On Representation & Confronting the Hidden Self

For my poetry class, I read a powerful poem from Yanyi’s The Year of Blue Water. In the collection of the poems, the speaker grapples with their repressed sexuality, the illusory nature of the self, the power of writing, and community. This poem especially resonated with me because of the way it profoundly illuminates how often we hide the truest parts of ourselves from our conscious mind.

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“For three years, I watch any TV that I hear of with lesbian characters. I say lesbian because that is what I was looking for at the time, and because there wasn’t much differentiation in TV shows then. I streamed what I could. This was only possible when the computer was in my room, a hot brick of plastic: a door. The women were white, but that I ignored in the very rare faces of longing. I saw myself in longing: right before the kiss, looking without having to look away, being made of so much and finally landing somewhere, anywhere, with someone who would love this part of me.

The thing about hiding one thing about yourself for ten years is that it warps your perception of the real you. What you must protect against all odds becomes your defect, your truth, your failure, your success. It becomes the most authentic thing you have because you have no means of going further, of wanting more. There were consequences for knowing myself. I didn’t want to want more” (45).

Although we have made strides in representing underrepresented people in the media, there is still a lot more work to be done. Yanyi powerfully illuminates how hard we often work to seek out stories that reflect our own understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. Ironically, it is through watching these fictitious stories that we can uncover genuine parts of ourselves that we would rather not. Although it is challenging, it is so rewarding to dip into what is momentarily uncomfortable to feel permanently authentic and liberated.

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