So it's Wednesday and that means it's time to stop hinting around about the thing I want to talk about and to start just talking. So, on vacation I read a couple books (see the other posts this week) and had an excellent chat with my sister-in-law (who is one of the greatest bonuses of being married to my wife). I started to think about the books I connect with the most, the books that make my tummy flip, or make me laugh or cry, the books that punch me in the heart. I thought about the books I read last week and noticed something a little weird. Books with male protagonists, and books with straight romantic elements rarely give me that connection. Books about girls or women, and books written by women seem to hook me the most.
What? I have always thought the arguments about boys not reading books by women (hello, J.K. Rowling using initials instead of her name) were stupid. But now that I am old and think about these things sometimes, I have noticed that maybe it's not so stupid after all. I'm not saying it's right to reject books out of hand because they are written by a dude or by a lady. That's still stupid to me. But, if my own reading preferences are anything to go on, some of us do have a tendency to like books written by men or women over the other.
There are obvious and glaring exceptions. Harry Potter is a boy and I love him and those books. But is that because it's a book about a boy written by a woman? I don't know. Is it because Hermione Granger is one of the most amazing and ass kicking heroines ever? Maybe. Is it because the books are so good it wouldn't matter who wrote them? I don't know. Because without Jo Rowling those books aren't written. If they are written by Joe Rowling they are entirely different, right? Because even if you and I start out with the exact same idea for a book the end product will never be the same.
Then I talked to my sister-in-law about some books she borrowed the last time we saw her. Several of them had a lesbian romance as part of the story (they were mysteries, mostly) and she had her own epiphany. She likes a good romance but realized that lady-lady romances aren't her bag. It's not that she doesn't like them, it's just that they don't give her the same thrill as straight ones. We talked about how those of us who aren't straight have a lifetime of reading romance stories that don't connect the same way because, hello, we don't want to make out with dudes. She clearly had an eye-opening experience of what it must be like (on a very small scale) to be gay and have to kind of comb through either the few gay books out there or to try to enjoy a romance that doesn't exactly give you a thrill. I laughed about the drivel we will watch and read because there are no other options.
Of course, some of these seems obvious to everyone who was different enough to hope that maybe, just once, they would see themselves in a book. Every POC who was sick of being the sidekick or friend or token classmate dropped into a story for diversity (or books that just flat out kipped diversity at all). I was taken aback by my own lack of connection to Looking for Alaska and perhaps have blown it all a bit out of proportion because it's just one book. But reading The Bermudez Triangle with it's lesbian love story, coming out realizations etc just felt so much more like home for me.
I'm not really sure what the point of all this is, in the end. Maybe it explains why there are some male writers who I never connected with at all (John Steinbeck is one of my least favorite authors) or maybe it's a weird anomaly. Maybe it speaks to needing more authors of all sexes, genders, sexualities, races, etc.
I think it does speak to the idea that sometimes we want stories that take us a world away but we also want characters who we can connect with, regardless of the setting. Sometimes we just want to see ourselves in a book, or see a reflection of our own experience. I'm certainly not going to stop reading male authors or books about boys, because that is idiotic. But, I think I will be on the lookout for this same issue popping up elsewhere because I am genuinely interested to know if it is a gender/sex/sexual orientation issue or if it's just an issue with a particular book.
Alright, what do you guys think? Have I lost my mind (probably)?