Chokshi
- The Poppy War (The Poppy War #1) by R. F. Kuang
- Want (Want #1) by Cindy Pon
- The Epic Crush of Genie Lo (The Epic Crush of Genie Lo #1) by F.C. Yee
- Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan