Books, Identity, and Representation

My all-time favorite author is probably A.E Dooland for her Under My Skin series. Seriously guys, my best friend introduced me to this maybe a year and a half ago, and since then I’ve bought it in 3 different formats, (lightly) stalked the author on tumblr, and formed an, arguably, healthy attachment to the main character, a non-binary Asian person named Min, and her struggle to come to terms with who she is. I love going back to re-read this. It’s such a well told, yet stressful story. I supposed the fact that it induces anxiety is what makes it so realistic. Seriously guys, reading this made me want to pull my hair out. A.E Dooland did an amazing job of capturing the almost immobilizing stress of everyday life as a closeted queer person.

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I’m super excited because A.E Dooland is currently in the process of releasing her final installment of the Under My Skin series. I must admit, I am significantly sadder than what is socially acceptable for this situation. A part of me really doesn’t want to let this go (the other part has seen what happens when a series goes on for too long and is extremely happy she’s ending it. Full shade: I’m looking at you, J.K.)

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I don’t remember exactly, but I do believe Val gave me this book, partially, because I enjoy writing Trans characters too. She said something to the effect of, “you’d like this…” and then made me read it (thanks val.). I’m not trans myself, but I am queer as fuck and I dunno, representation is important and shit. I don’t think I need to say this, but…it is so fucking important to see yourself presented as normal and valid in everyday things. I literally refuse to consume media that isn’t diverse to prove this point. I have been told that is “taking it too far” but I think Cisgendered Heterosexuals “take it too far” so… I’m gonna sit in my corner and happily consume my queer, colored media and I don’t want to hear anything about it.

Because Under My Skin is my favorite series, and its ending, I’ve been recommending it every chance I get. If we’re talking about trans representation in class, I offer this book as an example of it done realistically, and with sensitivity. If we’re talking about salads, I offer this book as a great read with your lunch.

I’ve gotten more push back about this than I’d like to admit. Its honestly embarrassing, because the people I recommend to are supposedly “open to diversity”. Yet, I found myself having to defend Min as a transgender character, repeatedly.

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I had one guy ask me some bullshit like, “What about white gay people? Why does she have to be Asian and Trans for you to read it.” In his defense, he wanted to know that I could defend myself when seriously asked questions like this. But also, fuck him, the devil has enough advocates.

But to answer his question…

In the words of the legendary Jordan Peele, “I’ve seen that.”

In class today, we read an article (that was about exclusion in queer spaces, but is still relevant to my point) by Rae Rosenberg that said “As certain queer bodies become normalized, those rendered nonnormative and unintelligible face material exclusion from spaces that foster and uphold the production of exclusionary practices and policies.” Rosenberg went on to quote Jon Binnie as she spoke about the prominence of certain queer identities dominating queer spaces. This forces people who are not normalized to seek out what is called “other spaces” while “safe spaces” become “same spaces”, a place where only a certain type of queer identity is ‘allowed’.

So, again. I’ve seen that. I’ve read that. I’m good, thanks. And don’t get me wrong, I love that gay representation is on a rise. But when that representation is almost exclusive to only white gays, where the fuck does that leave me? Or other brown queer people?

A big part of my appeal to this story is the fact that Min is Asian and Trans. She’s both. Her identity is intersectional. MY identity is intersectional as a black, gay woman. I love that shit. I wanna see more of that shit.

Along with not consuming media in which I feel my community is not adequately represented in, I also don’t really write about normalized queer bodies as often. My characters are all queer people of color. This isn’t a conditional “unless I say so,” kind of thing either. I will never say otherwise.

In my opinion, if whiteness, heterosexuality, or homophobia doesn’t contribute to my plot, then its not in my plot. I can see where people might argue that this is a form of exclusion, and thus we are coming full circle, but to that I say, you have your inclusion, let me have mine. Stop being stingy.

Also read the Under My Skin series. It’s really good. Thanks.

 

4 comments

  1. Thanks for the reminder. I enjoyed Solve for i and Min’s character is fascinating to me. I read it initially for the neurodivergent mc, but Min as really interesting. I hope this book is released in audio soon like the first book.

    And for everyone saying what about the white gays, seriously, wtf? That rep is EVERYWHERE! One of the reasons I read is to learn something new. I want more diversity because it helps me understand the world, which is definitely not just white folks.

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  2. Thanks for writing this post, Anika. Representation is EVERYTHING for readers and writers who frequently find themselves omitted from literature. Whether it concerns race, gender identity, sexuality, nationality, age, degrees of physical ability, or socio-economic status, the absence is hurtful. It leaves readers hungry for affirmation and writers starved from the experience of seeing life from different perspectives. If you’re planning to attend the GCLS Con in July, please consider coming to a session that I’m going to present, OTHER FACES, OTHER PLACES. I would welcome your voice during our conversation.

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