Here’s another installment to my Who Tells Our Stories photo / interview series highlighting diverse readers and the diverse stories that represent their identities! Today I’m interviewing Megan about diverse literature and how she connected to the book she has chosen to be photographed with.
(A FULL EXPLANATION FOR THE PHOTO SERIES IS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS INTERVIEW.)
Book title: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Social Media links: Twitter
Can you describe your identity? (Ex: race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, mental illness, disability, body type, or religion, etc.)
I’m a demisexual lesbian with Bipolar, PTSD, CPTSD, and ADD. But most importantly: Hufflepuff with a side of Gryffindor.
How do you connect with Six of Crows? Are there elements of the story that accurately represents your identity?
With Six of Crows, the moment I met Inej Ghafa, I knew we had the same heartstring in our magic. Hers was the first story that ghosted through my lungs and left me breathless. I felt her tie her own memories with mine. I was afraid, at first–concerned that this would be another trafficking story that left me throwing a book angrily against the wall, pulling out my phone, and calling all of my friends in alphabetical order until I fell asleep crying. Thankfully, it wasn’t that type of story.
In my opinion, Leigh Bardugo doesn’t write characters, so much as she writes souls. Inej’s story of survival is different, in many ways, from others I’ve read with the trafficking premise. Where most people will write harmful flashbacks, Inej’s memories of abuse were about the feelings, not the actions. There is such a sense of safety in that. You are guided compassionately through her tragedy without sinking dangerously into the quicksand of the topic.
Inej’s character pauses in all the right places. She is introduced as strong and capable but swiftly finds herself in a situation that traps her once more. She freezes, and you freeze with her. You hold your breath and pull yourself out of the icy waters of fear, alongside her. Her inner turmoil with her own choices, her humanity, is balanced perfectly with the need to survive and the sheer goodness of her heart. This is a story of a loving young woman turned corpse turned ocean: soft, strong, healing, and merciless. I am honored to have such an amazing character to point at when asked which story is mine.
Are there any other books that you feel represents yourself?
If Batwoman, of the DC universe, counts, then I’d say her! Nothing like a feisty lesbian with stacks of PTSD and a slew of poor decisions behind her to really tug at my nostalgia.
I wish I could see great representation of a young woman with bipolar, but I have yet to find anything. If I could request to be seen in any way, that’s what I would choose.
Are there any stereotypes that you’d want to erase, from novels, when seeing your identity represented in literature?
I personally do not like to read the guilt, shame, and discrimination that comes with being queer. I’d love to see it as natural as anything else, in the places that authors create for us. Give me a lesbian mage with bipolar who uses her powers for striking down her enemies one second only to create a flower for the cute girl in town the next! Feel free to name her Megan.
What does diversity in literature (or any other form of media) mean to you?
Everything. I find it disheartening when such a question needs to be asked (and it needs to be asked). I grew up as a white person, not knowing that racism was still so prevalent until I was in my late teens. When I thought back on it, I realized that every book I read, with notable racism, in it was set in the past, which I believe was a contributing factor to my obvious ignorance.
I also can’t recall reading about young people with physical disabilities or mental illnesses, like mine, where there was a realistic and healing aspect to their plot. Every story I read that had characters with the same disorders, as I did, and it felt like some sort of exploitation. I used to feel very angry over it. I still do.
As far as queer representation goes, when I came out at 13. I went to the library and got every book that they had on being queer in fiction. There was a small stack, and most of the stories did not end happily. I can’t remember reading one and seeing myself in it. Everything was a secret, everything was a coming out story, everything was for shock value, shame, guilt, etc. I don’t want that for the present youth, and especially not for the future. My hope is that there will be a kid like me in the future who walks into their library and is immediately handed a book that shows them they’re not alone.
Thank you, Megan, for being apart of my photo / interview series! I’m so glad that I was able to see you again and have you be apart of my series. Your opinions and insight about diverse literature are important to me and others, and I hope others realize that as well. Thank you so much!
PHOTO LOCATION: Holmdel, New Jersey
Who Tells Our Stories: A Photo Series Explanation
I was inspired to create a photo series on my Instagram that features diverse readers holding books that represent 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 diverse novels 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 include an interview with the reader 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 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 way. Marginalized readers should be able to see themselves properly represented in literature, and I hope this photo series highlights that need to others.