- Anonymous asked
Because our lives are not defined by romance and sex and we deserve better and more diverse stories than that.
"If straight people don’t get to gawk over your sex lives then what’s the point of you existing?"
I’m both laughing and crying that anyone even asked this question without seeing how terrible that is, but also because representation for queer people has failed so relentlessly that it’s bred this idea that unless sex or romance is the topic of the story, queer people don’t need to be apart of it.
You are 12. You’re at the library looking for some generic young adult fiction novel about a girl who falls for her best friend. Your dad makes a disgusted face. “This is about lesbians,” he says. The word falls out of his mouth as though it pains him. You check out a different book and cry when you get home, but you aren’t sure why. You learn that this is not a story about you, and if it is, you are disgusting.
You are 15. Your relatives are fawning over your cousin’s new boyfriend. “When will you have a boyfriend?” they ask. You shrug. “Maybe she’s one of those lesbians,” your grandpa says. You don’t say anything. You learn that to find love and acceptance from your family, you need a boyfriend who thinks you are worthy of love and acceptance.
You are 18. Your first boyfriend demands to know why you never want to have sex with him. He tells you that sex is normal and healthy. You learn that something is wrong with you.
You are 13. You’re at a pool party with a relative’s friend’s daughter. “There’s this lesbian in my gym class. It’s so gross,” she says. “Ugh, that’s disgusting,” another girl adds. They ask you, “do you have any lesbians at your school?” You tell them no and they say you are lucky. You learn to stay away from other girls.
You are 20. You have coffee with a girl and you can’t stop thinking about her for days afterwards. You learn the difference between a new friendship and new feelings for a person.
You are 13. Your mom is watching a movie. You see two girls kiss on screen. You feel butterflies and this sense that you identify with the girls on the screen. Your mom gets up and covers the screen. You learn that if you are like those girls, no one wants to see it.
You are 20. You and your friends are drunk and your ex-boyfriend dares you to make out with your friend. You both agree. You touch her face. It feels soft and warm. Her lips are small and her hands feel soft on your back. You learn the difference between being attracted to someone and recognizing that someone you care about is attractive.
You are 16. You find lesbian porn online. Their eyes look dead and their bodies are positioned in a way that you had never imagined. You learn that liking girls is acceptable if straight men can decide the terms.
You are 20. You are lying next to a beautiful girl and talking about everything. You tell her things that you don’t usually tell anyone. You learn how it feels not to want to go to sleep because you don’t want to miss out on any time with someone.
You are 18. You are in intro to women’s and gender studies. “Not all feminists are lesbians- I love my husband! Most of the feminists on our leadership team are straight! It’s just a stereotype,” the professor exclaims. You learn that lesbianism is something to separate yourself from.
You are 15. Your parents are talking about a celebrity. Your dad has a grin on his face and says, “her girlfriend says that she’s having the best sex of her life with her!” You learn that being a lesbian is about the kind of sex you have and not how you love.
You are 21 and you are kissing a beautiful girl and she’s your girlfriend and you understand why people write songs and make movies and stupid facebook statuses about this and time around you just seems to stop and you could spend forever like this and you learn that there is nothing wrong with you and you are falling in love.
You are 21. And you are okay.
- somekindof-salvation asked
^ ^ ^
Wow, it’s almost like ALL children deserve to see themselves in media, not just the cis straight white abel-bodies neuro-typical ones.
hey, remember how everyone was like “holy shit, actual black girl protagonist in historical fantasy” when Kate Elliott’s Cold Magic came out?
remember how she at least looked sorta brown on the cover? a little bit?
now, this cover is pretty goddamn whitewashed compared to the book’s descriptions
but here is the kindle cover art
blue eyes and everything.
they’re not even fucking trying, are they
look at how similar the designs are
down to the hairstyle, the swirly overlay, and the gear in the background
literally the only thing they changed was making her whiter, and turning all the brown design elements blue
THEY WERE LITERALLY LIKE “I CAN SEE NO WAY TO IMPROVE THIS COVER DESIGN EXCEPT TO USE A WHITER GIRL”
Wowwww. And they kept everything else the same, so it’s not even like they wanted to change the pattern design or anything, it’s like “we like that cover, but she’s not white looking enough…”
Young adult author Veronica Roth’s bestselling dystopia Divergent has a main character of color—but it’s not exactly directly stated in the series. Discerning readers noted that Roth’s main character Tobias, aka “Four,” was never explicitly mentioned as being white. After affirming in a Tumblr post last year that the character was actually biracial, Roth noted that she pictured him having light skin but later vowed to “use her words” to make sure that her wishes for a diverse cast were known in the event of a movie.
“I really hate whitewashing,” Roth wrote. “I really do. It’s VERY important to me that it not happen.”
But when the announcement of Four’s casting came in March, Roth’s priorities had shifted:
"Recently I saw Theo James’ screen test with Shailene Woodley, and I was sure within seconds: this was ‘Four,’ no question. Theo is able to capture ‘Four’s’ authority and strength, as well as his depth and sensitivity. He is a perfect match for Shailene’s incredibly strong presence as Tris. I’m thrilled!"
The problem? Theo James is white.
By Malinda Lo
[Image: The book cover for Inheritance (left); the author, Malinda Lo (right)]
Yesterday my novel Inheritance, the sequel to Adaptation, was published. Inheritance picks up minutes after the end of Adaptation, and I think of the two books as one big story cut in two halves. They’re X-Files-inspired science fiction thrillers about a 17-year-old girl, Reese Holloway, who has to uncover what exactly happened to her and her friend David Li while they were unconscious at a secret military base in Nevada following a freak car accident.
My first two novels, Ash and Huntress, were YA fantasies about queer girls. Ash was a lesbian retelling of Cinderella, and Huntress was inspired by Chinese and Japanese traditions. I am both a lesbian and a Chinese American, and the subject of my identity comes up often when I do interviews or panels. So, when Adaptation came out, I was known for writing YA about nonstraight, nonwhite characters. That’s fine — up to a point.
Last fall, I did several events to promote Adaptation. At one of them, someone in the audience asked, “Is Reese white and straight in order to make Adaptation more mainstream?”
(Talk about a loaded question!)
I answered, firstly: “What makes you think Reese is straight?”
The person who asked that question had only read the first paragraph of the jacket copy, which described Reese’s feelings about David: “Reese and her debate team partner and longtime crush David are in Arizona when it happens.”
She hadn’t read down to the end yet, when a girl named Amber is mentioned: “When Reese unexpectedly collides with the beautiful Amber Gray, her search for the truth is forced in an entirely new direction…”
The jacket copy didn’t spell it out because we didn’t want to spoil the plot (although personally I think it’s pretty suggestive), but let me tell you: Reese is not straight. This is an assumption you should never make — not in fiction, and not in real life.
But the question of whether I made Reese white in order to make the book more mainstream has a much more complicated answer.
Was I tempted to make her white because … well, everybody knows that books about white people sell more? To be honest, of course that thought crossed my mind. It probably crosses the mind of every author out there writing about people of color. And if it doesn’t cross their mind, someone will suggest it to them.
But let me ask you this: Should authors who have written about people of color in the past never be allowed to write about white people?
And here’s another question: Since I’m a person of color, should I only write about people of color?
The answer to both questions, in my opinion, is no. As a writer, I’m allowed to write about whatever the hell I want. As a writer of color, I’m allowed to write about people who are not like me. The same goes for every writer out there.
Also: It is not a crime to want your book to do well in the marketplace. Some writers write only from the heart; others write almost entirely thinking about the bank. I’m going to bet that most writers fall somewhere in between, like me. I need to be creatively inspired to write, but at the same time, I know that the creative decisions I make can push a book in various directions: literary, niche, commercial, somewhere in between. I’m lucky that I’m married to someone who has a “real job,” and I don’t need to depend wholly on the income from my writing to support myself.
Because of that privilege, I have the luxury of writing the books I want to write. In Adaptation, the main character is white. Does that make the book more mainstream? I don’t know, because not only is she not straight, she’s involved in a bisexual love triangle with another girl (Amber) and a boy who is Asian American (David).
