Thursday, February 9, 2017

Discussion: Where Are All The Asexual YA Characters?

Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts At Midnight host the 2017 Discussion Challenge.

For me, 2017 started off with the Dumbledore’s Army Readathon. The readathon prompts were meant to encourage people to read diverse books. One of the books I read was The V-Word: True Stories about First-Time Sex, which is a collection of #OwnVoices essays written by women about losing their virginity. Teens often don’t have realistic ideas about sex. This book sets out to dispel the myths created by porn and romance novels.


First time sex is a big unknown. Will it be candlelight and rose petals or quick and uncomfortable? Is it about love or about lust? Deciding to have sex for the first time is a choice that’s often fraught with anxiety and joy. But do you have anyone telling you what sex is really like?  
In The V-Word seventeen writers pull back the sheets and tell all, covering everything from straight sex to queer sex, diving-in versus waiting, and even the exhilaration and disappointment that blankets it all. Some of their experiences happened too soon, some at just the right time, but all paint a broad picture of what first-time sex is really like.


I was impressed with the variety of viewpoints in this essay collection. You get to hear about sex from the perspectives of straight, lesbian, pansexual, and trans women. It’s a very educational book for curious teens.

However, there’s one viewpoint that’s missing. Asexuality is mentioned, but there isn’t an essay written from an asexual woman’s point-of-view.


Even though it seems counterintuitive, a quick Google search taught me that some asexuals have had sex. An asexual perspective wouldn’t have been out-of-place in a book about first-time sex. Since this collection has such a wide assortment of viewpoints, the asexual view is conspicuous in its absence.

The V-Word helped me realize that the asexual perspective is missing from young adult literature in general. The genre tends to be focused on lust, but not all teens are interested in that. Where are the asexual characters in YA?

To find them, I turned to the Internet’s most brilliant and terrible invention: Twitter. I got a lot of recommendations, and I thought I’d share them with you. Some of these may be new adult. I haven’t read any of them (yet), but I’m looking forward to the ones that fit my reading tastes.


 






Dreamland Burning – Jennifer Latham

When seventeen-year-old Rowan Chase finds a skeleton on her family's property, she has no idea that investigating the brutal century-old murder will lead to a summer of painful discoveries about the past . . . and the present. 
Nearly one hundred years earlier, a misguided violent encounter propels seventeen-year-old Will Tillman into a racial firestorm. In a country rife with violence against blacks and a hometown segregated by Jim Crow, Will must make hard choices on a painful journey towards self-discovery and face his inner demons in order to do what's right the night Tulsa burns. 
Through intricately interwoven alternating perspectives, Jennifer Latham’s lightning-paced page-turner brings the Tulsa race riot of 1921 to blazing life and raises important question about the complex state of US race relations – both yesterday and today.






Island of Exiles – Erica Cameron

In Khya’s world, every breath is a battle. 
On the isolated desert island of Shiara, dying young is inevitable. The clan comes before self, and protecting her home means Khya is a warrior above all else. 
But when following the clan and obeying their leaders could cost her brother his life, Khya's home becomes a deadly trap. The only person who can help is Tessen, her lifelong rival and the boy who challenges her at every turn. The council she hoped to join has betrayed her, and their secrets, hundreds of years deep, reach around a world she's never seen. 
To save her brother’s life and her island home, her only choice is to trust Tessen, turn against her clan, and go on the run—a betrayal and a death sentence.





We Awaken – Calista Lynne

Victoria Dinham doesn’t have much left to look forward to. Since her father died in a car accident, she lives only to fulfill her dream of being accepted into the Manhattan Dance Conservatory. But soon she finds another reason to look forward to dreams when she encounters an otherworldly girl named Ashlinn, who bears a message from Victoria’s comatose brother. Ashlinn is tasked with conjuring pleasant dreams for humans, and through the course of their nightly meetings in Victoria’s mind, the two become close. Ashlinn also helps Victoria understand asexuality and realize that she, too, is asexual. 
But then Victoria needs Ashlinn’s aid outside the realm of dreams, and Ashlinn assumes human form to help Victoria make it to her dance audition. They take the opportunity to explore New York City, their feelings for each other, and the nature of their shared asexuality. But like any dream, it’s too good to last. Ashlinn must shrug off her human guise and resume her duties creating pleasant nighttime visions—or all of humanity will pay the price.





