Hello! Welcome to another installment in my Who Tells Our Stories photo series which highlights diverse readers and the diverse books that they identify with! Today I’m interviewing Camila, a very good friend of mine, to ask her all about diversity in literature and how she feels represented in the book she has chosen to be photographed with.
(A FULL EXPLANATION FOR THE PHOTO SERIES IS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS INTERVIEW.)
Book title: Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
Can you describe your identity? (Ex: race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, mental illness, body type, or religion, etc)
I’m a 20 year old biracial cis woman from Puerto Rico. I identify as bisexual, but I occasionally use the word queer. I have clinical depression and a panic disorder, and I take medication for both. I have an eating disorder (non-specified), but I have not gotten treatment for that yet. I’m 5’3, very skinny, with light brown skin. I’m an atheist.
How does Shadowshaper accurately represent yourself? What are certain elements of this novel that you have connected with?
Though I am not Afroboricua, Sierra is one of the first Puerto Rican characters I’ve read that talks and acts like me. She’s fierce and sassy and loves art as much as I do. I connected to the Latinidad of it all. The colorism and the anti-blackness challenged in the novel is very similar to what black people and mestizos in Puerto Rico face day to day. Also, the criticism towards gentrification hit the nail on the board, especially for Puerto Rico. As a colony being invaded and robbed of your assets, so others can sell them for profit; it hits close to home.
What are some popular tropes/genres that you’d like to see your identity portrayed in? (Ex: Latinx vampires, a ‘Chosen One’ who has anxiety, Asian ghost stories, etc.)
Definitely Latinx vampires and paranormal beings. I’d love to see more of our Black roots shown in books and also our Taino roots, which have been almost completely erased from our narrative.
What would you like to see more of, in regards to the growth of diversity in literature?
I’d like to see people with bigger platforms help and boost other who don’t share that popularity. I want them to educate themselves, so we as a community can feel safer and less excluded. It’s all a matter of checking one’s privilege.
What does diversity in literature (and any other form of media) mean to you?
Diversity means I get to see people like me in the thing I love the most which is, obviously, books. It means seeing awe in marginalized people’s faces when something amazing gets to be for them, may they be superheroes or celebrities. It’s what I believe is needed to face all the hatred going on in the world and by siding with the need for diversity I fight every day. It’s a part of who I am; all of my selves.
I am forever grateful to Camila for being apart of my photo series and for sharing her thoughts about diversity in literature.
Your thoughts about diversity and your book recommendations are so incredibly important to the book community, and I know it has helped others find stories that they can identify with. Your fight for diversity is valuable to all of us, and I am proud of all you’ve done as a reader and blogger.
PHOTO LOCATION: Museo de las Americas, Puerto Rico
Who Tells Our Stories: A Photo Series Explanation
Recently, I was inspired to create a photo series on my Instagram that will feature diverse readers holding books that represents their identities (e.g. ethnicities, sexualities, race, gender, body types, MIs, disabilities, religions, etc.) in a positive light. I wanted to create this series in order to highlight the need for diversity in literature. I also wanted to show others how one diverse novel can positively impact someone who finally feels represented, in a way that doesn’t use harmful cliches or stereotypes. Each photo, in this on-going series, will also include an interview with the reader on this blog to discuss the need for diversity in literature and how the reader identifies with the piece of literature they have chosen (if they feel comfortable disclosing that piece of information).
I came up with the title Who Tells Our Stories for the photo series because it is a spin off of the Hamilton lyric “Who tells your story”. Because the play Hamilton is such a diverse form of art, I wanted my photo series to reference that striking lyric because we need diverse authors to tell diverse stories in a respectful and positive way. Marginalized readers should be able to see themselves properly represented in literature, and I hope this photo series highlights that need to others.