Who Tells Our Stories: A Photo Series Explanation
Recently, I was inspired to create a photo series on my Instagram that will feature diverse readers holding books that represents their identities (e.g. ethnicities, sexualities, race, gender, body types, MIs, disabilities, religions, etc.) in a positive light. I wanted to create this series in order to highlight the need for diversity in literature. I also wanted to show others how one diverse novel can positively impact someone who finally feels represented, in a way that doesn’t use harmful cliches or stereotypes. Each photo, in this on-going series, will also include an interview with the reader on this blog to discuss the need for diversity in literature and how the reader identifies with the piece of literature they have chosen (if they feel comfortable disclosing that piece of information).
I came up with the title Who Tells Our Stories for the photo series because it is a spin off of the Hamilton lyric “Who tells your story”. Because the play Hamilton is such a diverse form of art, I wanted my photo series to reference that striking lyric because we need diverse authors to tell diverse stories in a respectful and positive way. Marginalized readers should be able to see themselves properly represented in literature, and I hope this photo series highlights that need to others.
Here is the first installment in the Who Tells Our Stories interviews! I hope you enjoy it!
Name: Amanda Lovelace
Book title: Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
Can you describe your identity? (Ex: race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, mental illness, body type, religion, etc.)
I’m a fat demipansexual/demiromantic woman who struggles with anxiety, OCD, an eating disorder, and self-harm.
How does Under Rose-Tainted Skies accurately represent yourself? What are certain elements of this novel that you have connected with?
The protagonist of this novel, Norah, deals with agoraphobia, anxiety, OCD, and self-harm. While I’m not agoraphobic, I relate heavily to the anxiety, OCD, and self-harm aspects of Norah’s character. Gornall shows those things for what they are: serious daily struggles. Not just terms people casually throw around without having a true idea what they’re referring to. I also appreciate that Norah’s healing is imperfect, and that her love interest doesn’t magically put an end to her struggles just because he loves her (which can be a problem in YA fiction sometimes).
If you had read Under Rose-Tainted Skies at a younger age, how do you think it would have impacted you as a reader and person growing up?
I know that if I had come across the novel growing up, I wouldn’t have felt so alone in my pain. I spent so much of my life thinking that I should just “ignore it until it goes away” (such a dangerous mindset) because I rarely saw these conditions represented in any of the media I consumed. That shaped the person I am today and I am only now, at the age of 25, beginning to understand these parts of myself since these books are finally being written.
Are there any other books that you feel represents yourself?
There is no book that truly represents all my marginalizations (yet!), but there are a few that resonate with me just as much as Gornall’s Under Rose-Tainted Skies. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, which is about a girl with an eating disorder, is one of them. I also found myself reflected in The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, which features a badass plus size girl protagonist. We Awaken by Calista Lynne, which features an asexual girl main character, representation so rare that it’s almost nonexistent, almost brought tears to my eyes.
Can you describe the importance of diversity in literature?
Diverse books validate the existence of so many marginalized people. This isn’t just a trend, like so many of the privileged like to claim. Literature is finally beginning to represent more than just the status quo, which is impossible for most people to meet. And, to the surprise of no one, readers love it since they’re finally able to see pieces of themselves in the characters they love! We need to keep fighting for diverse books until they’re normalized. There is still a long road ahead of us, but we have taken great strides already, so I have total faith in the movement.
Thank you, Amanda, for taking part in my photo series and for allowing me to interview you about your thoughts on diversity. Your thoughts are incredibly important to the book community, and I hope it impacts others as well.
Photo location: Strand Bookstore, NYC