The Big Questions

Contributed by SF Said

I write children’s books because I believe they’re the books that change people’s lives.  

My favorite book as a child was Watership Down by Richard Adams. I re-read it as an adult, trying to understand why I’d loved it so much. More than a thrilling adventure story about rabbits, I saw it was a story about the big questions of human life: Who are we? Where do we come from? Where do we belong? How should we live?  

I think that’s why it meant so much to me. My family’s roots are in the Middle East.  My ancestors were Iraqi, Egyptian, Kurdish, and Circassian Muslims. I grew up in Britain in the 1970s, where such origins were unusual. Negotiations around identity, difference and belonging were daily facts of my life. Even my name was an issue. Sabah Falah Said is an ordinary Arabic name, but unpronounceable in English!  Whenever it came up, people would question it to such an extent that I ended up using initials.  


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White with Envy

I grew up jealous of white children.

Though hardly fluent in English herself, my mother had tried very hard to read me English fairy tales when I was young. As a child, I was familiar with Anderson, Grimm and many stories written by Enid Blyton. I remember thinking then, questions like: Where was my snow? Why aren’t there fairies living in our garden? What does a Christmas pie taste like? And especially hated it whenever my mother would say, “We don’t have any of those things here, my dear; they are all in English places overseas.”

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A Man Slams Down A Bigoted Question So Hard He Brings Down The House

People of color are often asked, “What kind of ____ are you?” in relation to their ethnicity. It’s quite a different question than “Where are you from?”

Example: A Korean-American is asked which country in Asia they’re from. Or they’re asked, “What kind of Asian are you?”

Doesn’t that kind of sound like someone is asking what brand they are?

– Joseph Lamour via Upworthy

Watch Alex Dang “slam” this question and take note of the transcript below to catch all of his thoughts.

Thanks to Button Poetry there are more truth bombs to be had. Some other resounding poetic performances about identity and how society shapes it include:

  • Javon Johnson – “cuz he’s black”
  • Lily Myers – “Shrinking Women”
  • Denice Frohman – “Dear Straight People”

The World’s A Stage, Or Is It?

Originally posted on the Diversity in YA blog by Sarah Rees Brennan.

The Demon’s Lexicon series is all about roles.

I started the first book, The Demon’s Lexicon, thinking about the role of Mr. Tall, Dark, Handsome and Morally Really Freaking Dodgy, and how we almost never get that guy’s point of view, and what he’d be like from the inside. Almost unforgivably awful, maybe, because you know how bad he is from the start, and you aren’t distracted by his good looks and dashing ways. What’s it like to look into the abyss? And what makes an abyss, anyway?

That was the role that started the ball, ahem, rolling. (Everybody groans and tosses rotten fruit.) From there I thought about roles, and the different ways I could play with them, like genderswitching: what if the hero of an epic fantasy — you know the type, rash and brave and honest and initially clueless — was a girl, what if the Mother Who Would Give Up/Do Anything For Her Kid was a boy?

Some of my ideas were just about going beyond a role, because some roles are true as far as they go, but people are so complex they never go far enough. Such as the gay guy who presents as weaker than other guys — what if he was physically weaker and smaller, and also quite deliberately presenting himself in a certain way, and also a huge magical badass?

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