Monday, April 26, 2021

When the Rep Sweats Get You

Code Switch talked about rep(resentation) sweats, the idea that you are so excited to see yourself reflected in media, when that doesn't happen enough, and how that can come with a feeling of please let it be good.  When your community is often overlooked by mainstream media, the parts that make it through have outsized importance - for the pitches by other people trying to tell stories like that get to make, the doors that open a little more easily for them, but also for people not from that culture.  If you are a part of an underrepresented culture, someone has likely told you a thing is true about your culture because of a book, movie, or TV show.  
I saw Disney was working on something about Hawaiians and went eek, I hope it's good because I still remember the Johnny Tsumani movie.  (Yes, I know - "Lilo and Stitch",  And well, I've shared how "Moana" is not really Hawaiian before, I love it, but it isn't intended to be Hawaiian.)  
This is a very long lead up to say I had been very excited for a YA book that was scheduled for 2022, because it was written by someone who is part Hawaiian, who grew up in Hawai'i, and I can still use very few fingers to count YA by or about Hawaiians.  I had put together a list of Hawaiian authors that I was excited to point to.  Because any time someone does something no one has seen a lot of, people try to dub them the first.  And while there are not enough, not yet, not for many books more, just like Black Panther wasn't the first Black superhero movie, this wasn't going to be the first Hawaiian YA.  But it was going to be another one.  And every one we get helps us build a tower so the people who need these books can find them.  
And then that author went on a social media rant.  They've deleted now.  I hope they are taking this time to reflect.  I hope they and their team make sure none of this biphobia and hatred made it into their book.  
But it made me sad.  Representation isn't the be all and and end all.  But I wish for more of us at the table, so that as any of us screw up or need to take more time to learn and grow, it wasn't such a percentage of the representation we have.  I'm sorry for all the people who have already decided that they definitely can't read this book now.  Sorry because there is something so sad about having something you were excited about turn into something you have to read with care for fear of the barbed wire traps within.