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How Victoria Aveyard’s ‘Red Queen’ Makes Me Feel Represented

Proof that diversity in literature changes things

Credit: vivus1999 on Deviantart

In segregated America, progressives used the slogan “we all bleed the same blood” to counter the division, but in Mare Barrow’s world, blood is exactly what divides them. A young adult dystopian called Red Queen is my favorite piece of literature for multiple reasons. Blood divides Mare’s world; having red blood means one is inferior to those with silver blood. Those with silver blood have special magical abilities, but Mare — a Red — discovers that she has abilities, too.

Red Queen is one of my favorite series, because realistically, I can relate to Mare. Both of us have Latina heritage, and it is not often in young adult literature that the main character is something other than Caucasian. The slow addition of diversity in varying arenas has finally found its way into young adult literature, and I can personally feel the change.

Red Queen is a different approach to the YA dystopian genre. It involves politics and characters who make realistic decisions, and it strays quite far from any type of cliché plot. Mare Barrow is easily a dislikable character, which is important for young adult literature, because a main character with no flaws is simply unrealistic. Mare obtaining these negative qualities not only makes the story richer, but it sets the example of “oh, look, she’s not perfect, but she’s still prospering.”

It took a long time for publishers, directors, etc. to understand the importance of diversity. From experience, I can explain what whitewashing does.

As a young child, I would read a book and find a character I love. Soon, she would become my role model, and I wished to be just like her, as children often do, but it wasn’t easy, as that character had straight blonde hair with blue eyes and pale skin.

This would occur so often that I would straighten my curls every chance I found, simply so I could erase every bit of me that is not like these characters. Because there were only whitewashed characters, it pushed away the ideology of embracing my heritage, skin color or appearance.

I have many roots. I am Latina, African American, Native American and Caucasian. Because of my wide range of roots, it is likely I will never find perfect representation of who I am, so I take what I can find. I try to relate to an Afro-Latina or a bi-racial character in literature or TV productions.

In Red Queen, Mare Barrow is a Latina with brown skin, and so, at last, I have an opportunity to relate to the character; it feels like a breath of fresh air. It reminds me that it is OK to turn off my flat iron and that it is OK to stay in the sun long enough to darken my skin.

Representation reminds minorities that they are valid, and it pushes the ideology of embracing oneself. Victoria Aveyard, the author of the series, has vocalized the importance of using her platform correctly to portray representation and strength in other aspects. Mare Barrow is the first character I can realistically relate to the most, and because of that, Red Queen will always mean something more to me than a fantastic YA dystopian series.

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Written by Marie Isabela

I’m a novelist and poet who drinks way too much coffee and reads way too many books.

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