As an author of romance herself, Alisha Rai spoke in an interview about her experiences incorporating feminism into her writing. In her novels, her lead female is the one in power, such as being a billionaire with a huge company in the palm of her hands. Matter of fact, most of her female leads take on some form of dominant position (and no, I’m not talking about in the bedroom!) where she is “overpowering” her male counterpart. That’s the not the usual trope you see. From reading many of the romance novels on the market today, one would think that women like to be controlled and compliant. But, authors like Rai are telling us that’s not always the case and why it shouldn’t always be that way.
In a way, romance novels can be feminist works even without Rai’s juicy switch. Romance is a special genre already. But, we can revolutionize the genre even more by adding in more feminist elements to the stories and characters. This is important if we want to keep the genre evolving and relatable. It will also keep the genre ‘special,’ for more than one reason. One writer points out why romance is special, in 7 ways:
Just like Rai’s protagonists, other authors choose to include strong female protagonists.
Romance is a genre filled with female/women’s voices.
Women’s needs are placed first. Inside the bedroom and out.
The genre allows women to explore their fantasies.
Regardless of how she is in real life, a romance novel allows a woman to take control of her sexuality.
Romance allows topics that have been outcast as “taboo” to be explored in depth.
And finally, it is a genre which allows many voices to get their foot in the door.
Seeing women that have it all may be refreshing and encouraging to read, but if none of that appeals to you, there will always be authors writing about the classic romance between two individuals- which we definitely don’t want to lose either.
If you are travelling down the self-publishing path, then creating a book cover is going to be another part of your publishing journey. After walking through aisles and aisles of books at the local B&N, I started to notice the similarities amongst some of the genres. There’s a cycle a writer should keep in mind when creating the cover to their book. If you were the book, the process would go a little something like this:
Get noticed by the potential reader browsing all your friends on the bookshelf or Amazon page.
Either you’re picked up or clicked on, because you’re just that interesting.
If you’re exactly what the potential reader wants, they’ll buy you.
Of course, they’ll read you.
After they’re done, they’re going to talk about you to other people. They’ll entice their peers with your inspiring and rich content.
Let this process repeat.
But, how can you get to step one? A good cover takes a couple different factors into account. For a fiction novel, you won’t want to include too much text. The title, author name, and maybe an essential quote from the book or a shortened quote from a reviewer is more than enough to do the trick. When you add too much text, it becomes too much for a the reader to consume or it might reveal too much about your novel. This can cause the reader to quickly put your book back on the shelf or scroll onto the next book. Quick catchphrases or quotes can sometimes be a good subheading – but make sure it doesn’t go much beyond a sentence. If images help your novel pop, make sure the image used is significant to the plot of your novel. It becomes visually appealing when a story about a dog, has a dog on it (or whatever the story may be). When you pick the right image, a reader can get just as much information about your novel from just looking at the cover as they can from reading its summary.
Let’s use Caraval by Stephanie Garber as an example. The cover of Caraval is a happy medium between being too boring and too active. The bright white color font of the title pops out at you, so you are immediately drawn to the title. The lettering intertwines elegantly with the star design without being too intrusive, adding a little extra pizzazz without hindering your ability to read the text easily. The glittery stars within the star design, against the space background, flow together in a simple manner. When creating your cover, you want to reflect the story you’re telling. In Garber’s novel, her main character, Scarlett, must find her sister in five nights while being surrounded by magic and performances (therefore, the star design on the cover mirrors the nighttime or bursts of magic within the novel).
If you are a visual artist, as well as a wordsmith, you might want to take it upon yourself to create your own cover because you know the image you wish to convey to your readers better than anyone else. Or recruit someone you may know or a trusted cover designer to work with you to create the perfect cover that will bring your story to life. Regardless of how your cover is made, you want to be able to appeal to your readers and represent your book in an exceptional way that wouldn’t allow it to be looked over by browsers.
In the ‘60s and ‘70s, women in literature were portrayed far differently than they are today. With today’s image of women, characters like Katniss Everdeen, Lisbeth Salander, Lucy Pevensie, Hermione Granger are some of our generation’s role models. They are praised for their strong will, independence, and successes. Prior to the creation of these characters, readers were often exposed to a different side of women: the crazy side.
Beware, there will be spoilers!
