Writer / Reader / Fandom Extraordinaire
Chiara / November 30, 2016 , Wed / books & reading, lgbtqia

Whenever readers talk about the lack of LGBTQIA+ characters in a book or series, there are varied negative responses. A lot of these are along the lines of:

1) Write your own book with LGBTQIA+ characters, then.

2) Friendships are important. Why can’t we have friendships anymore?

3) The author owns these characters. She/he/they don’t have to write LGBTQIA+ characters.

Sure, there are other responses, but these three above are the ones that I most often see floating around the book community.

And, because I am sick of seeing these excuses given in response to asking for LGBTQIA+ characters in a book or series and legitimate discussions about the lack of diversity in the YA publishing world I thought I’d write a little something about it.

1) You know, I actually am writing my own book with LGBTQIA+ characters in them. I’ve written two already, in fact. But that does not detract from the fact that I want to see LGBTQIA+ characters outside the books I write myself. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to see them in a series that I’ve invested time and money into. It doesn’t mean that suddenly my desire to see LGBTQIA+ characters in the pages of books disappears because I’ve written my own.

And furthermore, if a reader wants something – if a reader wants to see themselves in the books they read – it is not up to that reader to do it. There is no responsibility for readers to write what they know, or what is lacking in the book industry. To put such a responsibility and weight on the shoulders of marginalised readers just shines a light on the privilege of the people saying they should write the books themselves.

2) This one actually almost makes me laugh more than it makes me angry because the complete dearth of canonically queer romantic relationships negates the entire claim. Please, name one friendship that actually resulted in any kind of queer romantic relationship. I will wait. Literally. I will wait because it will take you a long time (if not forever) to name one of these precious friendships of yours that has actually moved beyond friendship and into the realm of beautiful, queer love.

3) Oh, naïve and ignorant person. Have you never heard of The Death of the Author or New Criticism? The author holds rights to their words, yes. But they do not hold rights to interpretation of their characters. They are not the be all and end all of how their readers will perceive a character’s emotions, actions, and relationships. Yes, they wrote them. No, they do not own them. Once a book is out in the world the author is not the sole authority on how their text is going to be interpreted. In fact, The Death of the Author and New Criticism all but deny any relation of the author to the text, except for the fact that the author wrote the words.

You do not get to tell readers how to perceive a character. You do not get to tell readers who to ship. You do not get to tell readers that whatever the author says goes because it just does not work like that. The author is the creator, sure. But the author does not hold some kind of god like power over every single interpretation of what they have written. They cannot argue with readers (although we have seen this happen, horribly so) over who their characters are. They cannot tell a reader that, in fact, they read those two characters incorrectly and that there is just unequivocally no homoerotic subtext between that prince and his guard.

It just does not work like that.

Now, sadly, I know that just because what these people are saying is nonsense it doesn’t mean they won’t keep saying it (I mean, look at the real world media lately). But I just hope that if you are one of the people having these ridiculous things said to you – don’t believe it. You can want LGBTQIA+ characters, you don’t have the responsibility to write those characters, and you can ship whoever the damn hell you want to ship. Because that’s how reading works. It works for the reader, not against them. And you can ask for diversity. You can ask for representation. You can ask for an author to do better. Because you’re the reader. Because you’re supposed to be the person that the publishing industry is doing this for.

Chiara / November 3, 2016 , Thu / writing

I am incredibly excited to share a small piece of publication news with you all today!

I recently submitted a piece to The Regal Fox, a site for sharing writing of all kinds, of which pertain to a certain theme (or themes). When I saw that one of the current themes was bookish, I knew that  had a story that fitted it perfectly. I wrote The Beginning quite some time ago, and I don’t really mind if it’s egotistical to say that I love it. I think, when writers are so often filled with self deprecation and the feeling of not being good enough, it is important to know and to own the moments when we feel proud and in love with something we’ve written.

So, I was extremely humbled and squealy when Amanda and Jess (the amazing girls who run The Regal Fox) said they wanted to publish my story. This is the first time something of mine has been shared beyond this blog, or friends and family. I really and truly hope you enjoy it, and you can find it right here.

All my love,

Chiara / October 27, 2016 , Thu / this book is lgbtqia

This Book is LGBTQIA+ is my way of putting a spotlight on books that may not be widely recognised as such. I want these books to have as much exposure as they can, and I hope you add some of these titles (or all) to those never-ending TBR piles!

