I’m sitting here in my Psychoanalytical Criticism class (where I usually write my weekly blog post for this class hehe) and my fingers are itching to write in my blog despite the class requirements being fulfilled.
This is great.
This post has been edited.
So in honor of my blogging class finishing, I’m going to include the giveaway that I featured on my Instagram account here so that more people may enter. Because really, what is a better way to conclude a semester spent talking about the importance of YA books than to give YA books away?
So here is what you have to do to enter #MCGIVEAWAY and win Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave, Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses, and Mary E. Pearson’s The Kiss of Deception.
3 – Tell me in the comment section of my Instagram account what your favourite book EVER is.
Because I am a poor university student I am only shipping to Canada and the United States. I’ll be picking a winner on April 17th, so impress me with your comment if you want to win three AMAZING books.
As promised, this week I am going to tackle controversial topic of lacking LGBTQ representation in young adult literature.
Last week I addressed the lack of diversity in YA novels in terms of ethnicity and race. I talked on how my own desire to read characters who are like me was actually limiting my betterment as a YA critic and instead making me an ignorant reader. I’m trying to change that. In order to confront the lack of LGBTQ representation in YA lit I’m going to first outline my own difficulties in locating LGBTQ based characters and novels in the North American mainstream market.
Two of the issues that I have noticed while shopping for YA lit is that good LGBTQ based literature is either written buy a handful of the same authors or is borderline unavailable. In this, presence is huge. Truthfully, you could go to Google (or to Goodreads especially) and type in “Popular YA LGBT Books”. Doing this will provide you with a list of 411 novels.
“WTF are you talking about Mackenzie? There are tons of YA LGBTQ books out there! All you did was search and you came up with over 400!”
Let me break this down.
I’m not here to toot my own horn, but I am in the bookstore a lot. And while (like I addressed in my last post) I may not buy specific novels if they do not relate/apply to me, I do see the books in the store(s). And I remember them. So of this list of 411 books, the books that I recognized numbered in 31. That is 7.54%. Moreover, the authors of note that were featured near the top of this list featured by Goodreads – meaning that a group of people “shelved” that specific book enough times to place it there – were authors who wrote more than one of the books on the list. They were authors like Patrick Ness, David Levithan, Rainbow Rowell, and Alex Sanchez.
With that being said, you might be thinking – “Who cares if you only recognized 31 books Mackenzie. There are still another 380 LGBTQ books on the list. Why is recognizing them so important?”
The reason I put so much weight into my own ability to recognize pieces of LGBTQ lit boils down to presence and marketing. In the publishing world there is something called the Big Four. The Big Four is the top four English based publishing companies consisting of HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, and Hachette Livre. Of the 411 books featured on the Goodreads list, less than half are by the Big Four publishing houses. That means that the majority of the other books on the list are either published by indie publishing houses or they are self published. Because indie publishing houses and self-published products are generally smaller and have little funds to market their wares, the probability of those books physically making it to large bookselling corporations (like Chapters Indigo) is slim to none. While they may be featured as available online for purchase, customers are less likely to buy online as opposed to in store due to additional shipping and duty charges. All of these factors contribute to the lack of representation among LGBTQ YA novels in store.
With all of this being said, there has been some progress made in the online market of LGBTQ bookselling. In the Canadian market, Chapters Indigo has a whole category of their site dedicated to pieces of adult and YA fiction that revolve around LGBTQ themes (if anyone is interested in perusing their inventory you can follow this link here). While this is all fine and dandy, the inclusion of LGBTQ characters and themes in YA lit is also of particular importance. Of those 411 books on the Goodreads list, the reader has no way of telling which novels feature a LGBTQ protagonist and which books are only on the list because they have a LGBTQ secondary character. One of the ways that authors and agents “pitch” books to be published is by playing the “diversity” card. By including LGBTQ secondary characters, the book can claim diversity while not dealing exclusively with LGBTQ content. While LGBTQ characters are still being represented, they are still being marginalized and treated as accessories to more heterosexual based lit. A YA series that slightly dapples in this is Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments.
This series includes two male characters, Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood, who fall in love with each other. Look guys a homosexual relationship how exciting!
“Mackenzie, you bitch. Stop with your sarcasm and strike-through type. You aren’t funny. What about Cassandra Clare’s The Bane Chronicles? Doesn’t that count for something?”
Well, yes snarky little naysayer. Yes they do. They do count for something. But when you factor in that Clare’s City of Bones was published in 2007 and The Bane Chronicles was published in 2013, why did it take so long for Clare to publish a novel that featured an openly gay protagonist? Further, Clare wrote a prequel trilogy to City of Bones titled The Infernal Devices before The Bane Chronicles was published. If the desire for a story that highlighted a gay protagonist was strong enough to have a book published, why did it take 6 years?
