More and more, stories centering on MOGAI characters have been appearing in young adult fiction, something I am exceedingly happy about. Solid, respectful, and accurate MOGAI—which stands for Marginalized Orientations, Gender Alignments, and Intersex—representation is incredibly important, and here are five reasons why.
- Fiction should be a reflection of the world both as it is and as it could be.
It’s not yet a universal facet of literature, though. Readers have been subconsciously trained by books and society to apply a “default” description to characters, so much so that unless an author takes special care to describe and define each person’s characteristics—whether that’s race, orientation, religion, ethnicity, or other—we assume they’re a white, heterosexual, Christian, able-bodied individual. Contemporary and historical novels can so easily incorporate the truth about the existence of people of color or those on the MOGAI spectrum. Fantasy and science-fiction worlds are capable of showing us what humanity could look like if it released its prejudices fell away. If books began to reflect the truly beautiful diversity of the world we live in, this “default” would begin to break down. Or we can hope it would help this happen over time, at least.
- Many teenagers are searching for their place in the world.
Now, I identify as asexual, but when I was in high school, I only ever heard that word used in a biological context—usually to describe plants or amoebas. My friends and I were trying to figure out who we were, who we wanted to be, and what was possible for us to become. Having more examples and role models across the MOGAI spectrum could give thousands of teens a foothold on their own identities. I often wonder how differently my life might’ve unfolded if I’d learned about asexuality in high school instead of on the cusp of my thirties, but there’s no real way for me to know that answer. Hopefully, the next generation won’t have to ask themselves the same question.
- For those who know they’re place and find themselves on the outskirts of our society, validation can be lifesaving.
The relief of feeling “Oh, finally! Someone understands,” cannot be overstated. For those who thought they were truly alone on the outskirts of humanity, who firmly believe no one will ever understand what that moment of recognition can mean. So many readers never get to experience that moment because no one has written their story yet. Trying to find yourself in books and failing is exactly the opposite of the Oh, finally moment. It can be devastating, isolating, and awful, especially for teenagers.
- Exposure to something new is the first step to acceptance.
New is often different, and both of those concepts can be scary. Humanity is highly adaptable, sure, but change doesn’t happen instantly. It can take hours, years, or generations. One of the most important components to pushing this kind of forward motion is constant and consistent exposure. If representations of the new and different are repeatedly encountered, they slowly become normal and non-threatening. Then, after those hours or years or generations have passed, humanity finally accepts what was once novel and terrifying as commonplace and inevitable. This kind of normalization happens so much faster and more smoothly when it begins in childhood, though, which is one reason why it’s so important for respectful representation to be included in young adult and children’s literature.
- Nothing Spreads Love Like Love.
It’s widely accepted that reading a broad range of fiction and non-fiction creates empathy, and for very good reason. Movies are merely a window into lives; books allow you to get inside another person’s head, laying out another person’s motivations, logic, experiences, and beliefs. They give you the why behind so many actions that could seem absolutely confounding if unexpectedly encountered in the real world. Understanding why can be the final key needed to allowing someone who’s hesitant about or disturbed by an orientation, identity, lifestyle, or cultureto unlocking the final door to acceptance. Reading about someone supposedly different from you falling in love and feeling all the same intense emotions can break down the misconception of difference in an incredibly powerful and lasting way. What we need most now is more stories capable of making this happen.
Know your enemy.
Know your enemy if you want to survive…
The only way for Khya to get her brother back alive is to kill Varan—the immortal ruler who can’t be killed. But not even Varan knew what he was doing when he perverted magic and humanity to become immortal.
Khya’s leading her group of friends and rebels into the mountains that hold Varan’s secrets, but if risking all their lives is going to be worth it, she has to give up everything else—breaking the spell that holds her brother captive and jeopardizing her deepening relationship with Tessen, the boy who has been by turns her rival and refuge since her brother disappeared. Immortality itself might be her only answer, but if that’s where Khya has to go, she can’t ask Tessen or her friends to follow.
About Erica Cameron
After a lifelong obsession with books, Erica Cameron spent her college years studying psychology and creative writing, basically getting credit for reading and learning how to make stories of her own. Now, she’s the author of several series for young adults including The Ryogan Chronicles, the Assassins duology, and the upcoming Pax Novis trilogy. She’s also a reader, asexuality advocate, dance fan, choreographer, singer, lover of musical theater, movie obsessed, sucker for romance, Florida resident, and quasi-recluse who loves the beach but hates the heat, has equal passion for the art of Salvador Dali and Venetian Carnival masks, has a penchant for unique jewelry and sun/moon décor pieces, and a desire to travel the entire world on a cruise ship. Or a private yacht. You know, whatever works.