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‘To All the Boys’ author Jenny Han thinks outside the representation box

‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ elevated Jenny Han’s career—and the discussion around inclusive storytelling, which, for some, can be a double-edged sword.

‘To All the Boys’ author Jenny Han thinks outside the representation box
[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]

Listen to the latest episode of Fast Company’s podcast Creative Conversation on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, RadioPublic, Google Play, or Stitcher.

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When To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before dropped on Netflix back in 2018, it turned its lead actors into overnight stars—as well as the author who wrote the book on which the film is based.

Jenny Han had had success in the YA space with her other series Burn for Burn and The Summer I Turned Pretty. But it was To All the Boys that truly elevated her career, not to mention discussion around inclusive storytelling, which for creators can sometime be a double-edged sword.

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
“Being one of the few Asian American writers is just a lot of pressure,” Han says in the latest episode of Fast Company‘s podcast Creative Conversation. “And you’re thinking about what am I going to do next? Does it have to fit into these boxes of representation?”

While it’s certainly important for people of color to tell their own stories as it pertains to their race and ethnicity, there are some creators who wind up feeling a bit trapped inside the constraints of making something that’s expected of them versus what they may really want to do.

In this episode of Creative Conversation, Han explains . . .

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. . . the weight of representation.

“I’ve seen this with a lot of different kinds of artists who say, ‘I want to just be able to write a story. I want to just be an actor. I want to be able to play parts and not have everything be a big dissection and interrogation of race in America.’ That’s a privilege that we don’t have as creators of color, because everything is viewed through that lens.”

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]

. . . why having structure can kill her creative process.

“I kind of go by the seat of my pants. I don’t write in order even. So that was just different for me, to still be able to find moments of serendipity and inspiration.”

. . . and how to work around creative roadblocks.

“I think it’s more like, how do you make sure that you’re still working if you’re sitting there waiting for inspiration? I often use the analogy of surfing: You’re sitting there out in the ocean waiting for the wave, but you got to be out in the ocean or how are you going to catch a wave?”

Listen to the latest episode of Fast Company’s podcast Creative Conversation on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, RadioPublic, Google Play, or Stitcher.

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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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