May I just jump in on one point, here? When teachers say, “there’s no reason to have X be Y race” what they really mean is “There’s no reason to have X be a race other than white.”
Which is bullshit.
There’s no reason to have X be white either.
That whole mindset of only having a character of colour if it “means” something or serves some “purpose” in the story is reinforcing the paradigm of white as the default norm and dominent culture. It’s a really easy trap for white writers to fall into to take a character’s race or ethnicity and make it into a story conflict. A “reason” to be Y race.
While a person’s background will affect how a person handles conflict, your teachers are wrong to insist that people who are Y race need a “reason” to be allowed into a story.
^ Reblog for anyone who that might need that pointed out 😉
In my fiction workshop this past spring semester, I wrote a story in which all the main characters were chicano.
Why were they chicano? Because I set the story in Texas. Because my family is largely chicanos from Texas. The actual story was about two brothers, now teenagers, dealing with their mother’s suicide, which had happened a number of years earlier when they were both young. The characters didn’t need to be chicano for me to tell that story.
When my story got workshopped, I was asked repeatedly to ‘explore their cultural/ethnic background’ in subsequent drafts.
One of the other stories was about a family reunion. It was written by a white writer about a white, southern family, and the experience I described was like nothing I had ever experienced with my family. The food described was like nothing you’d find when my family gets together. The names were often distinctly white, southern US names. But the story was absolutely not about the experience of being white and southern, it was about families keeping secrets, and there was no reason for the family in the story to be white US southerners. Still the comments that writer received were all about how relatable his story was, how that was exactly the way family reunions were, and no one asked him to spend more time exploring this family’s southern heritage in subsequent drafts.
I couldn’t help feeling that I was either being asked to justify my characters being chicano by making the story about chicano identity (which was never the story I wanted to tell), or that I was being asked to address my story to a white audience that wasn’t expected to be able to understand and identify with a chicano character the way I was expected to understand and identify with white characters.
I didn’t want to write a story where it ‘meant something’ that my characters were chicano. I wanted to write about brothers. Did my character’s ethnic background inform how they handled trauma in their life? Of course, in some ways. But the intense focus on the character’s ethnicity during the discussion of my work was distinctly uncomfortable. (I was asked if they were poor, despite it explicitly stating in the story that they lived in a fairly middle class neighborhood. I was asked about their immigration status (these are fictional teenage boys in a story that was in no way about immigration!). I was asked if they lived on a reservation, presumably because all brown folk in the US southwest live on a reservation? I wasn’t sure what to make of that one.)
It was a weird, frustrating experience that made me very self-conscious about the story I’d chosen to share. About a quarter of the students in the class were not white. Only one other student in that class wrote a story where the main character was not white. I wouldn’t be surprised if other people felt uncomfortable having the class comment on stories about POC characters. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they’d simply been conditioned to think of white as the ‘default’ in literature and assumed that to write a character with their own racial or ethnic background, they’d have to justify it or make it a plot point.
^ A perfect and detailed example of how this functions in practice. Thanks for sharing your experience.
what I mean by this is that being able to walk a little, being able to walk with consequences, that’s not the same as being able to walk (the end)
When people are denied wheelchairs because they can walk, an important thing is missed.
They can’t walk
yes, they can…
I’m gonna need your help with this one. I live in NEPA, and am able to go to ppl in the tristate area. These two cats are in desperate need of a home. They were my father’s cats, and he died and i’ve been taking care of them. I can no long afford to do so, as well as my current roommate is moving…
We’re holding our 3rd giveaway! Yay! Bookcon was so great and so we’re going to give away an autographed ARC of Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater! Wooooooo (for all you Cole St. Clair & Isabel Culpeper fans)!
- Open Internationally!
- All entries must be made through RAFFLECOPTER
- Likes DO NOT count.
- NO Giveaway Blogs are allowed to enter.
- Only ONE rafflecopter account per person.
- Must be 18 years or older, or have parents’ permission.
- You must be comfortable giving us your address so we can send the book (of course we will not disclose your address to anyone).
- All the winner’s entries must be valid in order to win.
- The winner will be contacted by email and will have 2 days to respond to our ask. If there is no response we will pick another winner.
- Giveaway will end on 7/14/14 at 9 PM EST
- Rules are subject to change.
If you have any questions or if we forgot something let us know here! Good luck!
