Dear the #OwnVoices movement,
I feel like it’s only proper that I start by thanking you for all you have done for a few of my people. You encourage writers to write stories that reflect their own diverse identities, and I know I’m lucky that you came along when you did. Thanks in no small part to you, I have more opportunities and more acceptance than ever before. That brings me to my one gripe: you’re ruining my life.
I’m used to being the underdog, the enigmatic player on the Shakespearean world stage. People are impressed when I make Shakespeare references, even when they’re as obvious as the world-stage one, and I like that I don’t need to work hard to impress people. They have no way of knowing that I read and performed Shakespeare in college. But now, thanks to the #OwnVoices movement, everyone is going to know the real me.
They’re going to be so disappointed.
You’re always encouraging me to embrace my identity and write what I know. The truth is, I don’t know too many things about my identity. I’ve always considered my family boring, and have told them so multiple times. Now, much to their befuddlement, I constantly ask my mother (I don’t even call her “Amma” or “Ammi”!) about our customs and traditions. “You don’t have any,” she says, “because you were never interested in them.” Damn it, past Aparna. If only you’d eaten more samosas instead of coveting scones.
Moreover, with people getting access to authentic stories, how will I be able to live without the casual superiority with which I tell people that Hindu is not a language and that I didn’t go to school on an elephant.
As a writer, most of my time is spent procrastinating. Or, like I tell everyone, “thinking about my next novel which will be this generation’s answer to The Phantom Tollbooth. Now please go away.” Whenever people ask me why I’ve been writing it for seven years, I grumble about “white privilege” and “the uphill journey of marginalized writers” and leave the room. But now the same people keep sending me links to open calls and BAME-preferred submission pages, and I’m running out of things to say!
Anyway, I’ve written my book. You have been trying to convince me that my story has value, and that no one can write about an Indian childhood like I can. That certainly can’t be true. I know plenty of writers who will be able to better my description of walking down a market street as “the audio version of granola.” They would make living in India way cooler than I ever could. And, yes, I’ll be sure to tell them not to name the characters after common spices.
Wishing I could sign off with something culturally unique,