Fourth World – Lyssa Chiavari

IAMOS, S.C.D. 8378 
Nadin's planet is dying. As its atmosphere drains away, her people are forced to live huddled in domed cities for protection. With only enough resources to support the population for one more year, time is running out. Nadin thinks she's found a way to save Iamos, but it will mean defying the planet's rulers, the geroi—and betraying the geroi could cost her everything. 
When a strange boy from another world appears out of nowhere outside the citidome's glass walls, Nadin knows for sure that her plan will work. But to build the device that can save her people, Nadin must first find the legendary city of Elytherios. And to do that, she'll need the help of the mysterious alien boy named Isaak. 
MARS, 2073 C.E. 
All Isaak wanted was to get through his senior year at the Academy in one piece. Everything would have been fine if he hadn't found that ancient coin among his missing father's possessions. The coin seems to have a strange connection not only to Isaak's family, but to Mars' ancient past. 
But how is that possible, on a planet that was supposed to be dead until just forty years ago? 
Now Isaak's got agents of the Earth's government on his tail and a deranged factory worker stalking his every move. Everyone is desperate to get their hands on something called the Key. And the only way to escape is to unlock an even bigger secret, one that could change his life—and the fate of Mars—forever.





Chameleon Moon – RoAnna Sylver

The city of Parole is burning. Like Venice slips into the sea, Parole crumbles into fire. And trapped inside is an entire population of people with bizarre, beautiful and terrifying abilities—people who really should not have them. When Regan, an anxiety-ridden hitman with the peeling skin of a lizard meets Evelyn, singer, revolutionary, and unofficial superhero, it’s up to them to get to the heart of the mystery of Parole and its quarantined inhabitants. Along with a diverse group of superpowered friends, they will evade a deadly totalitarian police force, discover the truth about their entwining pasts, and together find the strength to survive a cataclysmic disaster.






The Cybernetic Tea Shop – Meredith Katz

Clara Gutierrez is a highly-skilled technician specializing in the popular 'Raise' AI companions. Her childhood in a migrant worker family has left her uncomfortable with lingering in any one place, so she sticks around just long enough to replenish her funds before she moves on, her only constant companion Joanie, a fierce, energetic Raise hummingbird. 
Sal is a fully autonomous robot, the creation of which was declared illegal ages earlier due to ethical concerns. She is older than the law, however, at best out of place in society and at worst hated. Her old master is long dead, but she continues to run the tea shop her master had owned, lost in memories of the past, slowly breaking down, and aiming to fulfill her master's dream for the shop. 
When Clara stops by Sal's shop for lunch, she doesn't expect to find a real robot there, let alone one who might need her help. But as they begin to spend time together and learn more about each other, they both start to wrestle with the concept of moving on.





Every Heart A Doorway – Seanan McGuire

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere . . . else. 
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children. 
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced . . . they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world. 
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter. 
No matter the cost.





Plastic Wings – C.T. Callahan

When seven-year-old Evie Weiss discovers a strange, sickly boy in her otherwise familiar forest, she has no idea what it holds for her world. He is a dark angel, one of a race of humanoid beings that feed on humanity and tear Evie’s world down around her. Years later, as humanity mounts a counter-attack against the dark angels, Evie remembers the boy in the forest and finds herself torn between her loyalty to her own people and feelings of compassion for these strange creatures that first captivated her as a child. It is the quest of one girl to unite two worlds so separated by war, but how can she close the gap between two races so determined to hate each other?





The Last Chronomancer — Reilyn J. Hardy

Nineteen-year-old Maestri Craft was perfectly content living in a small town in Aridete. A place he lived for nearly eight years. His life was safe, simple and ordinary; none of which was ever enough for his best friend, Jace. Jace was turning two decades, and in the eyes of munfolk, that meant he would become a man. Only Jace wasn't of mun and that put him in danger. It would possibly even end his life. 
Knowing he would be forced to leave town, Mae was unwilling to let him go alone. He had secrets too, and it was time he did something about it. Their journey will send them on a unique quest. From being chased by a hag, to flying on winged horses and even a confrontation with a vampire, they come across friends and foes of all creatures. The only problem is, nothing is black and white, and not everyone is as friendly as they seem. Haunted by the curse that follows his bloodline, it soon becomes apparent to Mae that no matter what you do or how far you run, your past will always catch up to you.





Still curious?


There’s an asexual book club! Check out #AceBookClub on Twitter. Also, for fans of speculative fiction, there's an Aromantic and Asexual Speculative Fiction Database





Let’s discuss: Do you have any books to add to my list? Which groups of people do you think are underrepresented in literature?









29 comments:

  1. What a great round up. At first glance, it does sound like an oxymoron to be featured in a collection about sex, but curiosity is a natural thing! I have a friend who recently felt comfortable enough to tell friends and family that she is asexual, but she does date and does go through the flow of relationship things (aka sex).

    I recently read Dreamland Burning and that featured the first ace character I've read about!

