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May 14, 2018

The Importance of Intersectional Representation --- Guest Post by Jen Wilde, Author of THE BRIGHTSIDERS

Posted by Rebecca M

Author Jen Wilde burst onto the YA scene in 2017 with her debut, QUEENS OF GEEK, which celebrated not only the powerful bonds of fandom, but empowerment and the queer community as well. In Wilde's newest book, THE BRIGHTSIDERS, she explores celebrity, coming out and even more queer characters, including one who identifies as nonbinary. At once a cute romance, story of friendship and the delicious ins and outs of internet celebrity, THE BRIGHTSIDERS is a fantastically quirky book for your summer TBR. In this post, Jen Wilde discusses the importance of representation in her novels and supporting marginalized characters.

Growing up, I didn’t read much. I couldn’t really afford to buy books other than the ones I needed for school, and learning disabilities made concentrating long enough to finish an entire book a struggle for me. I found it hard to connect with characters, to get swept up in a story, to focus my wandering mind enough to reach The End.

I often wonder if it would have been easier for me if I’d found books with characters like me in them. Characters with anxiety, autistic protagonists or queer heroes. I wonder how different my teen years would have been if I’d had fictional friends to relate to and help me understand parts of myself sooner.

How much easier would school have been if I’d read a story with positive autistic representation? Would I have been diagnosed at 16 instead of 26?

Who would I be now if I’d met a happy queer character in a book when I was in high school? Would I have realized I was queer in my teens instead of my twenties?

If I’d read a story about a character filled with anxiety and fear and sadness, would I have felt so hopeless, so isolated, so doomed? What kind of adult would I be now if I’d known there was nothing wrong with me then?

Questions like those are always on my mind when I’m writing. More than anything, I want my books to show teens that they’re not alone, there’s nothing wrong with them, and they can be the hero of their story.

I can only imagine how much my mind would have been blown if I’d read a book starring a queer, non-binary, autistic character. How much more whole and validated and worthy I would have felt. Books like SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA and JULIET TAKES A BREATH would have changed my whole life if I’d read them in high school. Stories like EVERYTHING LEADS TO YOU, LET'S TALK ABOUT LOVE and THE SUMMER OF JORDI PEREZ would have made me excited to read. And maybe it wouldn’t have taken me until my early thirties to finally start being comfortable in my own skin and proud of who I am.

And I’m speaking from a place of privilege, as a white person. Even with my marginalizations, I still benefit from my whiteness in countless ways. I have seen people who look like me in all forms of media my entire life. White heroes, white villains and too many white saviours. I may not have seen all of myself represented in them, but I saw parts of myself when I looked at them, which is more than what a lot of people can say. For all my struggles with feeling ignored and misrepresented, communities of color have to fight much harder to be seen and heard --- especially queer, trans and disabled BIPOC.

This is why it’s so important that those of us with more privilege use it to lift the voices of others and support marginalized creators. Marginalized communities deserve to see themselves as heroes, as the stars of their own stories. We need to do this so that younger generations grow up knowing that they matter, that their voice is needed and that they’re never alone.