Saturday 14 January 2017

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Discussion: How Do You Discuss a Book When Characters' Marginalised Identities Are Spoilers?

How Do You Discuss a Book When Characters' Marginalised Identities Are Spoilers?

Eye Heart Romance & YA, Spoiler Alerts: When Is It Okay to Talk About It? It's a really interesting that asks after how long is it finally ok to talk about major spoilers. Her title, however, had me thinking about types of spoilers - is it ever ok to discuss spoilers publicly, or should you always be spoiler free or keep them hidden?

Pantomime by Laura LamIt's something that I really have a bit of an issue with when it comes to books featuring LGBTQ* characters. Quite a number of people had a problem with the blurb of Pantomime by Laura Lam when it first came out back in 2013, when it was published by Strange Chemistry. There was no mention at all the Micah and Gene were the same person; that Micah is intersex, raised in their aristocratic family as Gene, and later became Micah when they ran away (I'm using plural pronouns here, because Micah is also genderfluid, and I can't quite remember what pronouns they use.). So, yes, I've just said that Micah is intersex, but Micah being intersex is actually pivotal to their story. It's important for readers - especially possible intersex readers - to know about Micah's intersexuality. It's important that people know about books with characters they can identify with. Hiding the fact, no-one's going to know until they read it, and with our attitude to not spoiling books, if we don't talk about, still people aren't going to know. Thankfully, with people getting annoyed at how Pantomime was published, people did talk about it, and it became known. Fortunately, now Pantomime has been re-published (as Strange Chemistry are no more) by Tor, the blurb has also been updated.

Margot & Me by Juno DawsonDespite Pantomime coming out a few years ago, this issue still seems to be about. When I started putting together the Diverse YA & MG 2017 UK Releases list, I was informed by a publisher about a book that contained an LGBTQ* - but that, at that time, they didn't know how the book was going to be marketed, and that a certain character had X identity could potentially spoil the story, and so asked me to not mention the book having a character with and LGBTQ* identity until they could confirm how the book was going to be marketed, whether it was going to be known. This was after me asking for clarification regarding whether the LGBTQ* character was a protagonist or a secondary character, and mentioning Pantomime to explain why I was asking. As yet, I've not heard back, so I don't know how what's going to happen for this book.

With books like Margot & Me by Juno Dawson and A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom, I like how they've been open about the fact that there are LGBTQ* characters in their books though not saying any more than that to keep from spoiling the actual plot of the book (neither of these books' blurbs hint at LGBTQ* characters, but it's mentioned in the announcement for Margot & Me, and Lindstrom told me about there being a lesbian POC in an email for the Diverse YA & MG 2017 UK Release list - to make public - but that he couldn't say who that was as it spoil the plot.). I think it's ok to keep the specifics secret when it's going to spoil the story, but at least it's known that these characters are there, whoever they are, rather than not mentioning it at all.

A Tragic Kind of Thunder by Eric LindstromAs a blogger, and as someone who likes to discuss these elements of books, I'd probably discuss the characters in hidden spoilers, but mention that I'm discussing the LGBTQ* characters/romance (depending), that way, again, I'm mentioning that there are LGBTQ* characters, but not spoiling the story. But it can be difficult when something is discovered as the story goes along. I read a book in which a character had a rare hidden disability, but none of the characters - not even the character with the disability - know about it until later. As a reader, it was better going into the book not knowing about this disability, because otherwise, I would have known how this disability relates to what happens earlier in the book (it's difficult to discuss without actually going into it, but, clearly, I would be spoiling the book), and it works better to learn about this character's disability when they do - you're in the dark just as much as they are, until you aren't. But for the purposes of representation, how do you deal with that in a review? I decided to discuss it in hidden spoilers, but everywhere else - in diverse lists or when talking about diverse books - I mention that this book features a character with this disability, and say no more. I don't know how else to deal with, how to promote a diverse book as a diverse book, when the knowing about the disability prior is a spoiler. It kind of bothers me, because I do feel people should know, and for them I should talk about it openly, but I do think it's a pretty major spoiler and could spoil the plot. So what do you do?

What are your thoughts in regards to spoilers about marginalised characters? Is it better to give those spoilers, or to not spoil the story at all? What would you do in a similar situation with the book featuring the disabled character?


