by Boy Everywhere author A.M.Dassu
If you want to write an authentic and truly representative book, THE most important question to answer before you begin your work is; why do I want to write this? The answer will tell you not only why you’re writing this book, but who you’re writing it for. Is it for you as an author, or is it for the people you’re writing about?
Writing a story about a community that is outside of your lived experience should be as important as if you were writing about your own family. It should be written with great care and attention, and it should be checked, rechecked and then checked again.
When I started writing BOY, EVERYWHERE I knew I was taking on a huge responsibility, and it soon became the book I wish I hadn’t started writing, because I was desperate to make a difference and wanted it to be read right away, but I also didn’t want to send it out till I was sure it represented Syrians and refugees the way they deserve to be portrayed.
It’s taken five years to get to publication and I can honestly say I haven’t cried about anything as much as I have about BOY, EVERYWHERE especially during the editing processes, because this story was not about me, it was about people who have suffered great challenges, and they deserve representation that shows their reality. It had to be right. I wanted to do justice to everything refugees and Syrians had told me to share. I wanted to represent them holistically, as real people you could imagine meeting.
As writers the last thing we want is to write about certain aspects of a culture or community in a way that disrespects or misrepresents them. Our fiction should be responsible and accurate. An author can ensure they do this by doing a lot of research, consultation, and building their awareness.
Here are my practical tips on how to authentically represent marginalised communities:
- DO LOTS OF RESEARCH
Be responsible and inform yourself. Find sources that aren’t biased to get information about the community you’re trying to portray.
- STAY AWAY FROM STEREOTYPES
You need to understand the community you’re writing about, know what affects them, what feels unfair to them. Read lots of articles and books around your subject and become aware of the issues raised by minority communities.
- TALK TO THE COMMUNITY YOU’RE WRITING ABOUT
If you genuinely want to write an authentic and inclusive book, this is imperative. Do you know anyone from that community? If not, ask yourself again why do you want to write from their perspective?
Get feedback from the community you’re writing about –– there are many ways you can go about doing this.
4. GET YOUR BOOK READ/CHECKED
There will be tiny nuances only a person from the community you’ve written about will be aware of. Get your book read and checked multiple times to ensure you’ve represented them accurately.
- MAKE SPACE FOR THE PEOPLE OF THAT COMMUNITY.
Lastly, I’d say make space for the people of that community. Let their voices be heard too. Amplify their opinions, share their work. Give them opportunities that might ordinarily come to you. And that’s why when I first started writing BOY, EVERYWHERE in 2015, I made the intention to spend my advances on helping Syrians. I have therefore spent half on helping some Syrian refugees I know with their needs and the rest on setting up a grant to support an unpublished refugee or immigrant writer. It is difficult to write when you have had to flee to another country and lost everything, but I hope I will be able to help someone who is ready to take that next step to tell their story.
A. M. Dassu is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction books and is based in the heart of England. She is Deputy Editor of SCBWI-BI’s magazine, Words & Pictures and a Director of Inclusive Minds. Her work has been published by The Huffington Post, Times Educational Supplement, SCOOP Magazine, Lee & Low Books, and DK Books. She won the international We Need Diverse Books mentorship award in 2017. A. M. Dassu has used her publishing advances for Boy, Everywhere to assist Syrian refugees in her city and set up a grant to support an unpublished refugee or immigrant writer. Her debut middle grade novel BOY, EVERYWHERE is out now. You can find her on Twitter @a_reflective , Instagram @a.m.dassu or at www.amdassu.com
Details for the blog tour can be found on the banner below. Any opinions expressed may not truly reflect those of the FCBG.