I always wanted to make a career out of writing but never journalism. Writing things in a way that I had to completely detach myself was never appealing. It never made sense. I see writing as something intrinsically personal, to the person writing and to the person reading. Something that always seemed exempt from that level of importance is fiction.
The stories that have any semblance of meaning are those that are rooted in experience, rooted in the Truth that the author has found for themselves. There’s always a call, especially, for marginalized groups to tell their stories. The call almost becomes an obligation when your people (be it people of color, of the LGBTQIA+ community, etc.) are all but absent in the sphere of literature. These stories become sources of inspiration, and I never got my hands on a memoir or something that could be comparable to my lived experience until I read The Joy Luck Club my sophomore year of high school. I didn’t feel a strong connection to the stories and even resented them and their depictions of Asian Americans. Of course, my feelings changed with age and understanding. However, from the beginning of my jaunt into literature I found I could always rely on the inspiration in fiction.
Fiction acted as what I call a gateway into the vast world of feminism instead of what some people may seem as escapism from the harsh reality of violence. Harry of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter arguably endured an abusive home life with his aunt and uncle forcing him to cook meals, only giving him the burnt scraps to eat while his cousin relentlessly bullied him. This is the reality that many children face in their daily lives and while reading about how Harry is then whisked away to a magical boarding school may seem like the very definition of escapism, the reader is simultaneously thrust into a world where there is a registry for witches and wizards based on their bloodline and a powerful figure is fighting for the eradication of those who aren’t pureblood. The series is fraught with corrupt politicians, an underground resistance movement, and culminates in a battle for freedom from this oppressive power. These young students take it upon themselves to lead the charge against what they know to be wrong, an example diffused to many children who are now old enough to lead the charge against the oppressive regimes seen in today’s society.
In children’s’ and YA fantasy novels, there is also always a clear celebration of the different. The different, in the world of reality, is a distinction that leads to ridicule and danger. Rick Riordan noticed this in his son who was constantly bullied for his ADHD and Dyslexia. Riordan started to tell his son stories of how this difference was a strength. His famous Percy Jackson and the Olympians series shows those very attributes as the marks of demigods. Heroes. Riordan doesn’t stop there. He has written openly gay, black, latina, Asian, Muslim and, lately, a transgender character. These representations have opened conversations on diversity in YA literature.
Living with ADHD, Dyslexia, and abuse in the home are realities that feed into the lived Truth that is so important to feminist work and feminist writing. The setting of these truths, in a magical boarding school or Greek monster infested Manhattan, do not diminish the effect that they have in empowerment and beginning conversations of the celebration and power of difference. In fact, it puts these discussions in language that act as good introductions to feminist thought and language that may be missing from common discourse.
The validity of fiction as a source of inspiration and feminist thought is on the same level as that of stories that are truer to reality. In childhood and adolescence, they teach moral nuances and often start to help develop an understanding of the surrounding world; its injustices, its diversity, how they interact and how they influence each other. It is fantastical case study with the potential to reach past the pages. The concert of fiction and feminism is the concert of theory and practice.
Mariam Bagadion is a second year student at SCSU double majoring in Women’s Studies and English. She has a passion for writing and social justice and thinks the coolest thing in the world is when the two can be combined. In her free time, she writes fiction, watches Netflix, and plays one of the three songs she knows on the ukulele.