(Although I do bash Clare here, I want to make it clear that any piece of lit that gets people reading is a good piece of lit. But still, Clare’s writing isn’t very good).
I’m going to leave this post with a question for my readers. Despite what I have written thus far, I haven’t addressed why it is specifically important for YA to include LGBTQ subject matter. Why is this so? I know the answer, but I want to see what my readers think.
Until next time, happy reading. 🙂
*Allison from the blog feminist ramblings texted me after my initial publishing of this post to bring up a critical problem with my article. Her point offers a deep analysis of my writing and I totally agree with her. If you read the whole post, you’ll note that I talked on how LGBTQ characters are marginalized in pieces of lit that revolve more heavily around a heterosexual protagonist. She mentioned the importance in pieces of LGBTQ lit to not be published solely to just be published. It is crucial that they are written with meaning and honest/well intent. Because proper LGBTQ YA lit is so far and few between, and is only becoming more relevant now, it is important that if a heterosexual based novel does include accessory LGBTQ relationships properly, that they are commended for it. I want to clarify. I don’t want to belittle Magnus and Alec’s relationship, because it is a fantastic one. It is more so the way that the other characters in the novel (Clary, Jace, etc.) treat homosexuality in favor of heteronormativity that isn’t so great. In the first essay I wrote for this blog, I wrote about how the way Clary insinuates that Simon is gay comes across as a “mean spirited joke”. For clarity, you can look up that post here. The way that homosexuality is dealt with by the other characters in the text is what is in more need of confrontation in this particular novel.
*Another disclaimer. I am aware that not all the characters in Mortal Instruments are characters who favor heteronormativity over the rights of LGBTQ characters. When Alec comes out as gay he does inspire many Clave members to ‘come out of the closet’ so to speak. It is more of the way that the main characters deal with their relationship that I am questioning.
My classes at Brock recently have encouraged a closer analysis of my own interests in YA lit in order to determine how those interests correlate with what lit is pushed by publishing houses and marketing teams.
You’ve guessed it. I’m talking about the white washing of popular YA lit and my own blind consumption of it.
In case anyone cares to learn something from this today, what I am about to take part in is called pleasure critique nexus. It is the critiquing of a concept, genre, or activity that a patron particularly enjoys. Obviously, I quite passionately enjoy YA lit.
Today, I took a look at my bookshelf, and I looked for covers that illustrated a person of colour or featured a protagonist of a skin colour other than white within the story.
There are approx 200 books on this shelf (I haven’t counted so don’t hate if I’m wrong). When I looked through the books I owned for representation of ethnic diversity, this is what I came up with.
Of the approx 200 books on my shelf, there were 7 books that featured a person of colour in a primary position in the story. The books are The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Adieh, Red Queen & Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard, The Walled City by Ryan Graudin, Veronica Roth’s Allegiant, Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, and Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes. In Adieh and Tahir’s novels the protagonists are of an undisclosed middle eastern ethnicity. In Roth’s Divergent trilogy Four, the love interest of the protagonist Tris, is mixed race. I only included Alegiant and not the first two novels because it was only after Insurgent was published that Roth revealed an inconsistency in her writing where Four was in some scenes very pale but in other dark skinned. Moreover, Allegiant is a split narrative with both Tris and Four telling the story. The protagonists in The Walled City and Cinder are both a undisclosed Asian heritage and the protagonist in Aveyard’s books, Mare Barrow, is also of mixed race.
So why is this important? What does this say about me as a reader? What does this say about diversity in YA? Is this more telling of my own interests or of the priorities of the publishing houses that publish these books?
With careful consideration, I think that is a mix between my own fault and the fault of the publishing companies for the lack of diversity. I am a firm believer in everyone wanting to read a book where they can relate to the protagonist. On more than one occasion, I have found myself striving to emulate the characteristics of my favourite heroine in my every day life, and this is by no means a bad thing. However, I am a white, heterosexual, middle class female, and the novels that I read tend to be similar to what I am. If I can’t relate to the character, I usually can’t get into the book.
I’m here to call bullshit on myself and say that this type of attitude is unacceptable.
By reading the same character profile throughout a variety of novels, I am only limiting myself. I am only making myself more ignorant to the colourful vibrant haunting glorious and terrifying novels out there that don’t immediately appeal to me because they arn’t about someone like me. And this is shitty on my part.
