Spaces to Be and Spaces to Grow: A Generalized Ramble

I stared at the gif above for a long time BUT it totally is a lie and the post below has absolutely nothing to do with the kind of space that you have to take a rocket to be in and everything to do with the kind of space you have to open a book to be in.

Was that confusing?

That’s okay. I’m generally a confusing person.

What we are discussing today (because I’m quite tired of writing book reviews) (just kidding) (not really) is space.

The spaces that fiction afford us. The spaces in which our imaginations flourish and our personalities grow. Now obviously this is a post about diversity (or perhaps the lack of it framed in a more interesting way or so I hope) and if you don’t like that, there’s a little red x on one corner of your screen.

Click it.

If you are still here, let’s talk about some of the more famous spaces in fiction (not literary fiction, I wouldn’t want to exist in literary fiction). Say Middle Earth, specifically, Rivendell:

rivendell

It’s pretty but about the only time POC people appear in Middle Earth  is when there’s need for people to kill so other people can be heroes. Obviously we can imagine that we are Aragorn or um any other mostly male character in the series; imaginations are not limited by pesky things such as race and colour but there is always that sense of not belonging to this story so obviously tailored for skins not a certain colour.

Okay, there’s also Hogwarts. That’s pretty interesting and inclusive, right?

hogwarts

Nope, not really. However, in this instance, my imagination is more than enough to carve out a space for me among the hallowed halls. Possibly in a painting or two. Or as a side character who is forgotten after a scene or two. I hope I get a scone or two out of the entire experience.

How about Born Confused by Tanuja Desai? I feel like this novel will appeal to anyone who feels um confused about where they come from and where they’re going and of course who they are.

It has a little bit of Bollywood:

aisha

a little bit of people who just won’t let you have fun:

kajol

annoying relatives who observe and react:

hrithik

But mostly it’s about a girl who finds herself a space to be and then just grows:

sonam

No? Well then, how about Daniel Jose Older’s Shadowshaper?  I can’t find any art to go with this but I reckon Yash can furnish this space with pictures that perfectly limn the kind of space Shadowshaper offers its readers.

Space, fictional space, is so very important to children who see the world in way that is different from adults but no less complex. If you ask children to continue existing in spaces that often seem borrowed, appropriated, or even stolen, you may be teaching them to exist in corners, hidden, or apologetic of their presence. By giving children a space to exist not just in real life but also in fiction, a space that is peopled by not just one dominant race but is full of diverse characters, you can possibly teach them to adapt to any space because they can exist in any space.

Am I being too obtuse?

When I was a child, I read Anne of Green Gables and while I love that book, I couldn’t see myself in the space Anne has. I couldn’t see myself at Green Gables or in the forests and flowers Montgomery describes so eloquently. If only I had a book that allowed me to see that my chai loving self didn’t need to wear dresses and hats to be special.

My point is, diverse spaces in fiction is just as important as diverse people though some people might make the argument that diverse people mean diverse spaces and they would be absolutely right.