Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Why now?

A few of my readers, particularly the ones who have known me for a long time, have been asking why I decided to start this blog. The short answer is because I wanted somewhere to post my response to all the tweets I was reading about World Book Day. Perhaps a more honest and calculating reason for wanting to start a blog for quite some time, though, was so that I could develop some kind of online presence  by  the time I was ready to approach agents with my novel. Social media seems to be all people are talking about these days, after all.

I don’t think either of these responses, however, answer the question that is actually being asked: why did I decide to start this blog.

After all, this blog could have been about anything. Most of the blogs I read are actually DIY fashion and lifestyle blogs and whilst there’s no way I would be qualified to write a blog like that (unless it was something along the lines of How to Dress Like a Retired English Teacher, that is), I could easily have written a straight up book blog. Or a writing blog, or a travel blog – you get the idea. Why then, after years of refusing to even acknowledge myself as anything but English, did I all of a sudden decide to write about culture and identity? And, more specifically, about the experiences I had whilst growing up?

This time the short answer is: I realised I could.

Simple as that. 

As the case tends to be with these things, it was an unexpected source that led to my big realisation. I was exploring one of the few non-DIY fashion-related blogs that I follow (Bent on Books) and came across this post. The article is about the importance of writing an excellent cover letter and uses the query for The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo as an example. The line that stood out for me in particular was:

She did the exact right thing to do in that scenario and by telling me that she is Malaysian, explains how her personal story influences the story she has written’.

At UEA I wrote five critical commentaries, including one for Maya and the Tooth Mice, but never once did I mention the influences of my upbringing from a culture or ethnicity point of view. It seems stupid now, but the idea of saying ‘The reason I wanted to tell this story is because I’m Indian and it’s something I’ve thought about’, or ‘I’m the right person to tell this story because it reflects a part of my upbringing’ seemed like cheating. I thought it would be playing the ‘race card’. But why should it feel like that? For the first time, I realised that actually people might be interested in reading about a second generation immigrant upbringing, and more importantly there was no way I could avoid the fact that my childhood was different to that of most of my friends. And so, even though I’d never considered a personal blog, I started to write about myself.

Blogging is strange, especially personal blogging. Talking about myself, telling personal stories, completely contradicts the shyness I feel when interacting with people in real life. I love the power trip I get from being able to present my life as though it occurred in heartwarming little anecdotes instead of a big multicoloured knot of wool that I’ve had to untie and extract the core threads from. Sometimes, though, I feel like by presenting a focussed view of my life I am actually just being a big fat liar. Like most people, I’m a walking contradiction and I worry that by talking about how my personal experiences have shaped how I view the word, I am being one of those people that doesn’t stop taking about how hard their life is. Because that’s not true, my life’s no more difficult than the next person’s. I often feel ten things at once – I have looked back on the same memory sometimes with feelings of joy, and other times with feelings of great loneliness. Does that mean that one feeling is less true though? I suppose all I can do is trust that my readers will know that these aren’t the only stories that have shaped who I am, and just the ones that I’ve repressed myself from exploring before now.

Oddly, The Ghost Bride, for a book that has influenced how I talk about myself so much, isn’t one that I’d usually pick up off a shelf. Actually – don’t laugh – it’s not even out yet. I should probably give it a go now, eh? Who knows – if the library has a copy come August, maybe I’ll even post a review for you.

My other go-to outfit, by the way, is grandma...

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