This will probably be one of my least popular posts, and not even every Indian might agree with me, but this topic has been on my mind for some time. In order to be a successful OwnVoices writer, do I need to perpetuate the Indian stereotype? The accent, the head bobbing, the arranged marriages...do I have to write all of that into my fantasies?
I tried to watch "The Big Sick" with my sister a couple of weekends ago. From the get-go I'll admit I bore a chip on my shoulder because, sure enough, all of those stereotypes were present. I appreciate that it's based on Kumail and Emily's true story, and I'm sure that their relationship was difficult to establish. I could've let go of most of my issues, but one of the minor characters pushed me over my metaphorical edge. Suffice to say, we didn't make it through the whole movie. My sister had her own issues with the storyline, but I won't speak for her.
****Possible Spoiler(s) Ahead****
So throughout the movie we see eligible girls being pushed upon Kumail by his well-meaning mother. Every family dinner, a different girl happens to "drop-by" their house and awkward conversation over cold dinner ensues. The girls are traditionally dressed and say all the things they've been told the boy wants to hear - all of them. With an accent. Including Khadija, the girl who grew up in the states, learned Urdu as a second language, and has never been to Pakistan.
That sound you hear? That's me screaming into the void.
I have three sisters. The four of us grew up speaking two languages fluently and interchangeably. We've been to India at least five times, with a sixth trip coming up in January, and none of us - not one of us, has an accent in the slightest. Well, unless you consider middle Ohio an accent, then yes, I have that one ;-)
Also, in the whole marriage situation? My mom was the one pushing boy's pictures onto me. I refused to create a bio-data for myself (that's a person's marriage eligibility "resume" in case you wondered) and insisted that if a boy wanted to push into my life, he'd better not have one either. So there.
Don't get me wrong, these trials were formative for me, so I do refer to them at a high level in my pieces. But I've begun to wonder, do I have to be more overt about those things in order to "qualify" as an OwnVoices author?