So last week (or maybe earlier) I made a post speaking about my feelings and reactions to All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. It was mostly a rant post about how I disliked the usage of the age gap between the protagonist Wavy and Kellen. This is a post to correct myself, but I will reiterate a few points I made in that post. Continue reading
This post is going to deal with some subjects that some of you won’t be comfortable with. This post specifically will deal with sex and sexual themes along with how they relate in terms of age and power imbalances. If you have a hard time dealing with these kinds of subjects, I urge you to think twice about reading this. I feel that this post is important, but I don’t want to put you in a bad place in doing so. I also want to point out that I have very strong opinions about the book I will be writing about.
So recently, if you’ve been on Twitter as much as I have, you’ve seen a lot of talk of diversity and diverse books. As a woman of color, I’m very for diverse books that don’t only include own voices, but also just books that have PoC that are… well written characters. Sounds simple, I know right? Crazy.
In today’s post I want to talk about how important it is to have different people reading your work. To authors out there who want to work with characters out of their race or out of their… whatever I want to point out how important this is. I mean please, if you have a book that centers around PoC but the only people who seem impressed or pleased are white people, there’s a problem. Really. If you are working on a story that deals with characters outside of your personal experiences, I think it’s important to go through the correct measures and have people that are part of the culture you’re writing about be part of the editing process. Most importantly, have them read your work.
It’s scary. Oh boy, is it scary–but this is the only way you’ll be able to do it correctly (in my humble opinion). If you don’t have people who experience that kind of life style daily, who have been brought up in a different culture than yours–how do you expect to create such a realistic experience? Even if you think you know because you were surrounded by PoC growing up, I guarantee that you don’t fully understand.
Personally, I want to see more amazing Asian characters that aren’t just smart characters or nerdy characters or whatever. I just want to see a person who happens to be Asian. That so hard to ask? PoC aren’t really that hard to write. Just write people. Just write what you imagine a person would do–but if you plan to delve deeper into their cultures and how it affects their thinking and actions, that’s when you need to do some research and some cross referencing.
Look I’m not saying any of this to be aggressive or hostile. When you’re in school and you’re required to write a research paper, if your paper doesn’t have enough research done it’s not a good paper and you don’t get a good grade. Why doesn’t this translate to fiction? You guys want to say, “oh it’s fiction, suspend your disbelief”. Yeah okay, I’ll do that when people stop describing my eye shape as almond. Authors will jest and say, “Oh I’m on some NSA list for checking how long it takes for acid to eat away at a corpse” but aren’t willing to do the same sort of research for cultural experiences? Amazing. Really.
I’m not a big supporter of having PoC written only by PoC. All I ask for is sufficient research and having it beta read by the people you’re writing about. If you’re an author that’s afraid to get it wrong, here’s an easy answer, have those people read it before it hits the shelves. I honestly don’t know what that’s not a solution many people have taken. I encourage more people to write Asian characters and Asian Americans (this is because I’m Korean American so of course I’m being a bit specific to myself, but I’m also implying everyone else as well). Just reach out to these types of beta readers more often because I’m telling you they’ll give you a much more satisfying answer and critique of your work.
If you don’t think you know any beta readers, I’ll be happy to take a look at your work as long as you’re willing to wait a while because, at the risk of sounding really snobby and douchey, I’m a really busy person.
Photo credit to Aaron Burden
I’ve thought a lot about YA. I’ve had my qualms and tribulations about it going from certain subjects being “taboo” to who can read YA (spoiler: it’s anyone and everyone). My biggest piece of thinking that I did towards YA was considering what subject matter was deemed YA and what was deemed NA or Adult. Personally? I think that anything is really up for grabs for YA. I believe that when young adults reach an age where they are becoming… well adults, they should be exposed to many ideas and many subjects. I’m not really a fan of people… coddling or sheltering people from the world. I don’t like to think of myself of some kind of cynic, I care too much for that, but I don’t want someone to go into the world unprepared of sorts. So I’m an advocate to open sex and sexual themes to YA because apparently we can have a bunch of minors killing each other for sport (m’hm I went there) but we get explicit sex scenes and oh no the children!
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about, obviously. Continue reading
Photo Credit to Paz Arando
I am a character driven reader. A book can have a plot full of plot holes and ridiculous cliches but if the characters are A++? I’ll probably still love it anyway. There’s nothing worse than reading a book with flat and boring characters. However, while I love books that have the go-to hero and villain, I LOVE characters that are neither but in between, a mix of both, or have the potential to be both.
Basically I’m more inclined to love characters that are morally ambiguous. This is how I’ve come to love the characters in Six of Crows, or Adelina from The Young Elites. I’ve come to love characters that seem one way and then surprise you in your reading by doing something they usually wouldn’t do whether it’s spurred on by a budding romance or by a strong relationship.
