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.

Art beyond dreams : the revelatory power of “Angels in America”


In the America of the 80’s, reality was harsh, and the different communities didn’t communicate. They preferred to stay in their own bubbles and, when they did leave their bubbles, criticism took place. There was little empathy or collective effort. The diversity was something negative, resulting in more isolation. “Angels in America” is a play that, through characters’ dreams and hallucinations, seek to inspire its viewers and readers to realize that differences can actually be mutually dependent, that is, communities can learn with each other, depend on each other and in fact understand that there are many similarities between them.

Scene 7 in Act 1, between Prior and Harper, is a perfect example of this important endeavor. The two characters represent two members of the gay and the Mormon community, respectively. It’s very unlikely that these characters would meet and actually have such a deep conversation in real life. Through Prior’s dream and Harper’s hallucination, the characters talk and discover their similarities. However, Harper says that what they are experiencing is different from usual, because “… the mind, which is where hallucinations come from, shouldn’t be able to make up anything that wasn’t there to start with, that didn’t enter it from experience, from the real world. (p. 32). Later, she says that “(…) when we think we’ve escaped the unbearable ordinariness and, well, untruthfulness of our lives, it’s really only the same old ordinariness and falseness rearranged into the appearance of novelty and truth” (p. 33).

What is Harper trying to say is that human beings are trapped in their own bubbles even when they are dreaming or hallucinating. Dreams are a way of preparing a person for her/his/their own life, that is, imagination is limited, as Prior said. What would be the solution then, if both the real and the oneiric worlds don’t burst the communities’ bubbles? I think “Angels in America” is a play that talks about the power of art and how it can lead to a “threshold of revelation”. (page 33) Art has no limits and make distinct characters be empathetic towards each other. Art produces “a blue streak of recognition” (page 34). “Angels in America” is a form of revelatory art in which Tony Kushner calls the attention to how we can recognize ourselves in others and understand how our differences can be amalgamated together and make us stronger through tough times. Art holds our hands so that we can cross our own thresholds.

Queerness in defiance of a monolithic world

Yet in this extended working-class family, unspoken lesbianism balanced against tacit acceptance means that Barb is family, that Aunt Margaret and she are treated as a couple, and that the overt racism Barb would otherwise experience from these people is muffled. Not ideal, but better than frigid denial, better than polite manners and backhanded snubs, better than middle-class “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which would carefully place Barb into the category marked “friend” and have her sit many pews away from immediate family at her lover’s father’s funeral”.


In the book titled “Tendencies”, by Eve Sedgwick, the author defines what it means to be queer: “… the open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances, lapses and excesses of meaning when the constituent elements of anyone’s gender, of anyone’s sexuality aren’t made (or can’t be made) to signify monolithically” (8). In the book titled “Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness and Liberation”, Eli Clare materializes Sedgwick’s definition through the telling of his own story as a white disabled trans man in the United States.


In the passage above, Clare refers to how his white working-class family back in Oregon would consider his aunt’s girlfriend as part of the family. Clare doesn’t say that homophobia or racism doesn’t exist in that community, but he states that this “tacit acceptance” is better than a “polite manners” middle-class family, who would consider Barb as a friend, not as a girlfriend. This middle-class family could be located in a bigger town, or even in cities considered progressive, such as New York or San Francisco.


The passage illustrates how queerness is an intersectional term, impossible to be defined monolithically, as Sedgwick said. One would expect that Barb would be treated in a very biased way in this small town in the countryside of Oregon, but these expectations aren’t met. This passage then conveys the message that, when it comes to queerness, nothing can be easily defined. It’s a dissonance which invites the reader to abandon their metronormativity, that is, queer people are to be found everywhere and might find reasonable acceptance outside large, metropolitan and progressive areas. Clare ultimately wants to say that being aware of queerness is not only respecting everyone’s idiosyncrasies, but also understanding that the world is made of many layers, which overlap in many unexpected ways.


The poem “History, according to Boy” is a collection of poems that exposes the feeling of guilt, invisibility, physical and psychological violence that pervade the lives of LGBT people. The sections are episodes that remained ingrained in Saaed Jones’s mind during his teenage years.

Jones had a blue journal in which he would eternalise these moments through his writing. It wasn’t always easy for him to write these thoughts, though. In the essay “A Poet’s Boyhood at the Burning Crossroads”, Jones said “There was no one moment in which I was suddenly able to shatter silence into language (2).” He had never had space to talk about his sexuality with his family. Silence was the rule. The constant silencing made it difficult for Jones to process his own feelings and write about how he feels.

In the essay, we learn that Jones has starting writing about himself as a gay man when he came out to his close friends. In section 5, however, he was only 12. In “History, according to Boy”, Jones is the “Boy”. He talks about various micro-violences that had happened to him, but which are universal in the sense that they represent the silencing and hurt that LGBT people have to go through since they are kids. The micro-violences can be blatant (when D., a classmate, calls Jones a fag, for example) or very subtle. The one we see in section 5 is subtle, but has managed to remain in Jones’s mind.

Jones’s father dims his smile when seeing his son hopping after shooting precisely.  This second-long action, so subtle, has survived in Jones’s mind through the years. The poet was very young and hadn’t come into terms with his sexuality, but this micro-violence instills in him the poison of self-shame and guilt.