I was in elementary school when I first realized that I was a different colour. My skin was darker, my arms and legs were hairier and the spicy vegetarian food I ate at home looked nothing like the meat and potato dinners I had at my friends’ houses. In October alone, I celebrated Halloween, Canadian Thanksgiving and the Hindu festival of Diwali, which I would describe to my friends as “Indian Christmas.” I was frequently asked where to find the best samosas by those who viewed me as Indian, but on weekends, when I begrudgingly went to Hindi school, I was considered the Canadian who could sing along to Bollywood songs, but had no idea what the lyrics meant.
Back when I was the brown kid on the block, there was no instruction manual for how to grow up when you’re caught between Indian and Canadian cultures—but now, thanks to Maria Qamar, there is.
“I always got picked on for being too brown or not brown enough at home and outside of it,” writes Qamar, as if she was a fly on the wall for my entire childhood.
Qamar, better known as the Insta-famous artist Hatecopy, is the writer, illustrator and self-proclaimed “author aunty” behind Trust No Aunty. The full-colour hardcover book, which hits stands August 1, is basically “Being Desi for Dummies” and in 173 pages, she manages to put being Indian, Canadian, millennial, female, driven and totally lost into words and picture-perfect illustrations.
For those who didn’t grow up in a house where saris are stored in suitcases and spices are bought in bulk, Qamar breaks down the concept of an aunty. “Aunty is a term of endearment (and sometimes insult) used to describe an older woman,” she writes. “The aunty is a cross-cultural phenomenon that isn’t limited to a family member; she could be a neighbour, or just some lady on the bus who wants to throw some casual black magic your way.”
In my life, aunties came in all sizes and sorts—from those who are ready and willing to arrange my marriage to those who Bhangra dance when they beat me at beer pong. But, with her succinct definition, Qamar gave meaning to a term that was ubiquitous within my community, but absent from most dictionaries. Flipping through the technicolour pages of Trust No Aunty, I realized that this book is literally written in my language—and by that I mean the unique mix of Hindi sayings, Bollywood references and Canadian English that has been lovingly termed “Hinglish.” It’s a dialect I didn’t realize I was fluent in.
Aside from the vocab tutorial, this book also offers practical lessons—like how to make the “best daal ever.” Trust, I was skeptical when I came to this page, and the recipe is missing more than a few measurements, but the end result was so good I would consider serving it to my Nani (grandmother, a.k.a. absolute pro at making all foods from the motherland). Qamar even provides a career guide for readers who, like me, realized that they weren’t destined to be the doctors, engineers, or at the very least, MBA-holding business people that aunties typically praise. (Fun fact: the LOL-worthy job map on page 41 concluded that I should be a journalist, further proving that this girl knows what’s up.)
“Until I started putting my art about the South Asian-American experience into the world, I didn’t know just how many others had gone through the same confusing culture clash while trying to find their way,” writes Qamar. “If you thought you were alone in dealing with the overwhelming, meddling, yet oddly comforting attention of the aunties in your life, I’ve written this book for you.”
While Trust No Aunty is full of essential tips for living while brown, it isn’t exclusively for readers who can relate to Qamar’s cultural background. If you are one of the more than 101,000 people who follows Hatecopy on Instagram, these pages will provide insight into some of Qamar’s most iconic works. Typically, it looks like a single square out of a comic book, but this book provides a context that will have you seeing even her classic pieces in a new way.
I may not be an aunty yet, but it’s comforting to know that by the time I become one, the next generation will have this guide to know how to deal—and that they’re not alone.
Meet Babbu the Painter, Indo-Canadian Art Star
How Rupi Kaur Became the Voice of her Generation
Meet FLARE 60 Under 30 Honoree Maria Qamar—a.k.a. Hatecopy
Young, Muslim & Tattooed: How I Stayed True to Myself