Book Club : Reading Colour

In 2016 I pledged to read more widely, to read more stories about and from authors from different countries, ethnicities and nationalities. It is part of my conscious effort to seek and demand increased representation for ‘ethnic minorities’, ‘ people of colour’ etc.– people like me!

I have always loved to read and can’t remember a time when I was without a book. As a young girl in a girls school in India I read Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Famous Five without ever thinking about the character’s race or ethnicity or even gender! It’s only when I moved to cosmopolitan London did all of these things become obvious. It was the first time that I was made aware of my “Otherness”.

My point is that as a teen living in a homogenous -albeit culturally rich- country like India I didn’t lack Indian role models and these stories were other people’s stories. But living outside of that sea of sameness you realise that “Otherness is an internal compulsion”[1].   Recently, I’ve realised that to enjoy a book or a film you have to ‘erase yourself’ or ‘read yourself into the story’[2]. Although, part of the joys of literature is escapism not enough stories are being told perspectives other than that of the northern hemisphere!

So, blog posts in this section will aim to spread my passion for literature that challenges representational norms, gives us a window to the world of the diaspora or is simply written by people from different national and ethnic backgrounds.

[1] Stuart Hall’s work on media representations of identity and culture has been useful in highlighting the construction of the Otherness of ethnic minorities/diaspora in Western nations.[Hall, S. (1989) ‘Cultural Identity and Diaspora’. In Framework (36): 68-81]

Similarly, Claire Pajaczkowska and Lola Young’s discussion of the “absent centre of White identity” reveals the power asymmetries that define media representations of ethnicity, gender and race. Anyone that doesn’t fit the ideal of the White, middle class male is marked as ‘the Other’. [Pajaczkowska, C., and Young, L. (1992). Racism, representation, psychoanalysis. In: Donald, J. and Rattansi A, (eds) (1992). Race, Culture and Difference. London: Sage, pp. 198-219]

[2] bell hooks in her analysis of black female spectatorship highlights the way we as spectators have to acknowledge that our “presence is constructed as absence” . [hooks, b. (1999). The oppositional gaze: Black female spectators. In: Black Looks: Race and Representation. London: Turnaround]