It’s Teens Can Write Too! again. It’s weird, the whole TCWT thing. I was involved since the beginning, when I was fifteen, and I was one of the younger members. Now there are a lot of new folks who are several years younger than me and I’m beginning to feel a little elderly.
“What kinds of published books would you like to see more of?”
As soon as you saw that prompt, you thought, “Miriam’s going to talk about diversity, isn’t she?” And you’re right. I am going to talk about diversity. Because it’s important.
You see, I want more books with queer characters, I really do. I want queer female protagonists, and happy endings for f/f couples. I want queer characters who aren’t just gay males. Give me stories about non-binary or genderqueer characters. Give me stories about a couple where both people are bisexual and fed up of being mistaken for gay/straight. Give me stories about LGBTQ characters that aren’t focused on sex and physical attraction — hey, scrap that, I just want more asexual characters, because there are so not enough of them and I’m totally bored of reading about kissing by now.
I want historical novels about non-persecuted queer characters, since the world hasn’t always hated people who aren’t straight. I want sci-fi novels. I want fantasy novels. I’m bored of the only books that are “diverse” being Books About This Issue, you know? Contemporary novels about the struggles of coming out in high school. Historical novels about fighting to keep your identity secret or be arrested or whatever. We don’t need those. We need more books where queer characters get happy endings.
I also want more books with non-white characters. Fantasy novels, historical novels, science-fiction novels — not just edgy contemporary novels about racism and school. I want books that say, “You know, not everyone in the Middle Ages was white…”. I want books that stop subscribing to the myth that Europe is full of white people and always has been, or that racism has always existed in the same form that it exists now.
But you know what I really want? Books with disabled or mentally or chronically ill protagonists.
I want books where the characters wake up each morning with their whole body aching and they have to decide whether to get out of bed. I want books where characters are fighting depression just to leave the house. I want books where characters use a cane to walk, and books where they’re in wheelchairs.
I want books about teenagers with one hand, or no hands at all. Fantasy novel? Explore how they use magic to deal with that. Sci-fi novel? Explore computer technology operated by voice and eye-movements. Steampunk novel? Clockwork prosthetics. Come on, guys. It’s an opportunity for so much worldbuilding and so much creativity. If you think those characters don’t fit in your novel, think again. They probably do. You’re just not being imaginative enough.
You see, mostly what I want is books about being a hero even when you’re physically or mentally weak. About overcoming all the limitations of your health to achieve something fantastic.
Recently I read a few books by Rosemary Sutcliff and I noticed that her protagonists are never the strong ones. In The Eagle of the Ninth, the protagonist was discharged from the army due to an injury and he suffers from pain in that leg for the rest of the novel, yet he still gets to be a hero. When I read that the author spent most of her life in a wheelchair due to severe health conditions, it made sense.
Why would you want to read a novel about a strong, physically fit hero saving the world if you could read about someone like you doing the exact same thing?
You know, I’ve struggled to come to terms with not being entirely able-bodied. On days when everything’s aching and I’m really not sure I want to get up, I don’t have characters in books to motivate me. I can’t think, “Well, if [name] can do it, so can I.” Because it’s not like I’ve ever read about anyone with hypermobility syndrome, is it?
We need more disabled characters of all shapes and sizes whose health conditions and limitations take all different forms. We need characters who can walk sometimes but other days limp because their conditions vary from day to day, because a lot of people think I’m faking when I’m having a bad day. We need characters with invisible illnesses and disabilities, dealing with chronic pain that no one else can see, because nobody understands what that’s like without having it explained to them.
Give me a queer, disabled woman of colour as a protagonist in an epic fantasy novel. Give me an asexual girl with one hand navigating Dark Age Britain. Give me a transgender teenager fighting depression and aliens, or a non-binary university student with fibromyalgia exposing a plot to take over the world.
Give me these characters in novels that aren’t about Issues. They’re about people and plot and drama. Because every queer non-white disabled reader has a right to see themselves as a hero — in space, in history, in a fantasy realm, as much as in this world.
Here’s the rest of the blog chain:
May 5th – http://sammitalk.wordpress.com/
May 6th – http://www.nerdgirlinc.blogspot.com/
May 7th – http://nasrielsfanfics.wordpress.com/
May 8th – http://erinkenobi2893.wordpress.com/
May 9th – http://thelittleenginethatcouldnt.wordpress.com/
May 10th – http://randomofalife.blogspot.com/
May 11th – http://maralaurey.wordpress.com/
May 12th – http://www.fidaislaih.blogspot.com/
May 13th – http://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com/
May 14th – http://theloonyteenwriter.wordpress.com/
May 15th – http://insideliamsbrain.wordpress.com/
May 16th – http://taratherese.wordpress.com/
May 17th – http://miriamjoywrites.com/ <- YOU ARE HERE
May 18th – http://oliviarivers.wordpress.com/
May 19th – http://afoodyportfolio.wordpress.com/
May 20th – http://magicandwriting.wordpress.com/
May 21st – http://unikkelyfe.wordpress.com/
May 22nd – http://www.brookeharrison.com/
May 23rd – http://eighthundredninety.blogspot.com/
May 24th – http://www.oyeahwrite.wordpress.com/
May 25th – http://avonsbabbles.wordpress.com/
May 26th – http://b-listerblogs.blogspot.com/
May 27th – http://thependanttrilogy.wordpress.com/
May 28th – http://www.lilyjenness.blogspot.com/
May 29th – http://sunsandstarsanddreams.wordpress.com/
May 30th – http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ – We’ll announce the topic for June’s blog chain!
Please note: history was probably not full of queer people fighting aliens. It was, however, full of queer people. They always existed. Stop telling me it’s “unrealistic” to put them in your historical novel. I’m pretty sure you’ve already managed to sneak vampires in.