deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I just read Kate Elliott on the female gaze in FSF ("The Omniscient Breasts: the Male Gaze through Female Eyes") (h/t [personal profile] yendi), which is primarily I think talking about adult FSF. Inevitably when I read an article like this I want to send it to every feminist who trashes contemporary paranormal and dystopian romance for teens -- as, I admit, I sometimes do myself -- and say "look what the teen love triangles have that we should be down right thrilled about!"

Yes, ubiquity in any genre gets exasperating after a while. As a reviewer, trust me when I have a pretty good sense of what percentage of books for teens currently have almost identical romance plots. But when these books get trashed by feminist reviewers, we are ignoring that an entire generation of young leaders is growing up thinking the female gaze is normal.

I don't understand why Bella finds Edward Cullen's pasty skin and under-eye circles so attractive, but the fact is she does, she dwells on them, and she ogles endlessly. Clary Fray is far from flawless as a character construction, but that girl knows who she wants, and she is perfectly happy to leer and admire while she goes for it. So often we don't know that much about what these female protagonists look like, but we know everything about the physical characteristics of the objects of their affection. That's... pretty cool.

These books are usually still heteronormative and cis-normative. They are often still relying on fairly regressive gender roles, and can have bizarrely archaic notions of sexuality. But I'm really curious what we'll see from this generation of female and sometimes male readers who have learned to read with and not against the female gaze. I suspect it might be something pretty awesome.
deborah: The management regrets that it was unable to find a Gnomic Utterance that was suitably irrelevant. (gnomic)
I subjected the poor subscribers to the Diana Wynne Jones mailing list to my rant on poor representation of both authors and characters of color in the YA Fantasy Showdown, but I didn't want to subject you all to it. For one thing, it's clear the creator of the showdown tried; I just think she did a fairly poor job.

Anyway, in the current round of voting, I noticed several comments that made me exceedingly happy. Right now Ai Ling (Cindy Pon, Silver Phoenix) is up versus Jace (Cassandra Clare, Mortal Instruments trilogy). Jace is predictably if annoyingly beating Ai Ling simply because, as several of the comments say, jace gets my vote because he is hot. But one of the other commenters on this round of voting says, Never heard of Ai Ling but sounds like she's gona win. Also, is she chinese? Because I'm chinese, and you don't get many cool chinese characters so I feel like I need to show her some support...even if Jace is hot! Another says I've never read Silver Pheonix before, but I totally want to now.

In other words, Silver Phoenix isn't less popular because it's less good. It's less popular because nobody has heard of it. If readers haven't seen it, they can't make their own judgments about whether it equally good or not. (I acknowledge that even if readers had read it, Mortal Instruments certainly appeals more to contemporary young adult tastes in twisted paranormal romances. But the point is, readers aren't being given the opportunity to make that judgment for themselves. And in the meantime, participants in this showdown, both those who identify as Chinese and those who don't, are really excited by learning about the existence of the book.)

This is it is so important for we in the children's and young adult mediating business -- and these days that includes not just booksellers, teachers, librarians, and parents but also bloggers -- to care about representation. It's appalling but true that Silver Phoenix got shafted by the major bookselling chains because they didn't want a fantasy with an Asian girl on the cover. Those same readers who saw Jace every time they walk into a bookstore never saw Ai Ling. By the same token, they never saw Zahrah, Anand and Nisha, or Quincie Morris. If we bloggers, when we talk about young adult literature, remember to talk about those underrepresented books, teens will read what we have to say.

Well, not what I have to say. I'd be surprised if I had any teen readers. But you know what I mean. *g*
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