[One of my highlights this year has been to become friends with Fadwa. WordWoonders is always well thought out and it is always illuminating to read. Fadwa takes such a care with the posts and the quality is amazing. These are some of my MOST bookmarked posts.]
Hello friends !
First and foremost, happy two years blog anniversary to Lili and Utopia State of Mind, that’s such a great achievement and I’m really honoured to be part of the celebration. When Lili asked me to guest post on her blog for the occasion, I was thrilled, and even more so when she told me the topic because it’s something that I’m very passionate about. Representation in books. More specifically MY representation in books, books that touch me deeply, that resonate with me, that I see myself in. Those are the books that stick with me, that I hold close to my heart and I’m never really able to let go of, not that I want to let go of them to be honest.
To start off this post,
I want to talk about these books mentioned above, the ones I saw bits and pieces of myself in, books that made me cry because of how hard they hit or that made me smile because I felt seen and acknowledged so without further ado, here they are:
1- Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
Maya Aziz’s experiences as a Muslim teen were the closest I’ve read to my own. And even then, they weren’t exactly like mine. I related in the way she approached people her age, her hobbies, her interests, the fact that she felt torn between pleasing her loved ones and following her heart (although, in my case luckily, it wasn’t my parents),the way she liked to dress, how she never felt Muslim enough, how she had a mold she felt she needed to fit in but couldn’t do it, didn’t want to do it. That being said, her family is where I didn’t relate, mine is much more liberal, I never felt like I had to hide where I was going, who I was with, what I was doing, what I wanted from life. But even if it’s not mine, I know that that’s someone else’s experience and it’s just as valid.
2- How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake
This is the first book I’ve ever read that validated my queerness, before I even came out (Online. Because I am not out IRL). This is a book that approached bisexuality so casually and made it feel so…okay that I cried while reading the parts that tackled it. This is the book that truly made me feel okay, even good about who I am when I was really struggling. Through Grace, Ashley Herring Blake made my attraction to multiple genders feel so validated, almost easy to accept. Or at least easier than it was before. So this book will always be near and dear to my heart no matter how many books with bisexual protagonists I read.
3- Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
I wrote a post a few months back about how much this book means to me (you can read it here). Inej Ghafa was the most cathartic character to me. Being a survivor and the PTSD that came from if were parts of my identity that I repressed for over a decade, parts I was ashamed of, but Inej’s experiences were so similar to mine, almost down to the T and that made me feel seen, heard and understood. That made me accept that although those things shape who I am, they do not define me.
4- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This book made me cry. And cry. And cry. It hit me so hard that I cried more than I’ve ever cried before. I’m not a crier, I can count the books that made me cry on one hand but I cried almost constantly for the last third of the book. But. This is one that’s way too personal to share the ways I saw myself in it. But just know that it honestly shook my core. That I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since the day I read it.
Before writing this post, I thought I had more books I saw myself in, I really believed I had at least enough to count on both hands. But I guess I was wrong and that makes me a little sad because it shows how far publishing still has to go. It also sometimes makes me wonder if i’m “too much”, too many identities, too unrealistic (even if i’m very real) to ever see myself fully represented.
After seeing this very small list of books,
You might have noticed that none of them have more than one of my maginalisations, none of them represent more than a fraction of who I am, ad even when they do it’s not a complete and 100% accurate representation. I am a bisexual greyromantic biracial Muslim woman, so no matter how spot on any of these books (or others) are for each marginalisation when isolated, they will never be able to represent my experiences the way they are, because I am more than one thing, I am at the intersection of many identities, the ones stated above and others I left out. The way I experience every and each one of them is affected by the others, they’re not isolated parts of me, they’re intertwined and mingled and complex. The way I experience my queerness is tightly linked with the fact that I am a woman of color, that I am a religious woman, that I have mental illnesses and unless these things intersect in a book, I will not see myself represented.
I don’t want to be too fussy, I don’t want to see EVERY single part of me in one character. It’s “unrealistic”. The only kind of representation I’m really craving is queer muslim representation, any kind of it, all kinds of it. And it’s almost non-existant.
I want to see all kinds of muslim queers in books, the ones who never come out as well as the ones who do, the ones who are embraced by their families and the ones who are rejected. The good and the bad. The happy and the sad. I want the gay, the bi, the pan, the trans, the non-binary, the ace, the aro, and every other identity in the LGBTQIA+ community, because we exist. We’re here, and we’re queer. I want our experiences from all over the world, with all identity, ethnicities, the ones of us who deal with mental illnesses and the ones who don’t, the ones who are very loud about their queerness and the ones who aren’t, the ones who identify as one thing or as many, or those who can’t find a label that works for them. All of us. I want our stories centered around our queerness and our stories that have nothing to do with it, I want our lives, no matter how messy or complicated they are. Because all of our stories need to be told. They deserve to be told.