Apr 12, 2016
LGBTQIA + Erasure in the book blogging community || Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity
As we're now in the second season of Diverse Reads 2016, where we highlight LGBTQIA books, today I have Chiara from Books for a Delicate Eternity over to talk about the genre and the erasure in the book blogging community!
You might recognise the book in the header above this sentence (also, take a moment to appreciate that header/banner/whatever because I have literally ZERO skills, and it doesn’t look like a fifth grader made it, so as far as I’m concerned it’s perfect). That book is Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. See those four stickers on its cover? TWO of those are LGBTQIA+ literary awards – Stonewall and Lambda. If that doesn’t give you the heads up, I’ll just tell you right now: this book is LGBTQIA+. Meaning: the main character in this book is LGBTQIA+. Meaning: there is an LGBTQIA+ relationship at the heart of this book. Meaning: Ari and Dante are not “friends”.
The reason why I went to these lengths to tell you that Ari and Dante is an LGBTQIA+ novel is because it is probably the title that is subject to the largest amount of LGBTQIA+ erasure in the YA book blogging community. I cannot tell you how many times I have read a review for Ari and Dante that has literally NO mention of its LGBTQIA+ content. That reference Ari and Dante as friends with a strong bond. That completely erase the fact that this book is LGBTQIA+ . I don’t know why these reviewers have omitted the fact that Ari and Dante is LGBTQIA+. I know that some have tried to explain away this erasure by saying they didn’t want to spoil the reader. This is not an explanation. This is an excuse. Sexual orientation is not a spoiler. The fact that Ari and Dante are bisexual is not a spoiler.
I once saw someone on Twitter (I wish I could reference it because they deserve it – if you know who they are, drop me a comment and I’ll link them ASAP) that said: imagine if someone wrote ‘I didn’t say the character was a person of colour because that’s a spoiler’. Everyone would rail against that person. Because what they said was racist, and ridiculous at that. They then asked you to imagine someone saying that in reference to queer identities. In terms of what I’m talking about … ‘I didn’t say that Ari and Dante were bisexual because that’s a spoiler’. Well, that’s actually biphobic. And queerphobic in general. It’s also saying that their sexualities are not a part of their identities. Their being Mexican-American is part of their identity. And so is their sexuality.
The numbers of reviewers and bloggers leaving out the fact that Ari and Dante is an LGBTQIA+ novel are erasing its content. They are erasing Ari and Dante’s queer identities. They are erasing bisexuality as a sexual orientation. They are keeping this book hidden from people who need to read it. They are saying that a queer identity is not important enough to mention. They are saying that Ari and Dante’s bisexuality does not exist.
Beyond erasing queer narratives, not mentioning Ari and Dante’s sexualities is limiting its worth. This book is incredible – for so many reasons. The fact that it is intersectional in its diverse representation is wonderful. And there are kids and teens and adults who need this book. Who need to see themselves in the books they read. And erasing Ari and Dante’s LGBTQIA+ content is taking this book away from the people who need it the most.
Sadly, Ari and Dante is not the only book that experiences LGBTQIA+ erasure in this community. Another one that I have come across recently is Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas. This book has been consumed and adored by almost every book blogger I know. And yet when I was reading the book, and realised that the main character, Anna, was bisexual and in love with both her boyfriend and her female best friend, I decided to read a large majority of the reviews again. To check if I had missed something, because I hadn’t gone into the book knowing it was LGBTQIA+. Nothing. I could not find one review on Goodreads from a friend or someone I follow that mentioned the LGBTQIA+ content in Dangerous Girls. I almost, scarily, questioned myself. Questioned whether or not Dangerous Girls was, in fact, LGBTQIA+. But I couldn’t ignore the content that I had read. I couldn’t ignore that fact that I was right – that Anna was bisexual. But seemingly everyone else could ignore this fact.
I’ve already mentioned what erasing the LGBTQIA+ content in Ari and Dante does. That is the case with every LGBTQIA+ book that is erased. The erasure comes hand in hand with the consequences. So, I ask that you mention LGBTQIA+ content in the books you read. Tell your readers that a book is LGBTQIA+. Tell your readers that the main character in book X is bisexual, or gay, or trans, or any identity that isn’t cisgender and heterosexual. Tell your readers, because LGBTQIA+ erasure in this community is harmful at best and dehumanising at worst.
Thanks for that thought provoking post Chiara! < 33
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