So! Here’s to a diverse YA lit 2016. To the readers, have you ever noticed yourself falling into a habit of reading things that are within your comfort zone? What thoughts do you have on diversity within lit (doesn’t have to be YA)?
Next week I’ll be talking on another level of diversity in YA, and that’ll be the lack of LGBTQ relations. I will, however, highlight a few that I have read recently and love. 🙂
While thinking of what to write on for this week’s post, I looked to one of my old blogs where I wrote more colloquially on young adult literature because I wasn’t being marked on it. From there I reintroduced myself to the lovely Tim Wynne-Jones.
Tim Wynne-Jones is a Canadian author who has written more than 20 novels within the genres of adult to young adult to children’s lit. The one that I am most interested and am going to speak on today is a YA novel titled Blink & Caution and features two runaway children in Toronto. The synopsis of Blink & Caution according to Wynne-Jones’s website is as follows:
Two street kids get tangled in a plot over their heads — and risk an unexpected connection — in this heart-pounding thriller by Tim Wynne-Jones.
Boy, did you get off on the wrong floor, Blink. All you wanted was to steal some breakfast for your empty belly, but instead you stumbled on a fake kidnapping and a cell phone dropped by an “abducted” CEO, giving you a link to his perfect blonde daughter. Now you’re on the run, but it’s OK as long as you are smart enough to stay in the game and keep Captain Panic locked in his hold.
Enter a girl named Caution. As in “Caution: Toxic.” As in “Caution: Watch Your Step.” She’s also on the run from a skeezy drug-dealer boyfriend and from a night- mare in her past that won’t let her go. When she spies Blink at the bus station, Caution can see he’s an easy mark. But there’s something about this naive, skinny street punk, whom she only wanted to rob, that tugs at her heart, a heart she thought deserved not to feel.
Charged with suspense and intrigue, this taut novel trails two deeply compelling characters as they forge a blackmail scheme that is foolhardy at best, disastrous at worst — along with a fated, tender partnership that will offer them each a rare chance for redemption. (TimWynne-Jones.com)
Throughout Blink & Caution the topic of gun use and gun violence is heavily situated within the protagonist and antagonist’s actions. So not to spoil the character development of Caution (the female protagonist), I will only say that Caution is plagued by the horrible guilt that she is responsible for the death of her brother in a freak gun accident. This role she plays in her brothers death transcends into dictating every move she will make throughout the duration of the story. In the Afterword, Wynne-Jones writes of the real life happening that inspired the motivations behind Caution’s running away from home.
While I agree with Tim Wynne-Jones in that guns kill people and help people kill other people, I want to know the opinions of my readers. In the comments below, what is the importance of gun violence representation within literature? Is it people or guns who kill? One of the most interesting pieces of writing information that I have heard came from Veronica Roth who in turn was told so by her editor. The advice was that a gun should not be in a scene of writing unless it is going to be shot. What does this say about the inevitability of violence when there is gun participation in literature and in common society?
This is me giving a half-assed apology ahead of time if I offend anyone who is a fan of the Kardashian/Jenner clan.
I follow a lot of YA authors on twitter. One of those said authors is NYT bestseller Ransom Riggs, the writer behind the Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children trilogy. As per usual, because I couldn’t respect myself as a reader if I didn’t attempt the expand the young adult community, here is what his books look like if you happen upon them while shopping.
This fantasy/contemporary-ish trilogy follows a young male protagonist who, after a family tragedy, travels to a Welsh Island and discovers an orphanage of children with peculiar abilities. It is a beautifully illustrated book; all the strange photographs in the book are part of Riggs own collection and are completely unedited as that they are products of vintage camera malfunctions and the sort. Also, Miss Peregrine has been slotted for a December 2016 cinematic release! It is to be directed by Tim Burton and features actors Eva Green (Penny Dreadful), Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers), Allison Janney (The West Wing), Asa Butterfield (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas), and Dame Judi Dench (Skyfall).
So, this Ransom Riggs guy (who I met and signed my book at a author meet & greet) tweeted out about the release of Kendall and Kylie Jenner’s YA novel Rebels: City of Indra: The Story of Lex and Livia. If you have an IN in the YA community, you’ll know why his tweet is so funny. Either way, I will supply the backstory here.
Now, what exactly is the “Kardashian” that Riggs talks on being on the “Shatter Me HB?”.
Ransom Riggs is married to fellow YA author Tahereh Mafi. She is the writer behind the NYT bestselling Shatter Me trilogy (optioned by ABC to become a television series), and her dystopian storyline features a Rogue like protagonist named Juliette who has been locked in an insane asylum for her incredible ability; anyone who touches her dies. The reason Riggs talks about Kendall and Kylie’s novel being revenge is because the model on the cover of the initial printing of Shatter Me is curiously quite Kardashian/Jenner looking…
Now you get the joke.
