Manasa Boppudi

Age: 16, Location: Chicago,IL

Sister of the Bollywood Bride - This photo is inspired by the dress that the main character wears at her own sister's Indian wedding. I wore a navy blue Indian cultural dress to share with my viewers the culture and larger symbolism the book contains.
My So Called Bollywood Life - This photo is also inspired by the clothing that the main character wears towards the end of the book. I wear bangles from India and an Indian kurta which sends a message to all of my viewers/followers the importance of carrying your culture with you. Many Indian teenagers are shy and ashamed of their culture but this photo with this book is sending out a larger message that literature featuring my culture is important and worth reader's time.

1. Introduce yourself!

I am a book influencer who is obsessed with fictional characters and worlds. I am a rising senior at Neuqua Valley High School and hope to change the publishing industries, one diverse book at a time. Find me at my local bookstore whining because my mom thinks I have a book addiction problem.

2. How have you identified yourself as a BIPOC individual through your creative work?

I am a book influencer and create lots of content in which I amplify BIPOC authors and their underrepresented books. The publishing industry rarely graces the front pages of newspapers so many people don't know about how hard it is for BIPOC authors to get their stories published by the Big 5 publishers. The color of your skin determines a lot about your publishing journey many times and I create content that spreads awareness about all of these issues. I have identified myself as a BIPOC individual through my book photos, reviews, and recommendations by continuously making sure that my followers never forget how important it is to read diverse books. I am a teenager promoting BIPOC, especially South-Asian books, within the book community on Instagram which is not common at all.

3. How has your creative work allowed you to express yourself?

I take photos wearing cultural Indian clothing, featuring Young Adult, South-Asian books, so that I can advocate for authors who many readers do not know about. Many people like my photos because they think they're "pretty" or "intricate" but then they start to read the caption, where I review a beautiful book that they've never heard about or discuss the malevolent nature of the high school English classics curriculum. My photos help me share my culture with others and then books that they should read if they want to learn about my culture. I draw in people through my photos and my captions are what raise awareness on reading diversely and supporting BIPOC authors. No one advocates for these authors, so I must be the one to do it.

4. What is your stance on BIPOC representation in the media?

I'm thoroughly annoyed by it because it seems like not many people (non-BIPOC people) care about BIPOC representation these days. After the Black Lives Matter protests, many people in the media started to incorporate BIPOC voices, but they're doing the bare minimum in my opinion. I have a hard time understanding how no one in the media before the BLM protests tried to amplify BIPOC voices. All of this makes me question whether many members in the media are just doing performative activism so that they aren't the victims of "cancel culture." We need to have genuine BIPOC representation, where our cultures and accents are not being made fun of, rather the stories of our marginalized families and people are amplified.

5. How has your culture influenced your work and who you are today?

I wouldn't be where I am or who I am today without my culture. I started reading books because of my mom but reading books by BIPOC authors slowly became a passion of mine. There are barely any Young Adult books written in English featuring Indian characters like me. The same goes for any Young Adult books written in English featuring a BIPOC character. My culture and the constant reminder of the country I come from make me want to spread information about BIPOC books and authors to all the bibliophilic mini-me's who never see themselves represented in literature.

6. What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to mainly cry about the deaths of fictional characters in my free time and avoid thinking about college applications. On a serious note though, I run a digital magazine that features bloggers around the world since I first started my creator journey as a blogger who had no creator friends or connections. I also work as an editor for an international literary magazine for high school students. Other than all of this, I'm currently doing an internship with a publishing company to learn about how to look at literature in more of a critical POV, which is proving to be a very daunting task. When I'm not doing anything related to writing or reading, I enjoy sleeping, annoying my parents and sister, and acting like I'm a little kid (again, to annoy my sister).