Mar. 23rd, 2013

julieandrews: (manga)
I just had an interesting experience starting to read Monument 14. I must have had some pre-conceived notions of it, although all I could consciously remember was that it was a YA book, I was reading it because it appeared on a list of potential nominees for a local YA library list/award thing, and it was science fiction. Having now read like a chapter and glanced at the cover, I now also remember it was post-apocalyptic and takes place in a store, survivalist kind of thing.

So why did I go into it thinking the main character was male? Because, apparently I did. Was it the title with a number in it? Was it because post-apocalyptic is usually male? (It's not.) Was it some subtle thing I was picking up from the cover, which I hadn't even really looked at? (The focal point is a character seen from the back who's wearing a hoodie. Literally the only thing you can tell about them is that they're not bald, probably not blond, and they have two arms and appear to be standing.) Someone wearing a hoodie might default to male in my subconscious.

Was it the starting out in second person? That's only the first paragraph. It's a distancing technique that a male narrator might use... maybe. Was it the running for the bus? Was it the little brother?

Because I definitely thought the character was male by that point, even before the line about going to the Salvation Army together for electronic parts.

Not long after that, I was thinking.. I bet the author is male. So I glanced at the cover to see that the author is Emmy Laybourne and probably female. This did not change my opinion of what I thought the narrator was. I admit I did believe I would enjoy the story more knowing that than if the author had been male.

I didn't start to question that the narrator was male until s/he was hiding under a seat and paralyzed into inaction by the shock of the circumstances they were in. Now, it's perfectly legitimate for a male character or any human being to not be galvanized to move in an emergency situation. To want to help out, but be unable to. And yet.. that's not the narrative I've come to expect in post-apocalyptic YA with a male protagonist. So I wondered.

At this point, I went back to figure out what had led me to think it was a male character, and was it actually a male character? And there was no sign I could see either way. So then I continued reading in ambiguity. Then there was a line about the super-popular football star boy which called him, in the narration, 'beautiful'. Around about then, I was convinced it was now a female character. A male character who didn't do anything heroic in the opening scene and characterized another boy as "King of the beautiful"?

Then finally someone called the character by his(?) name. Dean.

So I'm going to operate on the assumption that this is a male character, until proven otherwise, who may or may not be straight.

Cory Doctorow, while I was at Clarion, said that the narrator always knows his or her gender so you should let the readers know as soon as possible. I don't agree with that. On all counts. They don't always know, and you're not always obligated to tell the reader. Although you probably should unless the ambiguity serves a purpose.

But anyway, I kind of like it when I don't know, because then I can analyze my own assumptions. Was there a cue in the first few paragraphs that I picked up on when I read it, but missed when I reread them? Or was it really not stated until the name "Dean" appeared on page 14. Coincidentally 14.

Well, anyway, let's hope the rest of the book is as interesting as the games I was playing in my head!


julieandrews: (Default)

May 2014

252627 28293031

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags