Friday, August 18, 2017

Why Representation Matters To Me

I know I've talked a lot on this blog about why representation matters to me but I was thinking about it recently and ...I don't think I've ever put it into one single blog post. I've talked about single aspects of myself in detail, sometimes over multiple blog posts, in fact. But never collectively.

Why does representation matter to me? 

It isn't complicated, as such.  As I've already said, I've already talked a little bit about it.  But I will try to make this post as comprehensive as I can. I've made a list and I'm not sure if even my list will fully represent who I am. But I'll try.  

The reason good representation matters to me is because my experiences as a person and in life are incredibly diverse. I'm not alone in this fact, either. I'm sure many people can say the same. I'm just saying that it matters to me because I would very much like to see myself, and people like me, portrayed realistically and in more complex ways in the entertainment that I consume. YA books for sure but also in television and film and in other types of media. Life is complicated and rich in details and people's experiences and lives should be celebrated.  Nobody should feel alone in who they are.  

This is who I am

I'm mixed race. I've talked about this a bit on this blog. My father is white and my mother is Native Alaskan, specifically Tlingit. I grew up and dealt with a lot of racial abuse and hatred because of my being mixed race. I cried the first time, in my 20s, that I saw a mixed race person in an advert on television (that representation, even later in life meant a great deal to me!). 

I'm bisexual. I wrote a post earlier this month coming out as bisexual and talked a little bit about not being fully aware of this fact about myself for several reasons, one of them being that I'd not seen very many people in my life or in the media who are bisexual so I didn't really know that being bi was okay. More representation would mean others like me might feel okay in their own sexuality sooner, possibly.

I grew up in a family from a lower socio-economic background.  My family was poor, there's no other way to put it.  We scraped by, barely living between pay cheque to pay cheque. My mom was on food stamps for awhile, we would have starved without local food banks some months. I grew up thinking that certain things were not within the realm of possibility for me: university, travelling, certain types of jobs. I was stuck on surviving life instead of living it.

I have several mental illnesses.  I've discussed these at length on this blog.  I have depression and anxiety. I'm in recovery from an eating disorder. I felt suicidal as a teenager. I used to self-harm. There was a book I read as a teenager that I truly believe saved my life. It was a non-fiction book about a particular area of mental illness and I read it and I felt (for one of the first times ever) that I was not alone. It matters. It so matters.

I had a parent with a disability and several mental illnesses. I don't believe I've discussed this as much here.  My dad was injured while in active duty as a soldier and because of injuries sustained during war, he was left disabled. My dad was my primary caregiver and it sometimes left me or my brother to help my dad out with things. He also suffered from depression and PTSD.  Very late in life, my dad was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Because of these mental illnesses (that mostly went untreated throughout my life) life with my father was very uncertain and definitely unstable at times. I remember reading a book in my late 20s that dealt with the depression of a parent and I cried my way through it because I knew how that felt. 

I am an immigrant to the UK.  It was my moving to the UK anniversary earlier this month. I moved here 17 years ago from the United States. I always feel like everyone knows that about me but I had someone ask me on Twitter where I lived before I lived in England so clearly not everybody knows. I wish there were more immigrant stories more widely available. 

I'm in an interracial marriage. Did you know N is of Indian descent? His parents are immigrants to this country too, actually, making him a second generation immigrant. There was conflict in the beginning of our marriage as other people (not us) struggled with the idea of our being together. The world can be an ugly place sometimes but more representation could make this easier on those of us in it.  

I have two beautiful mixed-race children. And finally, I have and am raising two gorgeous boys. Who are part Indian, part white, and part Native Alaskan. And they too deserve to grow up in a world where their existence is celebrated and represented.  

I've honestly never seen myself portrayed in anything I've read or seen.  I've seen aspects of me. But not something that comes pretty close to portraying it all.  It's a tall order, I know. But why not, right?  There have been definite milestones along the way: the book on mental illness that saved my life, the advert with a mixed race couple that made me cry, the book with a bi main character that helped me realise my own sexuality.  

It's all so important.  For young people, for older people.  We need and deserve stories and media that accurately represents the world we live in. 


  1. Great post and I completely agree with you. Representation and seeing people like you is very important. I remember reading another post of yours about mixed race characters in fiction. I'm mixed race (African and English) and I like seeing mixed race couples in the media, interracial families and books with mixed race characters in (especially positive ones).

    I recently read the book The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi which is about a mixed race girl (English and Nigerian) who feels like she doesn't fit in anywhere. She goes on holiday to Nigeria to visit her mum's family and brings back a little girl called Tilly Tilly with her, who is some kind of spirit (I think). It was a very strange book but good. I first heard about it years ago.

    |And I'm currently reading Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan, the third book in the Unspoken trilogy, Lynburn Legacy. (I read the first two a couple of years ago). The main character Kami is white and Japanese (her dad is English and Japsnese and her mum is English)and she says in the book how she doesn't look like the people around her or the models in magazines.

    I have mental health issues too so I can understand about that too. Thanks for sharing. :)

    1. Also forgot to mention that the Lynburn Legacy books (Sarah Rees Brennan) have lesbian and bisexual characters in as well. :)

    2. Thank you so much for your comments and your recommendations. How lovely, I'll look into them. Representation is so important x

  2. I think you've summarised the importance of diversity in lit amazingly by this one post: it's about feeling like you're not alone in the world. So good, in fact, that I don't have much to say except "thank you".


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