Thursday 3 October 2013

Shira Glassman on the importance of representation

It's important that LGBTQ+ kids be surrounded by peers, role models, allies, and stories that include them, because only then will they have the confidence to demand respect in a world that is still under many circumstances hostile and stifling. An isolated queer youth, cut off from other kids like them, cut off from adults like them to look up to, with no straight people valuing them for their full selves and no characters like them to reassure them that they have a right to exist and have adventures -- this is a child in danger. This is one of the reasons I told my mother that the true villain of my queer feminist fantasy novel The Second Mango isn't any one human being -- it's 'life being unfair', or 'the difficulties of life'.

The heroine of my book, Shulamit, is such a young woman in danger. As a 'damsel in distress' character, her distress is largely internal, her "tower" not a real tower but the isolation of her own queerness. Shulamit lacks the confidence to just be herself and demand a place in the world even though, as the newly-crowned queen of Perach, she literally rules the country--and it's entirely because of her isolation. This is a young woman who grew up with no queer role models, with a father who loved her very much but basically erased her identity when she tried to come to him and downplayed everything she said, with no true allies who accepted her as she is, and with only one other queer friend--a girlfriend who's run off by the time the book begins.

This all begins to change when she becomes less isolated--when she meets her new bodyguard, Rivka, a woman who despite being straight believes her without question when she talks about her feelings for women and her other problems that hardly anybody else in her life took seriously. Rivka is willing to take her around the country on the back of her dragon in search for other queer women, and even a potential partner, so things quickly begin to look less hopeless.

It was my earnest wish when creating this story to show lesbian and bisexual characters in the same kind of beautiful, innocent, "cute" fairy-tale setting that straight girls all got to enjoy when they were little. Seeing themselves represented in fiction are all very important in reassuring these young people that they deserve to be a part of the world, that they can have wonderful adventures, too, and that they're not destined for tragic endings while their straight counterparts go off merrily into the sunset. We can have families, too, if we want--not that we have to--and we can be everything straight people can be, whether that's heroes or comedians or leaders or very good hard workers or even just "beautiful". We aren't destined for loneliness by virtue of our difference.
This is what Shulamit learns as she goes on her journey with Rivka into the wilds of her own kingdom. She comes home transformed, ready to lead--ready to become the "face on the coin" in her father's place.

Shira Glassman is the author of The Second Mango, which is available  on Amazon from Prizm Books in Kindle and paperback:
Pretty artwork by Jane Dominguez and Erika Hammerschmidt

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Thanks for taking time to read this!
Comments are much loved.
Nina xxx

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