  1. Agh this bothers me no end because I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO HANDLE IT. One of my top favourite books features a "spoiler" disability and it's very diverse but if that's like a pivotal spoiler part, then I can't talk about it??? It's so hard! I haven't even reviewed that book on my blog because I want to talk about its diversity but I don't know if I can. *weeps*

    And also I think this is a big thing for All the Bright Places. Like it's constantly shelved for bipolar now, but originally you didn't know until nearly the end because even Finch didn't know. So on one hand I love getting to discover things with the characters because we're on a journey with them, but on the other hand I almost don't think part of who you are should be considered a spoiler? It's hard!! I guess I always play it safe and try not to say anything spoilery but I do flap around about this all the time.πŸ™ˆπŸ™Š

    1. You could deal with it how I do; I give a "I want to talk about this thing, but it will spoil the story, so don't click the button", and then hide everything under a spoiler button. I think I've seen you do something similar before? Or is it a case that you don't know how to review the book on the whole without spoiling the story, rather than talking about the diversity as an aspect of the story?

      The thing with Finch, for me, is that I already assumed he had bipolar from the beginning, so it was never really a surprise to me. And I just assumed everyone else would, too, because he clearly has some kind of mental illness, and the way he acts just seems pretty in line with how bipolar affects people - so yeah, I just thought people would have guessed that.

      But yeah, discovering things along with the characters, I think is important. The book I discuss in this post you've actually already reviewed (I'm pretty sure you didn't mention the disability at all, because spoilers), and it would have changed the whole reading experience if I had read your review, seen mention of the disability, and read the book knowing that, because it would have just made sense from the beginning. (To be honest, I did know before reading it, because I was told by the publicist, accidentally, months before reading when she thought I was tweeting about this book when I was tweeting about another - I just forgot about it until the disability was revealed, and I was thinking, "Oh yeah! I remember so-and-so mentioning this now!" So I'm glad I forgot, haha!)

      But I agree with you, who you are shouldn't be a spoiler. And I feel I should be able to say, "People with X disability reading? You'll find representation in this book," but I feel like I can't. It is difficult!

      I think I myself will just continue with spoiler buttons. Then I can say all I want to, and the choice is up to others. That way there's potential to have a conversation with those who have already read the book, which is pretty much why I write the spoiler stuff, "This is a thing I want to talk to you about!"

      Thank you for the comment, Cait! :)

  2. This is such a great topic! Spoilers in general can be so tough to avoid sometimes because how do we talk about aspects of a book that we loved and/or hated when we don't really want to give specifics about what those things are? And I totally agree that it makes it ten times harder when you want to make sure a book reaches a certain audience but you don't want to give too much away. I think you've handled it the best way you can---I don't see any true way around it.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. Thanks for your thoughts! It is such a difficult situation to get around. I don't really see any other way around things, but I wish there was some better way.

  3. I completely understand this dilemma. Like, I have tags and things on my blog even for different types of LGBT characters, for different disabilities and mental illnesses, etc. And I'm planning on making more list posts to recommend different things, like books with bisexual MCs, for example. But in one of those books, the character has amnesia and kind of wonders what his sexuality is throughout the book and doesn't even figure out that he's bisexual until the end. And for something like that, I'm not sure if I should even include it in a list since it's kind of a spoiler. And even tagging it on my blog could potentially spoil that. So yeah, I don't know, it's a tricky thing because, like you said, people are actively looking for characters that fit these underrepresented identities, but we can't find them if we don't get any indication of it in the blurb or in reviews.

    1. Right? What do you do in that situation? It's so tricky! I think I might just start giving a "Diverse Rep" acknowledgement at the beginning of the review, but say that disucssing it is a spoiler, and continue hiding the spoilers, but at least then readers know off the bat this book is a diverse book. I think that's fair enough.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I think some of it does come down to how long the book has been out. Everyone talks about Aristotle and Dante as a gay male teens book. I just read it and the characters' sexuality aren't all defined until the very end. I kept thinking, "Everyone says they are gay but this isn't reading like it." I think it is spoilery to know that but it also alerts people who want to read LGBTQ books to pick up that one. Hard choice.