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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 / September 7, 2016 , Wed / books & reading, lgbtqia

There’s been a lot of talk about diversity lately, and I have more serious thoughts on this that will at some point be transcribed into a post. But, for now, I wanted to share some LGBTQIA+ books that are coming out in the future that I am really excited to read about. Hopefully you’ll be won over by them all, and will add them to your TBR, buy them, or ask your library to get them. Here we go:

1) Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

labyrinth lost

A bisexual Latina main character with magical powers? Add in a gorgeous cover, plus the fact that this book is #ownvoices, and I am 100% sold on it.

2) Boy Robot by Simon Curtis

boy robot

As you can see from the Goodreads description, there is not much to know about Boy Robot. YET. But sci-fi queer YA makes me incredibly happy, so I’m keen to find out more about it and see what it’s like.

3) Look Past by Eric Devine

look past

A transboy MC in a mystery/thriller? It is like the bookish gods have gifted me. And so did Net Galley, because it’s “read now” over there. Go, go, go.

4) Marian by Ella Lyons

marian

An f/f retelling of Robin Hood. I was on board from the moment I heard about it. I love me some queer retellings, and I’ve been wanting this one for a pretty long time now. I’m excited to read the e-ARC I have (smugly grinning over here), and share my thoughts once I’ve read it!

5) When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

when the moon was ours

A trans MC falling in love with his best friend? Roses growing out of skin? SO MUCH MAGIC. I really, really hope that there is an adorable friends-to-lovers romance in this book because that would make my life, let’s be real. I pre-ordered the crap outta this book a long time ago.

6) A Good Idea by Cristina Moracho

a good idea

Another mystery/thriller, this time with a bisexual female main character looking for her best friend, who goes missing. I am so blessed with the books right now because lord knows this one is needed in my life. ASAP.

7) Beast by Brie Spangler

beast

A queer retelling of Beauty and the Beast, where Belle is trans. I … have a might need for this book. I really, really hope that the story is beautiful and gorgeous and respectful and done well because then it would be magical in so many ways.

8) Nowhere Near You by Leah Thomas

nowhere near you

I am so incredibly excited that Because You’ll Never Meet Me is getting this sequel! I want that gorgeous friendship between Ollie and Moritz again. I also kinda want them to fall in love, but that is severe wishful thinking on my part, I believe. But still. All the cheers for having these boys again!

9) Bad Boy by Elliot Wake

bad boy

Also pre-ordered the crap outta this book because of everything. The story, the author, #ownvoices – literally everything. SO EXCITED TO READ IT OMG.

And there we have it. A small collection of queer books that I am really, really excited about (if you couldn’t tell already by my little description thingies above). Are there any LGBTQIA+ books coming out that you’re excited about?

Chiara / December 3, 2015 , Thu / books & reading, general

The question of “is it the book, or is it you?” can also pertain to movies, and TV shows. So in all reality, the title should probably have been “is it the source, or is it you?” but I wanted to reel people in, and ‘source’ doesn’t really get the point across as well. BUT ANYWAY.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but I still haven’t really ascertained an answer. I think it depends on what book you’ve read or movie/TV show you watched, and what kind of love comes from it. Hang on, let me explain.

example #1: book

raven boys

The Raven Cycle is one of my all time favourite series, discovered only at the beginning of this year. Now, while I REALLY enjoyed reading the books (the first and third were five stars, and the second was four stars, you can catch my reviews here), it was everything outside of the book that made it special. Talking about it with friends, making playlists, writing fanfic, reading friends’ fanfic.

My love for The Raven Cycle stopped essentially being just ABOUT TRC, but rather about all the things that came from it. Friendships, fun, conversations, analyses, fanfic. All of the stuff that is still centred on the books, but actually coming from me and what I put into my love for the books. Transforming it from just a: I love this series!!!!! feeling to: I am going to buy things with Ronan’s face on it, and write sexy AF fanfic, and make playlists, and scroll through every page of Maggie Stiefvater’s Tumblr just so I can compile all the songs she tagged with JUST Ronan and Adam.

So was it the book(s) that made this series so special, or was it what I took from them and made my own?

example #2: tv show

merlin

I barely have the words to describe what this show means to me, to be honest. My love for it knows no bounds. At all.

