There is no map to the place where YA fiction and social justice meet

There’s a question that’s been percolating in my mind for a couple of years now. I first gave voice to it at a writing workshop called “Queering Writing” put on by my own dear Writing Center (this was before I worked there, but it was where I met my boss and mentor Sandy). I asked the presenter what she thought about people (like myself) who do not identify as queer writing queer characters. Since then, this question has expanded.

How do I write characters who experience oppression where I do not? Am I only “allowed” to write protagonists who share my exact status (female, white, middle-class, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied, etc.)? How do I write an inclusive cast of characters without them becoming Tokens? How do I (while being aware of how much privilege I have) explore/create alternate realities where the power dynamics are different from what we know (see previous post East of the Sun, West of the Moon)?
I’m not necessarily looking for concrete answers, because there probably aren’t any. I just want to start a conversation with writers, activists, and conscious thinkers. I want to keep learning and growing forever. I want to use my writing as a force for good in the world. I want to invite my young readers to examine the dynamics of power and oppression around them and to imagine new worlds of possibilities.

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