November 5th, 2016
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: email@example.com
The plot of As I Descended both hinges on the characters’ queerness and transcends it—there’s nothing about the book that would be inaccessible to a straight reader, but same-sex romance is an inextricable part of its plot. In a literary environment where LGBTQ representation is still catching up from centuries of erasure, it’s refreshing to see a queer protagonist like Maria, not a stereotype nor a trope but a deeply flawed, complicated person battling conflicting desires. When Maria gives in to her worst impulses, it’s not a validation of homophobic stereotypes but an illustration of what could happen to any desperate person in a moment of weakness. Worth noting, too, is the fact that the Macduff stand-in who threatens to foil Maria’s plans is also gay; no single character in As I Descended must bear the burden of representing all LGBTQ people.
Talley says that writing classics from a queer perspective shows readers “that there’s nothing inherently ‘straight’ (and for that matter, nothing inherently male, white, or Christian, etc.) about the stories that we think of as defining our culture.” While straight, white, and male is overwhelmingly the profile of literary characters typically deemed “universal,” As I Descended proves that a bisexual Latina student makes an equally compelling and relatable lead.
For Sara Benincasa, author of Great, turning Jay Gatsby into a teenage girl with a borderline obsessive crush on her childhood best friend was not just a question of offering a relatable character to queer readers, but of making the story more real. She says, “For stories to be authentic, they must include LGBTQ folks, because we’re everywhere. We’re in every town, every school, every gym, every grocery store, every club… So why shouldn’t we be in stories?”