Why do I love these characters so much?
Honestly it’s because it keeps me interested. It wants me to know more about our characters. By bringing these different layers and facets to a character, I want to push them to their limit and test their abilities to learn more about them. Maybe I’m secretly a mad scientist on the inside… but still. It keeps me on my toes, it has me leaning in and paying attention. I want to peel back every layer, look at every facet and see what makes up this character.
This might come from me being in theatre and acting, but it’s just something that’s been constantly interesting in my experience as a reader. Even as a writer, my characters were always a lot stronger than the plot. I work and work on my characters until I fully know I can channel them and bring them to life on the page.
What I probably love most is seeing characters that are usually viewed as good and honorable to have a spot of darkness in them. Why? Because to me they seem more human. I like seeing them confront this darkness and make the decision to either fight it, embrace it, or use it to their advantage. It really speaks to me about how their character is (not them being a character but… character). I especially love it more when that same kind of character is confronted with a character of the complete opposite spectrum on an even playing field (such as Lila and Kell from ADSoM).
Sometimes I love characters that seem like the villain and then, again, kind of surprise you in the end such as Rhysand from A Court of Mist and Fury. He’s done incredibly problematic and unapologetic things, but I still really love him. Mostly because he helped Feyre with her own mental problems and well.. didn’t–ok I’ll stop before I spoil anything. BUT my point is that it tells me there’s always something more and something else to learn about a person. 3
What about you guys? Are you interested in problematic characters?
The time has come again. School. I myself am going into my junior year of college (ugh) and so I’m mentally, emotionally, and physically preparing myself for the oncoming semester. Of course the most important thing for any student is their backpack. Our backpacks are like our babies. It has everything inside of it that’s important and if we lose it suddenly it’s armageddon and we need to send out a search party. Or at least I do. Of course for this post you came to look at WHAT I’m carrying in my backpack and, of course, the giveaway that I’m putting together. We’ll start with the contents of my backpack first.
1. Notebooks + Paper
I’m the kind of gal who needs to have her notebooks separated. Don’t get me one of those five subject notebooks. I won’t use them except for some kind of scrap paper. I don’t know what it is, but I absolutely cannot use a notebook that also has three other subjects in it. They must all have their own specific spaces for notes and assignments. My favorite kinds of notebooks are smaller, thinner notebooks that are usually sold in asian stationery stores. There are brands like Campus, a Japanese brand which is REALLY AWESOME but also REALLY EXPENSIVE, but I tend to go for just a generic type.
2. Pencil Case
Of course you need something to write notes with, so I carry a pencil case. In said pencil case I usually have a variety of colored pens and highlighters along with a full arsenal of pens (specifically at .38 mm. I like very fine pens). I also usually carry a couple of my favorite mechanical pencils and erasers. I also carry extras for fellow classmates (but make sure they hand you back your pen, guys).
3. Water Bottle
Over here on the beach side of Southern California, I’ve been blessed with a rather tame summer. Still, however, hydration is ever of importance. I advise to always carry a reusable water bottle. If not I use the bought water bottle like a Smart Water bottle over and over until it’s all gross and bent out of shape haha.
4. A Book
Of course what do I bring if I’m not going to be studying? A good book. Whether this is a physical copy or an ebook (usually it’s an ebook for the sake of backpack space) I always carry one around so I can kill some time in the library or on the bus.
5. A Planner
As Alton Brown says many time, “Organization will set you free.” I’m a huge stickler for organization even though my room is a complete and utter mess. I need to keep a lot of things in order (which is why I get really anxious about last minute changes to plans). A planner is a great way to do this. I always try and keep it up for the most part of the semester to keep track of what classes I have and what assignments I have along with things like auditions or show dates. And plus they’re so cute.
6. The Essentials
What are these? Well for me it’s usually:
These are my three essentials for any kind of thing dealing with the outside world. I always keep my wallet on me at all times (more importantly my ID), my phone, and my keys. If it’s a day for going out and having fun I’ll also probably carry some make up to touch up or my Instax. If it’s for school I always take something like post-its or mints.
So the giveaway portion. Probably the portion you’ve all been waiting for haha. Since school is starting (or has started, you poor children) I thought it would be nice to have some kind of giveaway for a school care package. School can be incredibly stressful and tiring–trust me you’re looking at someone who, last semester, took five college courses with two jobs. It can get a lil’ crazy sometimes. I present to you, the Back To School Care Package giveaway.
Everything I included in my list except for the essentials will be in your care package.
Yup so that includes:
- Pencil case with some pens and pencils included
- This will be chosen through TBD, or if you’re in the US you can pick from the retailers available as long as the value is under $20.
