I picked up The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore because it was recommended to me by @hpressbooks on Instagram. She wanted to talk with me about representation, which is a request I can appreciate.
The Stars Beneath Our Feet is a middle grade novel about a boy, Lolly, who is trying to grieve the loss of his brother while simultaneously trying to navigate his neighborhood’s gang scene.
He has a thing for Legos, and finds solace in building and creating stories to accompany his city-scale creations. Through his creations he makes an unlikely friend, and he helps that friend as much as the friend helps him. And no, his friend is not the Legos.
The conversation I had with @hpressbooks was a tough one. It revolved around representation of an LGBTQ character who was frequently referred to as “limp-wristed,” playing into stereotypes of gay men. I think, in terms of representation, this is a hard conversation to have. On the one hand, we are filtered through Lolly’s perspective and the description of Mr. Johnathan is one I’ve heard before. Lolly’s mom may not feel like he’s in a position to correct Lolly’s father when he refers to Johnathan in a derogatory manner. Not that this description is acceptable or that the experience is acceptable, but it is definitely true to life.
So here’s my question: What is the job of books? Is the job of books to paint society as we wish it would be? Is is to always provide commentary about issues? Is it to paint society and interpersonal relationships as they are? Something else entirely?
I don’t have an answer, but I’m curious to hear what you all think.
This book is displayed very prominently in the Young Readers section of the bookstore I work at and I’ve had lots of questions about it. I haven’t read it yet, but your Sticky Note review makes me think I should get on the stick sooner rather than later.
I wish i had a cut and dry answer to the purpose of books. I believe part of their purpose is to bring about awareness, to bridge a gap, but most importantly to help open a dialog to tough conversations. Sometimes I think i’s unfair that we put this ‘burden’ on authors to do this but we as a people don’t do very well on our own in talking about the hard topics.
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I totally agree with you about the burden we place on authors. I think authentic representation is challenging because authentic rep sometimes means portraying life in a way that further marginalizes already marginalized groups without providing commentary. But if, within a specific community, there are not people who would authentically push back, then what? Art, like life I suppose, is messy.