When I was in middle school, I remember reading a comic book series called Lumberjanes. This series was about a group of girls at an all-girls summer camp discovering the often supernatural mysteries of the area. The cast of characters is full of LGBTQ+ individuals and POC, which I had not seen much of up to that point. Reading it back then, I simply enjoyed the story, not thinking critically about some of the choices the author made.
Now, having read The Legend of Auntie Po, it occurs to me how intentionally the setting and title were chosen. Both books take the route of subverting the hypermasculine stereotype of lumberjacks to set the stage for a queer story. It is also worth noting that one of the five main characters is a transgender girl. By placing this story at an all-girls camp, the author immediately shuts down any questions about the validity of her identity. Her presence at the camp confirms that she fits in with all the other girls just fine.
This also leads to an interesting dynamic, as none of the girls are particularly “girly.” They choose to spend their summers at a camp advertised towards “Hardcore Ladytypes,” which is in the actual title of the camp. This means there gets to be a story about a transgender girl who is still allowed to be in touch with the more traditionally “masculine” parts of her identity without it invalidating her girlhood. I did not fully appreciate this kind of representation in middle school, but after reading so much about the intersections of identities in this course, this detail strikes me as remarkably important in literature.
Khor’s point in the Author’s Note about their hopes for publishing in “a vibrant landscape of stories from all kinds of marginalized voices” also guided my thinking here (285). Lumberjanes being published, and the success it found, gave an opportunity for so many queer and POC stories to be told to adolescents. Although the plot of series itself is not centered around being queer or POC, the characters are obviously affected by their identities, bringing casual representation to many more young minds.
3 thoughts on “Lumberjanes”
I really like how you used the word “casual representation” to describe Lumberjanes. In The Legend of Auntie Po, I believe that it was “casual representation” to NOT have Bee and Mei date at the end. The story was not so much about Bee and Mei’s love story but rejecting the classic tale of Paul Bunyan and giving Mei autonomy as an individual. I like the part where Mei says that she will have other female ‘friends’ because she is able to accept her identity as a queer person without basing that identity on the first girl, she had romantic feelings for.
I appreciate your analysis of the two texts. Lumberjanes sounds so fun and interesting! I looked it up because I was curious, and it surprised me that there are 75 volumes! Your commentary about how, despite being a trans girl, on of the characters is able to embrace masculinity reminded me of Eli Clare. I feel like Clare is very open about his transness, and how his life as a lesbian is not erased after his transition.
I have not read Lumberjanes, but I find that what you are describing is also very similar to the author’s other work She-ra. The show, which is actually a reboot of an ’80s show He-man, was mostly female characters who still represented a vast array of women. The main character would transform from a normal girl into a giant, muscly super hero which was a point of awe in the show rather than a point of disdain. Through out the show too, there was a rivalry between two friends which eventually, after about 5 seasons, led to a kiss between them. I would agree that the casual representation that you talk about is also very evident in the show. Too often, when queer media is made for a younger audience, there will be pushback from parents who believe that some “gay agenda” is trying to groom their kids. Although this is simply not true, I think we see queer story lines significantly dulled in children’s media because of the fear of how it will be received. Casual representation, as you say, I think is perhaps the most appropriate for children’s media because while it doesn’t emphasize one idea over another, it fights back against the default mindset of a heterosexual, cis-gendered character. Subtlety, in this case, I think is important because it will be caught by those who need it. I am not sure if I would’ve picked up on the queer element of Auntie Po had I read this in elementary school, but I also didn’t know I was queer in elementary school. I think once I began to figure out my identity, these subtly queer characters became a lot more apparent to me, and ultimately supported the validity of my identity even when I wasn’t confident.
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