- Reusable Water Bottle (I’ll pick a hella cute one)
- A Planner
Other things included will be a snack I got over in Taiwan, some Korean snacks, and some American snacks for those who are either outside of the US and you’re curious or you’re a US baby and you just want to get some good ‘ol taste of home haha. We all need snacks through our studying so there’ll be plenty of that.
Tea and/or coffee. Whether you’re a tea drinker or a coffee drinker, I’ll include that too! Tea is a go to for me when I’m studying. Very good for calming. Coffee just makes me way too jittery.
Some other feel good things. These are going to be a surprise, but they’re things that help me survive throughout the semester and keep me sane and I’d like to pass on those methods to you. Whether they work or not are really all dependent on you and your preferences, but I think a little help is always welcome.
The Fine Print
So here are some rules.
- This is open INTL as long as TBD ships to you. I really want the book to be included, so please make sure to check if they ship to you. It’d be really upsetting if they didn’t and we didn’t find out until you’ve been named the winner.
- You have to be at least 18 or have some kind of permission to disclose your address to me.
- This giveaway will end September 12, 2016. So it’ll be more of a “Back to School/Mid Term Care Package”.
- All entries will be in the rafflecopter.
- No giveaway accounts for anything. If I see it, you’ll be disqualified.
- If you are chosen to be the winner, I ask that you respond within 48 hours or else you will be disqualified and I’ll find a new winner. I’ll contact you via the social media you provide me in the Rafflecopter.
- Things get lost in the mail and that’s a huge bummer, but unfortunately I cannot be responsible for it. I will give you a tracking number, for peace of mind, though.
Thank you guys so much for stopping by and good luck to all of you! Head over to the link to join the giveaway!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
So remember when I made that really ranty and angry ass post about E&P. No? Here let me link you because I’m still salty as shit about it and will forever be salty because that piece of garbage is so fucking popular and it won a damn award.
So remember when I made that really ranty and angry ass post about E&P? Well now I’m about to make a really excited, really lovely post about Henry Cheng (obvs). I have a newfound respect for Maggie Stiefvater because this? Henry Cheng? THIS is how you write a good Korean character without it sounding grossly stereotyped and racist. I CANNOT tell you how fucking excited I was over the fact that Henry Cheng was Korean, but in such a casual and respectful way. I wasn’t reminded every other fucking minute that he was Asian or Korean. I wasn’t thrown disgusting stereotypes and descriptions. I just got Henry.
How did I know he was Korean? Because during Blue Lily, Lily Blue he says,
It’s supposed to be hanging with chicks during the day, boys at night. That’s what my halmeoni used to say, anyway.
Halmeoni is the Korean word for ‘grandmother’ and when he said that I was literally jumping up in happiness. It’s so thrown in their casually and not in a “ooh totally exotic” way. It’s just the way he speaks. It’s what he knows. It took me by surprise and I can’t put into words just how joyous I was with this discovery.
There’s even a whole part about how he doesn’t feel like himself when he’s speaking English because it’s his second language. He’s more comfortable in Korean. This is something I relate to because there are certain times where I say things in Korean rather than English because it just feels right.
There are so many moments where little bits of Korean culture is introduced so casually but also in an informative and respectful way.
Like in The Raven King:
Henry flipped crazy devil horns at him. “Jeong, bro.”
“What’s that mean?”
“Who knows,” Henry said. “It means being Henry. It means being Richardman. Jeong. You never say the word, but you live it anyway. I will be honest, I did not expect to find it in a guy such as yourself. It’s like we’ve met each other before. No, not really. We are friends at once, we would instantly do what friends would do for each other. Not just pals. Friends. Blood brothers. You just feel it. We instead of you and me. That’s jeong.“
Tonight at dinner I asked my mom what jeong meant. My Korean is terrible, but I was really excited and elated about Henry that I had to ask her the question and she said,
“Mm. Not really. It’s really hard to explain in English. Korean families? They have jeong.”
“So like… You’d do anything for your family.”
“Kind of, but more. It’s very hard to describe in English. There’s not a good meaning for it.”
Even when Henry’s mother, Seondeok (which… is also the Queen from the Silla period, you should look her up) was even written in a very Korean way. I’m honestly a little impressed and flattered at how well she’s written and how well she portrayed a Korean woman. Just the way she spoke and acted was incredibly close to how I’ve seen Korean women be.
I really want to know how Stiefvater went about with Henry and Seondeok because this is a woman who really cared about these characters and didn’t want to just throw them in for the sake of diversity. There’s obvious work that went into it and it shows. I wish Henry had a larger part in the story for the sake of having more of his presence in the books because I need more readers to understand that this is how you write a Korean (or really any PoC or East Asian) without making them some kind of show monkey. This is how you respectfully add PoC into your stories.
There were a lot of things I found in The Raven King to not meet my expectations, but Henry Cheng was definitely not one of them.
Thank you Maggie Stiefvater.