The first book we have is Valley of the Dolls by Jaqueline Susann. With this tale that follows the lives of three women, who are also dear friends of one another, one character truly stood out the most: Neely O’Hara. Her actions made me want to rip my hair out, shake some sense into her, and most of all throw my book across the room. She stands as one of the prime examples of how women have been mistreated in the entertainment business and how that shaped their future. Neely juggled drug addiction, alcoholism, weight gain/weight loss, along with attempted suicide on many occasions for a mere amount of attention from the media – and somehow still thrived. Her lowest point in the novel was when she had been admitted by her friend, Anne Welles, into an asylum for the insane after a suicide attempt that made her lose everything. She was deemed insane, but in reality she was just battling with severe anxiety due to her image in Hollywood being threatened by the newest, up-and-coming starlet. Instead of those around her trying to give her the appropriate resources for success, it was easier for them to put a false label on her problems and forget about them.
Another book, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, follows a woman in the 1950s during her stay at a mental hospital and tells the story of her recovery. Esther Greenwood reflects Sylvia Plath’s own journey after being diagnosed with depression. Plath’s trajectory to recapturing her mental stability takes the same dives as Esther’s, but instead of having a hopeful ending, Plath passed away by her own hand in 1963. The Bell Jar considers the treatment of women with mental illnesses, as well as having an optimistic view on recovery. For Esther, being a woman means being under constant pressures about marriage, being forced to not excel in the workforce, and her body only being a vessel for her future children. All things that many women take for granted today.
A third example is Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. The initial prognosis for the young Miss Kaysen was that she was living with depression. She was diagnosed by a psychiatrist she didn’t visit regularly or know. This lead to her admittance into McLean Hospital in 1967. Upon evaluation, the 18-year-old is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. The most important aspect of Kaysen’s retelling of her life is how she describes the treatment within the hospital. She notices the difference between how the medical personnel treat the sane and the insane. She also takes the time to examine mental illness versus recovery. Having a first-hand account of what it was like to be a woman with a mental illness, really brings home the validity of the issues the previous novels highlighted. “Crazy” was a solution, an answer, rather than an illness.
The last novel on the list is The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. The ‘70s did not treat the Lisbon sisters as well as many thought. The suicides revolved around the family of seven: Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon and their five girls. All five daughters had ultimately ended their own lives, but the start of it was with the youngest sister: Cecilia. After her initial attempt to end her life, she told the doctor that he didn’t know what it was like to be a 13-year-old girl. She felt alone and her heartbreak pushed her into a depressive state, but the ignorance of her parents forced her into a deeper hole than expected. Upon questioning, no one noticed whether the girls had or had not given off warning signs. The idea of this novel is to explore how their mental illness was overlooked by all members of the community, including the Lisbon parents. Education about these illnesses and what they look like has certainly come a long way. Something that used to not be talked about at all, is now not an uncommon topic among parents, friends, or co-workers.
All in all, female characters in literature have evolved to become more independent and stronger. Although our generation has been exposed to the more sane side of women, we needed the women who had succumb to the dark side of their minds; for the readers who could relate to their troubles, for the readers who need the realistic representation of the world written in a novel. Sometimes we need to know where we come from, the trials and tribulations, to see how we’re going to change where we go.
Also known as “chick literature,” chicklit was created in the ‘90s. It reached its peak in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s, mainly following middle-class white women. The plot normally follows these female character’s lives with a humorous and light-hearted story about ordinary troubles in womanhood – sometimes focusing on the romantic relationships, female friendships, and issues in the work place. As a genre that seemed to be “for women, by women”, men took their turn in writing their own versions of what chicklit seemed to be as well.
Unfortunately, chicklit is not as popular as it once was. In a day and age where the gender divide is slowly being demolished, titles published with a label like chicklit aren’t taken as seriously as say… a romcom with a shapeshifter billionaire lover who falls for the mail-order bride, who just so happens to be pregnant with his baby from a forgotten encounter. The romance market has become so oversaturated that readers are more drawn to unique characters with unique story lines. It’s also hard for chicklit to hold up against a classic horror from someone like Stephen King.
Don’t get me wrong, we all love a classic or creative story – but what about a story about everyday life? To me, that is what chicklit is all about. It’s also the very reason that chicklit will always be necessary. Chicklit not only brings normalcy to an anything-goes literary market, but it also serves as a safe place for women who need a place to escape and not feel alone in the issues of their everyday lives. Most chicklit plots are more relatable than any other novel (since, you know…shapeshifter lovers are pretty hard to find nowadays). Chicklit reminds its readers that they aren’t the only one with romantic strife, back stabbing girlfriends, or work place drama. Writers in the chicklit genre often write based on experience. So, if the story was penned then there is at least one other person out there experiencing something similar to you and that goes a long in way in making a scary world seem more friendly. And trust me, there are many more women experiencing the same thing, not just one. Women’s fiction, feminist authors, chicklit titles … they’re all needed now more than ever.
