Hi! I am sorry for my lack of vivacity today and in the coming weeks, I am swamped at uni. So. Many. Exams. Can't even begin to explain. I still wanted to give something to you guys though, so here it is. Sorry I didn't do anything last week, I don't read many graphic novels, only the tiniest bit of manga, and certainly not enough to come up with a good top five.
This week in Top 5 Wednesday we are celebrating diversity in literature by mentioning our top 5 favorite characters that represent minorities. This is an ode to all those characters that do not conform to the default settings of what society believes a human should be (cisgender male, heterosexual, white, suffering from no health conditions) and steal our hearts. These are my picks:
#5 Aristotle and Dante from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
This whole novel is diverse, giving a very beautiful homage to Mexican American culture. I like how even though the lives of Aristotle and Dante are described in specifics, their story still feels universal. Props to Benjamin Alire Sáenz for that.
#4 Andy and Nathan Nolan from Lola and the Boy Next Door
#3 Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights
Many authors of the period have included a figure representing "the Other", whether they intended to or not, because as an author you are depicting reality and the subjugated people of the colonies and the various people of color slowly migrating to Europe were part of this reality. Yet they are often silent figures, or figures in the background - they aren't given much of a voice, you know. This is why I applaud Emily Bronte for creating Heathcliff - he is of Romanian descent and is described as a handsome man of color, and, contrasted to, for example, Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre, he is a fully fledged character with many layers to him, so many, in fact, that it has many die-hard fans as it has haters. Whether he's cruel or not, swoony or not, he's one of those characters that you feel that you know, the kind that stay with you after you close the book.
#2 Olanna Ozobia from Half of a Yellow Sun
I feel kind of iffy putting Olanna on this list, given that in her world (Nigeria/Biafra in the 60s and 70s) she isn't part of a minority (most Nigerians then and now are black). She is, however, part of the subjugated people, even if she comes from a well-to-do family. She may enjoy relative financial freedom and a decent social standing, but her parents are slowly turning their backs to their roots and adopting more and more customs from Europe and North America in a desperate attempt to be regarded as equals to white people. Olanna herself represents this awkward encounter between cultures. She has been educated in the United Kingdom and adopts Western ways while making a conscious effort at acquiring a certain Nigerian patriotism and pride in her country. Yet she is somehow incomplete, both as a Nigerian woman and as a lady educated in England. At one point in the book she wishes to trade her French and Latin in order to be able to speak more African languages, while at the same time she doesn't want her child associating with poorer black children. Olanna is interesting precisely because of all this contradictions, but above all you can't help but love her because she is truly making the effort to love Biafra and stand by it.
#1 The members of the Martell family from the A Song of Ice and Fire series
They are, without a doubt, the best of all the noble houses in the Seven Kingdoms. They are unruly, ambitious and nothing will stop them in their search for vengeance, either if they proceed covertly like prince Dorian or if they are openly feared throughout Westeros, like prince Oberyn. They also happen to be the most feminist of all the houses, being the only one in which inheritance of titles and property goes to the eldest child, regardless of gender. They are very loving towards illegitimate children: Bastards in Dorne face close to no stigma, and they are radical enough to avoid marriage when it can be avoided (I have nothing against marriage, but I find it really awesome that they are rebelling against it in what would be the equivalent of Medieval times, it makes them very forward thinking). And I honestly cannot think of more badass fictional women than the Sand Serpents, mostly giving the impression of being sweet, well-bred ladies, when they are actually experts in weaponry and poisons. And the majority of them also happen to be people of color. There is just too much badass here to handle!
Let's take this week as encouragement and read more diverse books!
P.S. Here's a link to the Goodreads group of Top Five Wednesday in case you want to make your own. It's fun :)