Diversity in Fiction

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Maxim Trevelyan
Comet 180
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Diversity in Fiction

Post by Maxim Trevelyan »

In the past decade or so, there has been a rise in novels and literature in general, with diverse casts of characters. Protagonists (and other characters) with a different color of skin, sexuality, nationality, faith or with a disability let us approach the book's themes in more engaging ways and captivate different perspectives. People also appreciate seeing themselves in these characters, more so when the representation is positive, since it shows that people like these exist, that they are complex and unique. However, there are pieces of literature that have diversity just for diversity's sake, to pander and stereotype, which can actually be harmful to marginalized groups.

Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden is a wonderful piece of LGBT literature. That is surprising, since it was written in the 1980s, when the times were not as kind to non-heterosexuals as they might be now. The story talks about Liza, a high-school student that wants to become an architect. She falls in love with Annie, a girl she met on a trip to a museum.

There is something about the way Garden writes the story that makes it seem really honest and organic. The girls do not fall in love instantly, but it is a long process that is not without its tribulations. The fights and other problems they, as lesbians, faced just makes the relationship that much real. Because I am a secret romantic at heart, I was happy to see that the story had a happy ending. Later on, it was even confirmed by the author herself that Liza and Annie stayed together after reconnecting at the end of the book.

I read Marked by P.C. and Kristin cast out of sheer curiosity around the time it first came out. A lot of my female friends were crazy about it, so I decided to give it a chance. It did not particularly interest me, so I stopped reading it. Few weeks ago, I reread it, to see if it was still as dull as I remember and oh boy. It was even worse.

Damien, the gay vampyre fledgling who becomes friends with Zoey is so stereotypically gay that it is frankly insulting. It is obvious he is just a token gay character (Gay Best Friend) to make the book more appealing, without really bringing anything to the table but his forced smarts. He, and the others as well, are written terribly flat and one-note, without really being fleshed out in this book, or others, from what I have read. Damien in particular only has two characteristics: being gay and being cute. The other description that authors use when introducing Damien is also highly offensive and demeans coming out and feminine-acting gay people. Not to mention that in the later books Damien’s boyfriend, Jack, dies, another trope example, this time Bury Your Gays. Worse, his death is only used as a tool to get Zoey away from a location she was at.

What books with diverse protagonists and other characters have you read? Do you think they are an example of a good or bad representation?

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