“You guys know about vampires?” Diaz asked. “You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, “Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist? And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might seem themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.”–Junot Diaz

I LOVE this quote by Junot Diaz. Too often the word “marginalized” comes up when describing people of color in the U.S.; unfortunately, this happens quite often in literature. Look at nearly any list of 100 “classic” novels, and you’ll find that the majority of the authors and/or main characters are white. Which doesn’t mean they aren’t high quality literature, but it DOES signal, to me, the fact that not enough literature by people of color was considered. Why is this important? If you read only these works, you’d get a skewed portrait of people of color, mostly one-dimensional characters or even caricatures. If you’re a person of color, particularly a young one, seeing an image of you that isn’t true can be disheartening and lead to self loathing (doll test, anyone?).

I think the character that “reflects” me most is Janie in Their Eyes Were Watching God. She’s an independent, classically Southern black woman. I also see myself in Jed from A Wizard of Earthsea (I like folks from the country).

What characters reflect YOU?

Advertisements