Showing posts with label middlesex. Show all posts
Showing posts with label middlesex. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hey Authors, Why Is LGBTQ Representation So Hard? | YA Talk

What is LGBTQ*?

LGBTQ* refers to the lesbian/gay/bisexual/trans/queer/and other community.

It basically includes everyone that doesn't identify with the gender they were assigned at birth and/or isn't heterosexual.

What the problem is

If you haven't really paid attention to the lgbtq community before, you probably didn't even know it existed. 
In the common media, all we get is gay representation in form of mostly homosexual men. I mean, there's a token fashion-savvy gay best friend in every romantic comedy movie set in New York. I didn't even know there were such things as pansexuality, asexuality, or even genderqueerness before I dove into the topic after reading David Levithan's "Boy Meets Boy" at university.

And this is the root of the problem. I'm not saying it's your fault if you had/have no idea what all these terms mean. It's not your fault that you've been brought up in a world were everyone is assumed to be heterosexual and identifying as either male or female. 

There are very few books that deal with gender and sex without exclusively being about gender and sex. Most books including LGBTQ* characters are also about coming out. I'm not saying we don't need these, but I'm saying that we need more books that casually feature LGBTQ* characters. 

Why not make your protagonist a bisexual woman? Why not make them indifferent to sexuality or identifying as indifferent to the concept of gender? It sounds far-fetched, but people like this do exist, and there are a lot of them. You'd be surprised as to how many people (even your friends) probably aren't heterosexual. We just assume that everyone is because we are bombarded with white heterosexual characters in all media all the time.

Take a look at popular culture!

Can you name a single super popular book with a main character that identifies as other than straight, or is simply assumed to be heterosexual without needing to mention it? Probably not, if it's not a book about specifically queer issues.

I don't understand what's so difficult about this. You may argue that most writers tend to write what they know about and maybe might shoo away from writing about LGBTQ* characters when they're heterosexual themselves. (Just the fact that I have to pretend for the sake of this argument that every writer is heterosexual is ridiculous...)

Well, I have news for you:

The job of a writer is to make stuff. They make stuff up, and sometimes even base that stuff on real events. If they do, they have to do some research. You can't tell me that someone is able to research everything about 18th century France to write a historical romance, but can't be bothered to do some research on queer issues to make it a novel about an asexual in 18th century France? Well, if you can't do that, you probably shouldn't be a writer. 

I'm not saying that every writer has to write about queer characters, I'm saying that instead of jamming out the 16th  book about a white straight girl falling in love with a mysterious dark-haired poetry-loving semi villain boy, they should try writing about a white gay boy falling in love with that same mysterious dark-haired poetry-loving semi villain boy. 

LGBTQ* people exist and I think they are worth representation just as much as heterosexuals. 

Here are some queer YA reads to get you started:

(links leading to goodreads)

  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (lesbian)
  • Luna by Julie Anne Peters (transgender)
  • Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan (gay)
  • Ash by Malinda Yo (lesbian)
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (intersex)
  • Every Day by David Levithan (pansexual, agender)

What are your thoughts on LGBT* reads?

Any recommendations?

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

[Review] Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides: Somewhere In-Between

In "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides we meet Calliope Stephanides who was born with ambiguos genitalia. The novel tells her entire life story starting at how their grandparents met up until Calliope choosing to become "Cal".

This is a very, very, very important read. Eugenides is just the master of putting so much message into his novels that the stay with you for a long time. I actually wrote a term paper in my advanced literature course about this novel and I could go on for pages and pages why you should give it a try. I am aware that the topic of hermaphroditism isn't for everyone and this is clearly not a novel for entertainment but family chronic of some sorts. It's not very easy to read and I found myself having to start over and over again because it's very hard not to dose off. Eugenides describes every oh so little detail, which may be important if you see it in the bigger picture but for the read it's just very difficult to keep on reading and don't start skimming. (Writing 1/5)

It's very interesting to see it all come together in the end, the reason for Calliope's hermaphroditism beign the incestual relationship of their grandparents and her deciding not to remain somewhere in the middle of two sexes (middlesex, get it? Eugenides, you sneaky genius), but choosing one sex that she wants to keep. I just have a faible for novels that give it all to me, all the backstory, the entire life of a character without ommitting anything. Yes, it's difficult to read this, especially because Calliope goes through so much character development (obviously, the novel is written about a span of more than 80 years!!). Still I loved all characters. From Calliope's brother to her lovers and of course her grandparents. I suffered through every character death (which is inevitable, given it's 80 years time we're talking about and not everyone can be Gandalf). I learned so much about hermaphroditism during this novel and to the extent that someone who doesn't suffer from this can judge, Eugenides captures Calliope's feelings masterfully. (Characters 4/5)

Aside from the difficult topic, the novel's length is a major problem. Nothing's ommitted, every single detail from Calliope's and her ancestors' lives gets a part. Essentially this is somewhat of a biography of a fictional character rather than a novel. I especially enjoyed the romance her and her childhood friend, because it was written so innocently and beautifully (Plot 1/5).

 Rating: ★★☆☆☆


Overall: Do I Recommend?

This isn't for everyone. Incest isn't a very light topic and in combination with a lot of sexuality and graphic descriptions, this might scare a lot of people off. However, I think you're missing out because it's important to deal with topics like hermaphroditism.The novel made me be thankful for what I have.

Official Synopsis:
"In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides, a student at a girls' school in Grosse Pointe, finds herself drawn to a chain-smoking, strawberry-blonde classmate with a gift for acting. The passion that furtively develops between them - along with Callie's failure to develop physically - leads Callie to suspect that she is not like other girls. In fact, she is not really a girl at all.
The explanation for this shocking state of affairs is a rare genetic mutation - and a guilty secret - that have followed Callie's grandparents from the crumbling Ottoman Empire to Prohibition-era Detroit and beyond, outlasting the glory days of the Motor City, the race riots of 1967, and the family's second migration, into the foreign country known as suburbia. Thanks to the gene, Callie is part girl, part boy. And even though the gene's epic travels have ended, her own odyssey has only begun.

Spanning eight decades - and one unusually awkward adolescence - Jeffrey Eugenides' long-awaited second novel is a grand, original fable of crossed bloodlines, the intricacies of gender, and the deep, untidy promptings of desire."

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