I read Mortal Danger almost literally over the weekend. Aguirre obviously knows what she’s doing, as she plans the action and paces it just right to keep the reader hooked. On her website, on the back cover of the book, Mortal Danger is described as a paranormal/horror revenge novel. And it is, no doubt about it. It’s based on very simple principles of horror or thriller writing, but quickly spirals much deeper from there, for which I’m very glad. Aguirre’s novel, the first in a trilogy, is the kind of story that will appeal to many different readers, because it is written in so many layers. At the surface, it’s a novel of abject despair and a chance for revenge. It’s a story of personal discovery as Edie, the main character, comes to know herself better and then turn her impressive intellect outward, dissecting the lives of her fellow students and finding out what makes them tick. Almost literally.
Even as Edie reaches the edge of sanity, brought on by her Faustian deal with the firm Wedderburn, Mawer, and Graf, she stares down another abyss. In the act of infiltrating the Teflon Crew—the group of students at the top of the popularity food chain—she gets to know them better, and while she can never forgive them for the way they treated her before the deal, she begins to understand some of their motivations, even see them as human. Edie stares down a dark tunnel of hate, vengeance, and the knowledge that she could literally have the power of life and death over these people—practically ants under the foot of her vast new power and perspective—and, at eighteen years old, must make moral decisions in a less and less morally grounded world.
And to top it off, Mortal Danger is a love story. Initially Kian was supposed to act as only an intermediary, fulfilling Wedderburn, Mawer, and Graf’s side of the deal when he was called upon to do so, yet he becomes much more to Edie. Edie and Kian’s love affair epitomizes the teenage first love story. It is as though every love story has been brought to boil together, all the perilous emotions blended in one giant cauldron of longing, fear, and tension. Poets write of the mortal danger into which their souls fall when love takes hold of them; it actually plays out in Mortal Danger.
Another thing Aguirre obviously excels at is writing for teenagers. As a librarian, I am a strong believer in fiction being an important place for young readers to explore morality, to consider the ramifications of their actions beyond simple desire or gratification, to wrestle with their fears and angst. Aguirre writes in a way that doesn’t patronize teens, that treats them as intelligent, capable people. Edie, as well as many students around her, is extremely self-aware, much more so than teachers and administrators at her school seem to give her credit for. She is the kind of character that young people can identify with, even if they bear little resemblance to her.
In sum, things I loved about Mortal Danger: a continually evolving plot that keeps readers engaged beyond the simple revenge story; an intelligent and independent main character who is not constrained by tropes of the “strong female character” or “ugly ducking;” a powerful narrative voice that carries the reader along, allowing for suspension of disbelief as Aguirre builds an increasingly paranormal world around her characters. The story is in fact told by Edie, no small feat for a narrative which moves as quickly as this one does. There were times when I felt the timeline moved a bit quickly, when I lost my sense of place within the story, however that could also be symptomatic of the fact I’m used to reading more epic fantasy. Creating a reliable first-person narrator is difficult—reliable in the sense that it fulfills its intended purpose, not necessarily always tells the truth—but Aguirre uses Edie effectively as a means to both give the reader someone with whom to sympathize, and to interrogate the greater themes of the story. Mortal Danger is set in Boston, though there is nothing particularly New England about the feel of the narrative, nothing to place it, physically, in a space. As I like the universality of themes in Mortal Danger, this small blip in storytelling did not overly affect my reading of the story.
All in all, Mortal Danger is an enjoyable read, with much more depth than it at first seems. I look forward to the next installment in the series and recommend it to readers of all stripes.
Cross-posting from WordPress, oh no! Will the blogosphere tumble to the ground in flames and rubble?!! But seriously, lots of great thoughts in here.
What I’m Reading Now:
I was lucky enough to snag an advanced reader’s copy of Mortal Danger, the first Ann Aguirre’s new series Immortal Game.
I haven’t read much paranormal horror, but I’ve heard great things about her writing, and so far I can say this:
I like the main character’s presence. She’s a fully fleshed out person, and I’m only a chapter or so in. She’s not a damsel, not a stereotype. She’s the real thing. I’ve actually learned a bit from Ms. Aguirre’s writing style, and am beginning to think more about what motivates characters in my own writing.
I’m definitely looking forward to finishing the book, giving a full review, and hopefully and even longer essay if I can find the resources.