Asexual Awareness Week: Two YA Novels with Complex, Geeky, Lovable Demi Protagonists

It’s Asexual Awareness Week, which means that though I’d do it any time of the year, it’s the optimal time of the year to recommend and gather recommendations of media with asexual protagonists. Today I want to talk about two brilliant geeky YA novels with main characters that are not only relatable, complicated, and funny, but sit on a perhaps lesser-known place on the asexual spectrum: these are two characters who are confirmed as demisexual.

Demisexuality is when you only begin to feel sexually attracted to people once you form a strong emotional bond with them. The most common misconceptions about it tend to be that the demi in question is just “picky” and chooses to get to know people first, or that they’re no longer, or never really were, asexual at all once they find someone they like enough to be attracted to. As with the many grey areas along the ace spectrum, it can be a tricky thing to both explain to people and define for yourself, especially given how society so easily conflates romantic, aesthetic, and sexual attraction all together as one big amorphous thing when they’re really separate and very different feelings—and, as always, different for every individual person!

I know that I’m somewhere under the ace umbrella, but finding an exact word to define my unique, personal scenario has kind of felt like I’m a sleep-deprived detective staring at a conspiracy board trying to link evidence together with bits of string. While I’m still bumbling along trying to figure myself out, it was immensely rewarding and heartwarming to read these two books where characters (who are younger than me, mind you) get to not only find happiness in their ace identities and have fulfilling relationships, but get to be the stars of moving and engaging stories. Continue reading

Magical Mondays: The Failed Feminism of The Shattered Court‘s Magic System

(via goodreads)

I’ve had a beaten-up copy of The Shattered Court lying around my apartment for some time now, and I finally decided it was time to give it a read. The book is the opener to a series, and introduces a Britain-based country with its own unique magical system. However, my interest in the book quickly turned to frustration and disappointment as I learned more about how the magic worked. While the series attempted to say some challenging things about gender and magic, it fell down harder and harder every time it tried.

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My Bad Luck with The Good Neighbors

(via tvtropes)

Happy Friday the 13th, all! I hope everyone is avoiding bad luck so far today. If you have, you’re luckier than me, because the most unfortunate thing happened when I sat down to read the graphic novel trilogy The Good Neighbors: I discovered a Holly Black series that I simply did not like.

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Fanfiction Fridays: The Word of Your Body by Poetry

From its inception, Animorphs was always a series dedicated to what we’d term social justice today. It featured five kids of various ethnicities trying to save the world from a secret alien invasion, becoming child warriors in the process. But as a product of the 90s, it didn’t focus on LGBTQ+ issues very much. Sure, the protagonists were very young, and author K.A. Applegate might not have been able to get any LGBTQ+ rep through her publishers if she had had any ideas, but the fact remains that a series about kids literally changing their bodies as a weapon of war should have made trans issues front and center in Animorphs‘s otherwise excellent diversity.

Fortunately, in recent years the Animorphs fandom has taken steps to correct this oversight. One of my previous FFs, Bird in a Cage, was a character study of Tobias, arguably the Animorph with the most gender dysphoria. Canonically, Tobias never felt comfortable in his human body, and when he ended up trapped in his hawk morph, it wasn’t his body he missed, but his humanity in general. In that fic, author etothepii explores the idea of Tobias as a trans girl coming to terms with her gender identity. Today’s fanfic broadens the scope of these gender identity issues by changing the gender identity of all the Animorphs. The Word of Your Body is a series of vignettes about trans, intersex, and nonbinary Animorphs that looks at the many social and family issues that the gender-diverse Animorphs have to go through in the shadow of the war.

Trigger warning for gender dysphoria, transphobia, and internalized transphobia in the fic. As Animorphs was originally written in the 90s, this fanfic was written using LGBTQ+ terms that would have been used in the 90s, despite the fact that we no longer use some of these terms today. Please read with caution.

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Throwback Thursdays: The Seventh Tower Series by Garth Nix

It’s been ages since the last time I read the Seventh Tower series by Garth Nix, but I’d been meaning to read it again, so this weekend I sat down and blasted through all six volumes. (At around 200 middle-gradey pages each, they’re not a heavy read.) I did remember enjoying the series when I read it the first time—probably way back around when it was published between 2000–2002—but very little else. All I remembered was that I liked them enough, so they’d survived several cullings of my ridiculously large book collection until such time as I could reread them and rejudge.

Having finally done just that, I am happy to report that the series is definitely an enjoyable read, although I probably won’t be holding onto them for another round a decade into the future. I was impressed to see that The Seventh Tower uses magic and worldbuilding in a fascinating way that allows for a deconstruction of privilege that feels organic to the story, while providing us with a strong female touchpoint character as well. Although, given that it was Garth Nix writing, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. Continue reading

“Those Are Our Superpowers”: Dreadnought and the Importance of Queer Stories By Queer People

This weekend was the Emmys, and usually, nothing much interesting happens at the Emmys aside from the opening monologue. However, I was ecstatic to hear that one of my very favorite TV shows from this year, Master of None, won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. The episode nominated, “Thanksgiving,” was about the story of protagonist Dev’s queer Black friend, Denise, coming out to her family through the years and was co-written by Lena Waithe, herself a queer Black woman. In Waithe’s acceptance speech, she said:

I see each and every one of you. The things that make us different – those are our superpowers. Every day when you walk out the door and put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world, because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it.

Waithe’s words are both true and a rarity in today’s world, which generally pays lip service to LGBTQ+ solidarity but hardly ever celebrates the stories of actual (non-white and non-male) queer people. The idea of LGBTQ+ people being superheroes in their own right, not in spite of but because of the parts of themselves that mainstream society often doesn’t accept, is something that many queer youth need to hear and which many superhero stories need to understand.

Many superhero stories will rely on faulty allegories for the LGBTQ+ experience, like the X-Men hiding their abilities from their parents, despite the fact that queer people are not inherently dangerous. These stories often have little to no actual representation, and they almost never show the LGBTQ+ experience in an authentic, realistic light. Fortunately, the world of publishing is slowly pushing itself towards diversity, and one of the fruits of this labor is the 2017 novel Dreadnought by April Daniels. As a superhero story about a transgender protagonist written by a transgender author, it’s every bit as real as Master of None’s “Thanksgiving” and is a beautifully written novel that shows how a superhero story can be more than just another coming-of-age tale.

Minor spoilers for Dreadnought and trigger warning for transphobia/internalized transphobia after the jump.

(via goodreads)

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Throwback Thursdays: The BFG

(via wikipedia)

There’s always a mix of joy and frustration in revisiting old classics or old favorites for this column, but the proportions of the two tend to vary from topic to topic. This week I sat down with an old Roald Dahl book I haven’t cracked since probably grade school, and found that, while it’s overall sweet and somewhat empowering, it had several elements that left me rolling my eyes. This book is, of course, The BFG.

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