Here’s another installment to my Who Tells Our Stories photo / interview series highlighting diverse readers and the diverse stories that represent their identities! Today I’m interviewing Shauna, to ask her about diverse 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: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Shauna’s review of We Are Okay: https://b00kwitch.wordpress.com/2017/05/24/book-review-we-are-okay/
Can you describe your identity? (Ex: race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, mental illness, disability, body type, or religion, etc.)
I’m a queer, mentally ill woman suffering from depression and anxiety.
How do you connect with We Are Okay? Are there elements of the story that accurately represents your identity?
We Are Okay spoke to a part of my soul that doesn’t get much attention. The way the novel navigates not only grief but an awakening of Marin’s sexuality resonated with me in a real way. My depression and grief and apathy were mirrored by Marin’s experience, even though the circumstances were quite different.
What is your favorite aspect of having diversity in the literature?
As a bookseller, the best thing is when I can match a young reader with a book that represents them. Just today I had a 12-year-old customer come in asking for books about girls who like girls. I was able to pair her with MANY books with queer girls in it and it made my day.
Are there any upcoming diverse novels that you’re excited to pick up? Perhaps the story might represent you, or maybe you’re just excited for it, overall?
Oh goodness so many. I just finished reading LOVE, HATE, AND OTHER FILTERS by Samira Ahmed, and it was phenomenal. The main character was funny and relatable, with a thread of social justice that mirrors what it’s like to be young and Muslim in the US. I also recently finished CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE by Tomi Adeyemi and it was life-changingly good. Neither book represents me personally, but I know it will resonate with a lot of people.
Do you have any diverse story ideas that you’d like to see someone write?
Poverty rep is something I find lacking in YA. There are a few books out there (Ramona Blue comes to mind) that have good poverty rep., but most traditionally published authors come from places of class privilege that translates on the page and is alienating.
Also more queer girls 5ever.
Thank you, Shauna, for being apart of my photo / interview series! I am so glad I was able to have you be apart of my series. Your opinions and insight about diverse literature are so incredibly important, and I hope others realize that as well. Thank you!
PHOTO LOCATION: Holmdel, New Jersey
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 represent 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 way. Marginalized readers should be able to see themselves properly represented in literature, and I hope this photo series highlights that need to others.