DiversifYA: Tara Sim

Author Photo scaledWe have Tara Sim with us today! Yay! Tara is a wonderful species of author, found in the wilds of the Bay Area, California. When she’s not writing about magic, clocks, and boys, she drinks tea, wrangles cats, and sings opera. Her debut YA novel, TIMEKEEPER, comes out Fall of 2016 from Sky Pony Press. Follow her on Twitter.

1. How do you identify yourself?

I identify as a mixed-race heterosexual female.

2. What did it feel like growing up mixed race?

The strange thing is that I was never conscious of how I was growing up until I was already grown. Looking back, everything felt very normal at the time: having a mom with brown skin and a dad with white skin, going to Gurudwaras instead of church, attending numerous parties with bass-heavy Bhangra music, listening to my relatives speak a language I didn’t understand.

But, getting older, I started realizing (whether on my own or through society) that this lifestyle wasn’t “usual.” I was the only one of my friends with this sort of life. They asked me questions about India, if they could come to parties with me, if my mom could make them Indian food. My best friend still has an Indian outfit we gave her when she attended a wedding with us.

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

Challenges: Even though this feels like a natural part of life to me–and even though this is part of my identity–my skin color screams the opposite. I’m pale from my dad’s side, and that’s what people see/react to. When I’m standing next to my dad, nothing’s out of the ordinary. When I’m standing next to my mom, people always stare. I’ve had people ask if I’m adopted. I’ve had people assume we’re not in the same company and then look surprised when I call her “Mom.” I’ve had people call me her daughter-in-law, or friend. When say I’m half-Indian, I always feel a tug of sadness that they probably don’t believe me.

Quirks: Homemade Indian food, of course! My friends are insanely jealous that I get Indian food/real chai whenever I want. I also have a collection of gorgeous Indian outfits and jewelry. And my Indian accent is killer.

4. What do you wish people knew about being mixed race?

I think most people’s reaction is “oh, cool!” And it is definitely cool, because you get to come from two different worlds. You get to see things in two different ways. But it’s also challenging, such as when you don’t understand your mother’s native language. I think the number one thing I’d like people to know is that it fosters an idea of never quite belonging, and feeling strange in your own skin.

5. What are the biggest cliches/stereotypes you’ve seen?

Apu and the Kwik-E-Mart, for sure. Also people spoofing Bollywood.

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

Research, research, research. If you’re drawing on your own experiences, (like what I’m doing in my latest WIP with a half-Indian MC), then great! If writing outside of your own experiences, make sure you avoid cliches and tropes. Make sure you’re not being offensive. If possible, find readers that mirror what sort of diversity you’re tackling.

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