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Illustration by Amani Haydar

A writer’s guide: POC edition

A poem by Maryam Azam.

Give your character your age, sex and socio-economic background.

They live in the suburb of your childhood.

Your ethnic identity frames everything.


Pepper your piece with words in your mother tongue.

Use Google Translate if needed.

Refuse to otherise your work with a glossary.


Attend festivals and readings in your modern cultural clothes.

Greet the audience in your language the language of your people.

Practise the pronunciation beforehand.


Remind the audience you don’t speak for all _________ .


Expect to be asked if your main character is you.

Prepare a coy response: an obvious no will disappoint your audience.

A straight yes will disappoint your family.


Maryam Azam

Illustration by Amani Haydar

Maryam Azam is a writer and teacher whose debut poetry collection, The Hijab Files, was shortlisted for the Mary Gilmore Award in 2019.

Illustration by Amani Haydar, a visual artist, writer and lawyer, who is currently working on her memoir and is an artist-in-residence with Sweatshop Western Sydney.

POC (Person of Colour)

This poem appears in Openbook Summer 2020.

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