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    1. Awesome! I added Dreamland Burning to the list.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  2. Thanks for sharing these Ace books. From what little I understand, Asexuality is a lot more complex than most people understand, and unless you go looking for the information, it's not obvious. I'm disappointed that The V-Word doesn't talk more in depth about this, but I'm not surprised. Sex is complicated, even more so when you're a teenager, and I hope in the future folks talk more about the nuances to encompass everyone, even kids on the Ace spectrum.

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    1. Exactly. We need to talk about asexuality more often so that teens know it exists. It sucks to feel alone in something.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  3. I honestly never really thought bout asexual representation in books. You are right though that I can't really think of any. Glad you posted this though and thanks for the recs!!

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    1. Yeah, it took some work to find asexuality rep. There isn’t much of it out there.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  4. Awesome list! This is definitely a great thing to draw attention to, because now I think about it I don't think I've actually ever read a book that has a representation of an asexual character in it. I really will have to check some of these out! :)

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    1. Great! If you read any of these, I hope you like them.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  5. This is nice that you're putting this out there. I don't think I've read anything that includes an ace perspective but for anyone looking you're provided what looks like a good starting point here. I do remember hearing that Every Heart A Doorway did represent the ace experience.

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    1. Thanks! I haven’t read any books with asexual rep, either. That’s one of the reasons I made the list. I wondered where all the asexual characters are.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  6. OH yes I have a book to add! Island of Exiles features an asexual character! They aren't the MC, but it's completely accepted and I love it. And the author is ace too, so I love it extra. (The whole world is really sex-positive and accepting, tbh, so it is a really good series to check out.)

    But you are really right, I think that it IS something that should be explored more in YA- I can imagine that young people who identify as asexual probably feel SO underrepresented- not just in YA books, but in media everywhere. This is such an awesome post!

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  7. Youre missing We Awaken by calista lynne. I dont think Every Day has on the page rep though I might give this one a reread. There are some new ace book coming out this year though and Im super excited!

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  8. The Ace perspective is very much under-represented in books, I definitely agree on that. I don't think I've read a single one. Mind you the genres I read aren't bursting with diversity so it's no real surprise! Great post!

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    1. Yeah, some genres really need help in the diversity department. Hopefully that will start changing soon.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  9. This is such an important post. I have to say that I hadn't really realised how little representation there was for asexual people in books. Sometimes even when a character is asexual in a book they're not completely represented. I read every heart a doorway and even though it was mentioned briefly I didn't really feel like it was explained fully and just swept over. Really great post!!

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    1. Thanks! Hopefully we’ll start seeing more ace rep soon. There isn’t much of it out there.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  10. This is something that I will admit that I haven't given a lot of thought to before now. I read Every Heart a Doorway and don't even remember an asexual character. I need to start paying more attention I suppose. Great post!

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  11. Thank you for this list, AJ! I will definitely check some of these out. I never thought about asexual representation before, and it's great that you're bringing attention to it.

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    1. Thanks! If you do read any of them, I hope you like them.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  12. I was single throughout my teens and twenties--not like "unmarried," but like "never went on a date, much less had a relationship." And it often bothered me that you never saw a young protagonist who was single throughout the entire book. Like the whole world revolved around romantic love. So even without being ace, I definitely agree that there's a lack of representation of people that are not sexually and romantically active.

    From what I remember, Every Day doesn't feature ace characters. The main character exists in the body of many different gendered people, but they are definitely a sexual being, and fall in love. So they're, like, agendered rather than asexual.

    Super interesting post, and not something I'd thought specifically about, which is another reason why more ace characters in books would be a good thing--as always with diversity, you want to let people see themselves in literature, and you want people to develop awareness and empathy for those who have different experiences.

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    1. Yes! I had zero interest in dating when I was a teenager. All my friends were boy crazy, and I wasn’t. It would have been nice to know that I wasn’t a weirdo. There are teens who don’t want to date.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  13. You're right that asexual characters seem to be really unrepresented period, not even just in YA. And that is weird that it wasn't included in that book you said since many asexual have had sex. But this is a great list you've collected! Every Day is already on my list of books to read this year, and a lot of these other ones look really interesting! I figured it'd end up being a list of contemporary for some reason, so I'm pleasantly surprised that all the books you found are SFF, just what I like to read!

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    1. Thanks! I was also surprised that so many of the books I found were SFF. I would like to see more contemporaries with ace rep.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  14. Thanks for the well put-together list. I just bought Plastic Wings now! Have you read Finding Your Feet by Cass Lennox - it's awesome and one of the main characters is on the ace spectrum and biromantic.

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    1. Thanks! I haven’t read Finding Your Feet. I’ll look it up.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  15. I hadn't thought much about this until a year or so ago when I had a conversation with someone about it. I have to confess that I didn't really understand much of anything about asexuality. Of course, one benefit of having it more represented would be that people would understand it more!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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