DiversifYA: Sabaa Tahir

SabaaSabaa Tahir is here at DiversifYA today! Sabaa is a British-born, California-raised writer of Young Adult fiction, specifically fantasy, and author of one of the 2015 debuts I can’t wait to get my hands on: AN EMBER IN THE ASHES, out from Razorbill/Penguin on April 28, 2015. Sabaa likes writing, building things, biking and climbing trees, and dislikes running, cooking and people who are irritated by kids on planes. Follow her on Twitter.

1. How do you identify yourself?

I identify myself as a British-born, American-raised, South-Asian-descended writer, dreamer, musichead and climber of trees.

2. What did it feel like growing up South Asian?

It was, by turns, difficult, lonely, wonderful, infuriating and educational.

3. What are the biggest challenges? Conversely, what are the quirks/perks?

Many South Asian cultures tends to emphasize loyalty to the family, particularly to one’s parents. You hear about a lot of South Asian kids becoming doctors or engineers because their parents wished it. My parents wanted me to go into the sciences, too. Choosing not to was definitely a challenge, but ultimately, my family supported me in my decision, which made it much easier.

I also happened to be one of the only South Asians in my rather isolated home town. So I often felt like I didn’t fit in, both because of my culture and my physical appearance.

The perks? The food, clearly. Also the weddings, which last a week, and involve lots of food. Have I mentioned the food?

4. What do you wish people knew about being South Asian?

There really isn’t any one thing. Every experience is different. So maybe that’s what I wish people knew: there is as much variety among South Asians as in any other group.

BONUS: What is your advice for writers writing diverse characters?

Do your research and try to see your diverse characters as people before you see them as “diverse.” Talk to people from the group that you’re interested in representing, read books by and about members of said group. This, by the way, applies to any diverse characters, from a primary protagonist to a sidekick to the supporting cast. One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing the “token” diverse character. You get a quick description of them being black or Asian or lesbian or deaf and…that’s it. I think that’s a shame and I see it way too much. 

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