How to be invisible

We’re celebrating Women’s History month with 31 days of posts focused on improving the climate for social and gender equality in the children’s and teens’ literature community. Join in the conversation on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kidlitwomen or Twitter #kidlitwomen

My #kidlitwomen post was intended to be an essay about being a mother and a writer, about dealing with racism and sexism in not one but two cultures. However essays and non-fiction don’t come naturally to me, so instead of trying to wrestle my words into the right format, I just let them go the way they wanted.

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How to be invisible

It starts with your first child. Invisibility wraps its way around you while you push your stroller down the street. People sense fear and incompetence festering around you, a stink they can’t stand to be around, one that you can’t even smell. (Is it even there?) It doesn’t matter that you have brought life into this world, that the well-being of another life hangs on your own well-being, your opinions mean nothing. Less than nothing.

You are a mommy now.

You are an empty vessel waiting to be filled with the advice of others, never mind your own lived experiences, university degrees, medical degrees. Your own thoughts and dreams have been rendered meaningless by others.

You will be treated as though all the creative juices that inspired you to write a novel have already dried up. As though you are desiccated creatively the minute your breasts begin to fill. You are now plain, flavorless, uninspired. (And sometimes you are just so tired you aren’t even sure that they are wrong.)

You will be afraid to reveal who you are. Everyone knows mommies can’t recognize good literature when they read it. Scandalized mommies ruin all the good bits. How then can they be writers?

If you are a mommy with brown skin, a mommy from a minority background, a non-Christian woman, a heathen writing about childhood,  you are unrelatable, unsellable, unknowable. You are not from here, you never could be from here, you are an anomaly, too foreign not foreign enough too ordinary to be exotic too mommy to be avant-garde. No matter which country you are in, your parents’ or your own, mommy and writer can’t be the same person without consequences.

You will keep writing, knowing that your work will be willfully misunderstood. You will keep writing knowing that they read your voice as uninteresting, unfunny, unworthy, uninspired. You will keep writing though the conversations continue without your voice.

Someday you hope your daughters will read your words and speak them out loud, knowing how hard you fought, how big you dreamed, how far you soared. And when your daughters’ time comes, whether they have children or whether they don’t, they will be seen, they will be heard, their voices and thoughts and opinions will matter, their art their science their dreams will matter.

You will make sure of it.

 

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