Merriam-Webster’s dictionary describes fiction as a form of literature in which anything imaginable can happen to any person imaginable. This is the wonderful appeal of opening a book and indulging in the escapism of a life and world we have never lived before.
If anything can happen in these imagined worlds, shouldn’t everyone receive a chance to put themselves in a character’s shoes and join in on the action? I think so, and so do the many authors, screenwriters, and actors advocating for further and better representation in the entertainment world. Not everyone has agreed with such a mission or the way it’s played out– just ask the Rings of Power critics– but I think that we all forget the all-encompassing power of the word “fiction.” It invites possibility for every potential viewer or reader, and it should stay that way, stoking the creativity of all who witness it.
Bridgerton, one of Netflix’s most successful series, has remained popular with a wide audience thanks to its alluring romance plots and the diverse cast it features. Every character, regardless of how they identify or what they look like, plays an equal part in the kaleidoscope of the story and portrays an intriguing depth of character. Not only is there a third season in the works, but a spinoff about Queen Charlotte’s youth and rise to power is releasing this year!
The lucky few smuggled off to fantastical worlds can be anyone, too. In Brigid Kemmerer’s A Curse So Dark and Lonely, the main character is a girl named Harper who has cerebral palsy, a strong spirit, and a clever mind. She takes the Beauty and the Beast retelling by storm and is an important part of the romantic and action-packed portal fiction. It’s the first in the Cursebreaker trilogy, and after reading it, I’m already anxious to see how Harper and Prince Rhen fight for Emberfall.
A contemporary example is John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down. Having dealt with OCD himself, his personal experience inspired him to create Aza’s world. He is able to honestly detail thought spirals and the daily functioning of someone who faces such a challenge while navigating high school, friendships, first romances, loss, and a touch of mystery.
I’ve also been recommended a series by Jenn Lyons called A Chorus of Dragons. The first book, The Ruin of Kings, launches readers into a complex world where a newly claimed son of a prince grapples with his new role in the empire and a vast fate he isn’t quite sure how to accept. The cultures are open and the characters are unique, making this world welcoming for all to find their place in it. Perhaps we should all read it together and relish seeing ourselves reflected in a fantastical mirror!
Elves, fairies, princesses, princes, and high school heroes and heroines should be able to look and act like anyone– even you! May we all meet ourselves in our next reads.