This is slightly different to TRC, though, because whereas my “outside” love for TRC began practically as soon as I read it, my “outside” love for Merlin didn’t start until the show had actually ended. I adored every minute of watching it, cried every tear in my body when it was finished, and loved it for itself without engaging this love in anything beyond the show.

I started to miss the show, and created a Tumblr account just to reblog Merlin related things, and made friends who love the show as much as I do. And then I started writing fanfic, and my friends read the fanfic, and I forced persuaded them to then go and watch the show. (I also purchased a ridiculous amount of beautiful fanart.)

So I think in this case the boundary between ‘the source’ and ‘me’, was clearer. My intense love for the show required nothing but what it gave me. This love only grew once I started adding to this love myself.

example #3: movie

p and p

When this movie released on DVD I rented it from my local DVD rental store, and returned it before watching it. And then, about two years later, my best friend was talking about how much she loved it, and then we watched it. We had to pause the movie every five minutes for her to explain exactly what the hell the characters were actually saying, and I naively thought that Mr Wickham was a slighted poor soul (oh how I was wrong), but I loved every second of it.

From then on, it became one of our traditions. We’d watch it regularly and flail about Mr Darcy (especially the hand flex), and swoon along to the soundtrack. It was one of our most precious ~things~.

I think it’s pretty clear from the fact that I didn’t watch it when I had the chance that as beautiful and gorgeous as this movie is, it was the happiness and measure of closeness that it brought to my best friend and I that made it so special to me. Without that, I think it would have probably remained unwatched, or at best a movie I thought was lovely. It would never have become one of my favourite movies that I somehow manage to watch without much time passing at all. It was me, in this case. I am sure of it.

But there are other cases when I’m really not sure if it is the source or me that makes something special. Perhaps it is some magical mesh of the two of them. Because no matter how much outside love I bring to something, if the source didn’t exist, the love wouldn’t either. But I also think that outside love can make something infinitely more special, because it becomes more than just a book, or a TV show, or a movie. It becomes the thing that gives you inspiration, or happiness, or a beloved tradition.

Let me know your thoughts! Is it the source, or you? Or a mix between the two?

Chiara / October 16, 2015 , Fri / books & reading, lgbtqia

Okay, this post might not be as to-the-point as the title infers, but I was recently watching In The Flesh (WATCH IT, I TELL YOU. WATCH IT), and whilst marvelling at the wonder of a queer main character in mainstream media of the non-contemporary kind I also wondered: where are the queer main characters in mainstream books of the non-contemporary kind?

Now, I know that there are spec fic (speculative fiction like fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal) LGBTQIA+ Young Adult titles out there, but I want more (I guess I’m greedy). I know it’s great when there are LGBTQIA+ characters in mainstream spec fic books (like Alec and Magnus in City of Bones and its consecutives), but I want more than side characters with a few chapters. I want a novel about a boy who meets and falls in love with a fae boy, or a girl who doesn’t have any kind of sexual or romantic relationship with a character, or a transguy fighting demons. I want that really badly. And I don’t think I’m getting enough of it.

It seems that 90% of the spec fic titles floating around the YA-sphere feature heterosexual cisgender couples, and I am completely and 100% bored with them. I have seen the cis girl falls for forbidden cis guy trope one thousand trillion times. But I’ve never really seen cis girl falls for forbidden cis girl. Or ever seen cis guy falls for forbidden transguy. Or much of anything but cishet couples.

The really sad part is that I am most certainly not the only one thinking this. Whilst LGBTQIA+ YA contemporary titles are increasing in numbers (bless), I am still left casting my line far and wide for the equivalent spec fic titles. Why? I find myself asking. Is it because spec fic readers are confined by heteronormativity and cisnormativity? Is it because agents or publishers looking for spec fic titles are confined by heteronormativity and cisnormativity? Why are mainstream LGBTQIA+ spec fic titles just not really around? I’m not entirely sure, and I guess that’s why this topic has been on my mind for a while. Because I want gay zombies, asexual faeries, pansexual vampires, transgender gargoyles – I want spec fic creatures and characters of all sexualities and gender identities, not just the heterosexual and cisgender ones.

Hopefully one day soon my wants will be fulfilled (I like the sound of this), and I’ll have no need for a long line (where are these fishing analogies coming from? I’m vegan for crying out loud) in order to find my LGBTQIA+ spec fic titles. One day. One day I’ll have my gay zombie book, and I’ll be gleeful.

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