So, I encourage you to pick up a chicklit at your local bookstore or download a quick read through your Kindle. If you are feeling really empowered, maybe even take your fingers to the keyboard of your computer and create your own work for women because we can certainly use it. The literary market needs more strong female leads who don’t fight misogyny that has been internally brewing since her birth. We need more female CEOs of multi-billion-dollar companies, we need more average 20-somethings who are climbing the social ladder by NOT sleeping with anyone but perhaps by just being a decent human being with a sparkling personality.
Who knows, maybe it’ll get picked up for a movie deal and Beyonce is cast as your main lady squeeze. We can all dream, right?
With Children’s/YA literature becoming increasingly popular, the integration of color within the literature presented to this target audience has slowly grown. Targeting children and young adults about cultural differences encourages open-mindedness and fosters open conversation.
Children’s and YA literature that includes topics of race and ethnicity provide a range of learning tools, such as teaching cultural authenticity. This type of authenticity imitates the beliefs and values of a specific cultural group, including language and everyday life details. The youth’s self-concept can be improvised and self-realization is brought to light to help their young minds sense of self become more aware. It also helps them to learn about and celebrate the differences of those around them. Given that younger minds are molded far easier than developed minds, multicultural literature provides insight about other cultures that these young children might not be familiar with or might know nothing about.. It’s a way for young readers to learn the difference between culture general behaviors (the idea of broad principles) and culture specific behaviors (actions or patterns only performed by certain cultures).
In just children’s literature alone, we are seeing growth in multicultural literature and color:
American Indians/First Nations: 0.9% Latinx: 2.4% Asian Pacifics/Pacific Americans: 3.3% African/African American: 7.6% Animals/Trucks/etc.: 12.5% White: 73.3%
We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization working to make the necessary changes in the publishing industry to help enrich the lives of all young children and to create as many learning possibilities as they can through reading.
When a writer creates a fictional universe, they produce characters of all different types. Whether the character is our main protagonist or the anti-hero, we indulge in their world with the help of the writer. There are plenty of characters many readers have found memorable, most often they are the ones who deviate from social norms and our expectations. Readers notice recognition, personality, humanity, enrichment, and pain in these characters giving them a more relatable quality than others.
The characters we meet along our reading journeys stick with us for months and years to come, perhaps even for the rest of our lives. We all have different reasons for gravitating towards particular characters. What attracts one reader might repel another. We highlighted a few of our most memorable characters, the ones who have made the biggest impact on our minds and reading journey:
Christopher Boone from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Disclaimer: He is not a representation for everyone who has been diagnosed with some form of autism, he is simply Christopher Boone.This fifteen year old exposes readers to autism through a first-person narrative. Interestingly, he has characteristics that one would find contradictory such as being brilliant yet clueless, sweet and then sour, sensitive but insensitive. Christopher Boone has set himself on a journey, not only to find the killer of Wellington the dog, but also to discover truths about himself and the world around him and how to cope with them.
Severus Snape from Harry Potter Series
Considering the most recent celebration of Harry Potter’s twenty year anniversary, we needed to pick one of our favorite characters from the series. From the first novel, we only saw Snape to be the bad professor at Hogwarts. Later on in the series, we start to see him as a misunderstood figure we learn to love. He always seemed to be more intelligent, observant, and competent about the students and their problems far more than any other professor.
Yunior de la Casas from Drown &This Is How You Lose Her
Junot Diaz’s recurring character, Yunior, never ceases to amaze us. He invites non-Latinos to see the stereotypes of the Latino culture. Yunior will always embody more than a simple plot in the stories he tells, whether you are reading Drown or This Is How You Lose Her. Diaz uses the first-person narrative with Yunior to make the story-telling more intimate for readers. He creates an attitude for Yunior that gets readers thinking, “Geez, I hate him. But I love him.”
Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby
Of course this man would make our list. We’ve all known Jay for quite a while! After 92 years, why is Jay Gatsby still in our thoughts and in our hearts? This man is rich, he’s made sketchy deals, he has a questionable background, but he looks beyond all of that and cares about love. Fitzgerald intended for Gatsby to be surrounded by a cloud of mystery even to this day, Gatsby is still utterly dreamy.
Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games
Katniss Everdeen stands amongst the four other men on our list as one of the most memorable female characters in the fiction world. She becomes a young woman right before our eyes, taking on plenty of roles during her time in Suzanne Collins’ world. We’ll always remember the struggle of love between her, Peeta, and Gale. We can never forget her as the fearless warrior in the games either. Katniss stands as a provider, survivor, celebrity, girl on fire, and love object…how could we forget her?