All kidding aside, I do have some issues with the Kendall and Kylie novel. My initial issue is that the the creativity surrounding the story is limited and the plot is predictable. The book features the protagonists Lex and Livia and obviously this meant to fictionally mirror the lives of the Jenner sisters. While I researched the book I found on two popular book publicizing platforms, Goodreads and Amazon, the synopsis of the story was the same;
Kendall and Kylie Jenner, stars on the hit reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, present their debut novel—a thrilling dystopian story about two super-powered girls who embark on a journey together. Two cities… Two girls… A shared destiny…
In a world of the far future, the great city of Indra has two faces: a beautiful paradise floating high in the sky, and a nightmare world of poverty carved into tunnels beneath the surface of the earth.
Kendall and Kylie Jenner, the youngest sisters in the Kardashian dynasty, have written a gripping tale of air, fire, and a bond of blood (Goodreads).
The potential reader (and buyer) is given little information about the protagonists within the story and what type of “journey” is embarked upon. Instead, the book is primarily pitched through the Jenner sisters reality television participation, a role that arguably is circumstantial. Further, the Jenner girls did not actually write the novel. The novel was actually written by ghost writer Maya Sloan, she who was provided a 2 page outline by the Jenners for creative inspiration.
I feel that by putting the Jenner name on Rebels: City of Indra, the girls have discredited the incredible work that goes into writing a novel. I feel that they have piggy backed upon the talents of others and taken claim to something that they only played a small part in. Part of the press for the book involved a Q&A with fans, one of which asked the girls about their writing process and if they wrote each chapter separately or together, to which Kylie answered “all together” (US Weekly). If you are looking for more information on Maya Sloan (who actually is a successful author), Kendall and Kylie Jenner, or the novel Rebels: City of Indra, all you have to do it type it into google. I promise you’ll be awarded with a myraid of perspectives and opinions, but please keep in mind that theses are my own thoughts on the matter and you are welcome to not share them.
I believe that Rebels: City of Indra: The Story of Lex and Livia, is a product of pure narcissism. While I don’t discredit the two for encouraging some of their young fans to perhaps become interested in reading (which is never ever a bad thing) I do discredit them in the sense that the Jenner girls can now add the title “author” to their retinue of successes when they did not truly author or write the book in the slightest. My only consolation in all of this is that the book did poorly, rating 1.9/5 according to Barnes & Nobel. (Barnes&Nobel 2016).
So! What do you think? How do you feel about celebrities getting book deals compared to the authors who write to live? Do you think pieces of fiction written by celebrities are easier to criticize as opposed to autobiographies and memoirs written by celebrities? Would you read Rebels: City of Indra: The Story of Lex and Livia? Let me know in the comments below!
This week I’m throwing it back to an article that popped up on my Facebook last September. This article, written and published by the New York Times website, read with the headline “Lemony Snicket, the Author, and His Wife Donate $1 Million to Planned Parenthood”. As some YA enthuasists may know, Lemony Snicket is the pen name (pseudonym) for author Daniel Handler’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Although I’m sure no one could forget these lovely (read miserable) books, to jog your memory this is what they look like.
…and these are the poor miserable wretches who the story features.
If you haven’t already read them, go do it… but grab a box of donuts first because these books are hard on the emotions (go ahead, eat your feelings).
Back to the NYT article. Daniel Handler and his wife Lisa Brown released their public support of Planned Parenthood by tweeting it to their followers.
So, why is this important?
In recent American politics, Congressional Republicans have made a push to defund Planned Parenthood by accusing the health clinic of selling fetus tissue to science and research centers. While these claims are largely skeptical, “offensive and categorically untrue” in the words of Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, these claims are besides the point. Planned Parenthood supplies women all over America with health services that they could otherwise not afford. By defunding Planned Parenthood, the republican party is defunding the basic human right for a woman to govern her own body. Basically, the defunding of Planned Parenthood in cause of outrageous rumors and the projection of religious ideals is a way of declaring that a woman’s opinion regarding her own body is invalid.
When young readers see the decisions made by the authors of their favourite books, they are influenced by them. Daniel Handler and his wife have just inspired the masses of YA readers, and made clear his stance on the equality of healthcare. No longer should the unfortunate events of fiction be a reality within the lives of the reader. With help from authors like Daniel Handler, the series of unfortunate events that have befallen Planned Parenthood may soon be a thing of fiction.