Fiction: an effective tool against indifference

In “The Legend of Auntie Po” we learn about a part of US history that has been often forgotten: the difficult lives of Chinese immigrants in logging camps in Sierra Nevada, California. “Orange is the New Black”, Jenji Kohan’s series, narrates the lives of female prisoners in Upstate New York, whose stories are usually ignored too. Khor and Kohan’s works have made it possible for these often-forgotten minorities to be visible. They also portrayed the stories of queer individuals with dreams, desires and flaws. They have brought humanity to neglected groups, making them relatable and worthy of respect, support and love.

The ceremony for Pauly’s death is traditionally Chinese. This moment is very emblematic, because it’s a Chinese ritual for a white man. During the ceremony, there are three boxes. The first one says: “I guess we have to keep on telling our stories, even if they are not the same as the ones our parents told us” (page 238). On page 239, the other two boxes say, “I like it when our stories change when we share them with new people” and “I like that their stories will be different”. The boxes symbolize a collective voice brought together in Mei. A voice that recognizes that telling stories of compassion between differences is important and must continue.  A ritual that would be exotic for white loggers in the 19th century is, as a matter of a fact, a demonstration of love and respect for those who have passed away. This generates relatability from the reader.

Kohan’s series tells the stories of convicts who had their own dreams and desires and when we watch it, we can actually relate to their problems and understand what they go through. The story of a Black lesbian convict, who struggles with mental issues (Suzanne “Crazy Eyes”), is portrayed. She loves books and expresses vulnerability and love in many moments. She has violent bursts as well. She is human and relatable.

The boxes in the pages aforementioned (238 and 239) encourages the ongoing telling of the stories, making other people aware of other narratives and consequently changing their own stories by being more empathic towards Queer people and other minorities. The book and the series ultimately say that individuals who are forgotten by the course of history or the mainstream deserve love and understanding. Their own idiosyncrasies need to be respected and be given space, but in the end, they are also individuals with flaws and desires, just pursuing their own happiness. Fiction is a tool to empower forgotten voices and generate relatability.

2 thoughts on “Fiction: an effective tool against indifference”

  1. I appreciate how you speak to how Khor humanizes the queer community and queer individuals through including their “dreams, desires, and flaws.” I think the page regarding the ceremony for Pauly’s death is a clear example of how queer people and especially queer youth, like Mei, don’t need to be ostracized within society. Through showing the multifaceted nature of Mei’s character demonstrates that Mei’s sexuality doesn’t solely define her and that there are other aspects of her identity and lived experience that other individuals can relate to. In this way, I think Khor provides a level of authenticity and complexity that is often lost or diluted within LGBTQ representation within different forms of media.

  2. The quotes you pulled out of “The Legend of Auntie Po” are very interesting, and definitely relate well to “Orange is the New Black.” Furthermore, I think they encapsulate the purpose of this whole class. In focusing on exclusively LGBTQ+ literature in the United States, we are hearing often untold stories. It is especially important to read these stories in a literature class, as schools elevate only pieces in the “literary canon,” which is severely lacking in LGBTQ+ representation. Treating LGBTQ+ literature with the same amount of importance as all those books written by old white men is important for progress.

Leave a Reply