Today’s book is:

spare and found parts by sarah maria griffin

spare-and-found-parts-198x300

Title: Spare and Found Parts

Author: Sarah Maria Griffin

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Genre/s: Sci-fi

Nell Crane has always been an outsider. In a city devastated by an epidemic, where survivors are all missing parts—an arm, a leg, an eye—her father is the famed scientist who created the biomechanical limbs everyone now uses. But Nell is the only one whose mechanical piece is on the inside: her heart. Since the childhood operation, she has ticked. Like a clock, like a bomb. As her community rebuilds, everyone is expected to contribute to the society’s good . . . but how can Nell live up to her father’s revolutionary idea when she has none of her own?

Then she finds a mannequin hand while salvaging on the beach—the first boy’s hand she’s ever held—and inspiration strikes. Can Nell build her own companion in a world that fears advanced technology? The deeper she sinks into this plan, the more she learns about her city—and her father, who is hiding secret experiments of his own.

Why This Book is LGBTQIA+

The main character, Nell, is bisexual! She talks about romance between herself and boys and girls. And she also has a massive crush on a girl who runs a bar. I’m not sure why this book is flying under the radar so much in terms of its queerness, but it’s there. It’s 100% there, and this is genre fiction with a female bi main character. Which is just massive. And amazing.

The book itself is infinitely gorgeous, with prose that will make you envy the author. There’s also a robot guy whose innocence and lack of understanding is adorable.

I was surprised by how much I ended up loving Spare and Found Parts, and you can read my full review here.

(trigger warning: death of a parent, arranged marriage, and heart complications/surgery in this novel)

Chiara / September 28, 2016 , Wed / feminism

I’m a size M in most clothes. I don’t do much in the way of physical exercise. I certainly would not be able to punch someone, or protect myself in a physical fight. I don’t have any weapons in which I am proficient in use. I have long red hair. I like to wear flowery sundresses sometimes, and black corsets at others. I have a bachelor’s degree, an Honours dissertation, and a postgraduate certificate. I don’t have a partner. I care a lot about things like animals and social justice. I cry when something hits me in the soft place of my heart. I have walls and they can be quite hard to break down. I can be sarcastic and funny if the timing is right. I can be hurt by online comments. I am a girl. I am a woman. I am strong.

And yet, a lot of the books I read and the movies and TV shows I watch expect a strong woman to be something that is not me. To be thin. To be extremely beautiful. To be athletic. To be able to hold themselves in a fight. To be closed off to emotions. To not care about things. To be sarcastic and cocky almost all of the time. To not be hurt by the “small” things. These, apparently, are the things that make a woman strong.

And yet, all of the strong women I have met in my life defy this image, this character, this apparition, this ghost, this farce. They may have one or more of these attributes, but they do not fit into the mould that society has created.

I do not have to fight people and kill people and protect my family at the potential cost of death to be strong. I don’t have to win every fight to be strong. I don’t have to overcome everything in my life until they are but naught on my emotional radar to be strong. I don’t have to deny female friendship to be strong. I don’t have to deny comfort to be strong. I don’t have to deny relying on others to be strong.

The things about me that make me strong … are everything. Every part of me is strong. And some of me may fit into the mould of what society thinks a strong woman must look like, but most of it does not.

And the fact that people hold these characters up and say “this is a strong female character”, and “so glad that a character like this exists”, and “this is a kickass female character” make me sad. Because yes, they are strong, and it is good that they exist, and they are kickass. But they are not the definition of strong. They are not the bar to reach to call yourself strong. They are not the strong woman. They are not the only strong women. The way these characters are is not only fictional, but practically unattainable.

And we are saying: this is what you must look like to be strong. This is what you must act like to be strong. This is what you must say to be strong. This is what you must to do be strong. This is what you must be to be strong.

And it is, in a word: wrong. There are so many facets to the word “strong”. There are so many ways to be strong. So many things that make you strong.

I am so utterly and entirely and unequivocally sick of seeing these female characters lauded and praised for being a strong woman when they are not the only ones. You do not have to be like them to be strong. You are strong because you are you. You are a woman. And you are strong. You don’t have to be them. You just have to be you.

You are strong. Just as you are.

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