And there are so many racist stereotypes about Asian men.
In Hollywood, Asians are rarely if ever leading men because Asian men are either kung fu experts (who still don’t get the girl) or nerds. Bruce Lee or Long Duk Dong. There’s no in between. And in real life, plenty of women — women of all races — embrace these stereotypes by saying they would never date an Asian man.
[Image: Bruce Lee (left) and the character Long Duk Dong (right) from the movie Sixteen Candles.]
I have a father who is half Chinese. I have a Chinese American brother. I’m married to a woman now, but my ex-boyfriend, whom I was with for five years, was also Chinese American. Those stereotypes about Asian men make me really angry. That’s why I wanted to write a book in which an Asian American boy was a romantic lead. I wanted him to be sexy and strong and smart.
And I admit I thought his desirability would be underscored if he dated a white girl. I would be flipping the established, often very racist practice of white men being with exotic Asian women. I was purposely subverting that stereotype.
For me, the decision to make Reese white was tangled up in all of these complicated things. It wasn’t a simple, white = commercial success decision. And while I do think Adaptation and Inheritance are more commercial than my previous books, it’s not because the main character is white. It’s because the style I wrote it in is more commercial. It is, frankly, less literary than Ash or Huntress. It’s a science fiction thriller, and things actually do explode in it. There are conspiracies, and men in black, and Area 51, and a love triangle that I think is pretty darn sexy.
Whether or not it’s “mainstream” is for the market to determine, not me, though I freely admit that I’ve always written more for the mainstream than for the experimental fringe. I know that mainstream can have connotations of blandness and whitewashing, but it can also indicate acceptance and success. I don’t think it’s wrong — especially not for an Asian American lesbian — to hope for some of that.
Caring about diversity seems to me like the absolute bare minimum standard of decency.
I remember when I was still in school, I went to a gathering of people in my city, an informal fantasy nerds book group. So, we were all talking about books, and the subject of this one book series with a gay romance in it arose, and I began to tear it to pieces: I thought it was terribly written, I had to let everybody know how just so, so bad it was. And a girl who I hadn’t met before that day looked me dead in the eyes and said: “Those books saved my life.”
I sat there and stared at her, until I found my voice and said: “Wow, I’m so sorry, I was being an asshole.” She was very nice about it: she went “Eh, yeah” and then I asked her for some book recommendations and she asked me for some.
I was describing Unspoken to another writer, and I won’t say who they were but they are New York Times bestselling, and she reacted to the diverse elements of it saying “I wouldn’t do that: you can’t afford to do that with the sales of your last series, you can do those things after you’re successful” and I couldn’t help but remember that girl saying “Those books saved my life” and feel sick that anyone would ever say that. So I wrote the book the way I planned. I’m not saying I did a good job, or even a sufficient job, and it’s no excuse for the things I got wrong, but I did always remember that even doing what I’d thought was a lousy job, those books helped people by having representation. There’s no excuse for not trying.
I’m worried this story makes me sound self-congratulatory or big-headed: I don’t mean it that way. Nobody should ever be congratulated for having basic empathy. It’s normal to want to throw up if someone says something terrible to you. Other authors do a much better job of writing diversely than me–still more other authors, who don’t get the chance to be published because of institutional prejudice, would do a much better job than me. I’m just using the story to illustrate why I think diversity should be important to everyone. I just want to write good stories–and that means stories that are inclusive–and try not to be an irredeemable jerk. (Sometimes I fail at both those things.)
- wareve asked
Good question! Tumblr followers, what do you think?
- lilyotters asked
I’m not familiar with this book series or adaptation. My understanding is that the character Rose is of Turkish ancestry from her father’s side?
“People have no idea how often this happens. I have seen similar things happen to almost every writer I know who has written characters of color prominent enough so they could be on their covers.
Sometimes these writers get whitewashed covers they are forced to swallow… Sometimes the covers get changed, but if the books sell badly the covers (and the writers) are blamed, and the writer may not get another contract. People are being punished in this way, for writing characters of color, every day.“