BY MACEY LAVOIE
I grew up in a world of VHS tapes and Disney Classics. My collection was an impressive mass of bulky nostalgia that I packed away as DVD’s took over. I remember my favorites: the brave Mulan and the heart-wrenching tale of Simba in the Lion King. But one thing is for sure, I have always hated Cinderella.
My family would laugh at my utter lack of interest in being a Disney princess, but from a young age something about the tale of the girl in the glass slipper irritated me. Cinderella did absolutely nothing to help herself, and it could be argued that if the fairy godmother hadn’t shown up Cinderella would still be scraping the cinders out of the fire. It was a classic damsel in distress story that even as a child I couldn’t get behind.
During that time I wanted – needed – a story that would show a healthy representation of women, especially a gay character, one who struggled and faced adversity but was able to overcome it. Such a character didn’t exist (at least to my knowledge), so I stopped reading the few LGBTQ books my friends would suggest to me.
Though my family had never spoken ill of LGBTQ individuals they didn’t outwardly advocate for them either. It was a topic that rarely found its way into conversation. I remember the truth being at the tip of my tongue, and I remembering swallowing it down as I recalled all the scenes in books where the truth caused nothing but heartache and disappointment. I would clench my hands under the table and the truth would slip back down. My mother would ask me what I was thinking and I would only shrug my shoulders: nothing much.
It wasn’t until I received a book for Christmas that my perspective of the much-loved character began to change. “Ash” by Malinda Lo is an adaptation of the Cinderella – it's got faeries and huntresses. It was this tale of magic and self-discovery that led me to consider what it would be like to put on a pair of glass slippers of my very own. Though, in this version, Ash doesn’t fall for a prince or even a man; she falls for the King’s Huntress, Kaisa.
This was my first time reading a book where the main character was bisexual and encouraged to be herself, with a complex love triangle between a mysterious faerie named Sidhean and Kaisa. I was swept up in the love story because it was something I could relate to. I identified as someone apart of the LGBTQ community and was comforted to know that – for once – the fictional characters I spend a majority of my time with reflect a part of me you don’t see represented often.
Much like Ash, I wasn’t one of those children who inherently knew about their sexuality early on. I pretty much tripped into it my early years of high school much like Ash trips into it upon discovering her romantic feelings for Kaisa. You rarely see gay characters in literature, much less a bisexual character that ends up falling for a woman.
LGBTQ books have been problematic, to say the least. The main character typically discovers their sexuality and is disowned, kicked out of their house or ostracized and bullied to the point of suicide. I remember reading this scenario over and over again until a seed of doubt was planted in my own head. Would my kind and loving family really kick me out if they knew about me? Was it that bad to be different?
Lo's version of Cinderella, however, speaks of a quiet strength, and more complexity than the original. This is a Cinderella character I could get behind. One who was kind but also brave, one who got lost in books and didn’t need to fall into the arms of a prince to be saved.
The topic of representation has been a hot spark in the publishing world for a while, as more organizations like VIDA and We Need Diverse Books gain momentum and as diverse voices are published. I can only hope that we see more writing like this come out of the woodwork.
Macey Lavoie is a new Bostonian trying to find her way around and working on her MFA at Emerson College. She has a fondness for sushi, walks on the beach, reading and mermaids. When she is not busy having crazy adventures with her friends she can be found either jotting down writing ideas in her small notebook or curled up with a book and her two cats. Her dream is to one-day change the world with a book and to own a large library.