Hi, everyone! As you might recall, my dear friend Joce (squibblesreads on BookTube, and now a blogger over at The Quiet Pond) wrote a wonderful guest post for me back in January. Today, I’m honored to have her back on the blog with another guest post, this time discussing books about girls and women in online communities! Please give Joce a warm Novel Ink welcome. <3
TW: sexual assault, online harassment
In light of recent events in the news, such as the US women’s gymnastics team members’ cases against Larry Nassar and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, more and more girls and women are coming forth and telling their stories. With our voices sounding louder comes a re-evaluation of our place and comfort in online communities. Personally, as a Booktuber and blogger, I often speak out against acts of discrimination against marginalized groups, which can elicit hurtful misogynistic and racist messages in return.
Today, I want to recommend three books that illustrate different accounts of girls and women who participate in online communities and their individual repercussions. Each one comes with their own perspective in their respective corners of the Internet and how their main characters choose to engage through their online personas.
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
In An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, 23-year-old April May achieves Internet fame through the viral circulation of her video documenting the appearance of a strange robot on the streets of New York City. More of these robots, called Carls, begin to appear in different countries. April has to quickly learn and set boundaries with others on the Internet and in media. She interacts with a few prominent male figures in politics and on television news outlets who try to undermine her opinions and what they incorrectly deem to be her lack of expertise. Sadly, this squashing of young women’s voices seems to be prevalent, and I have seen it specifically in the YA book community– which is mostly dominated by young women’s voices. There have been many times where people will state that YA books are not worthy, or should be considered lesser than “classics” written by dead, old, white men– which is not the case, so do not ever think that! There was also distinct commentary on how the political is personal for some people, and how women online are spoken over even in cases where certain policies and litigation being passed or not passed have direct bearing on their health and well-being.
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
In Eliza and Her Monsters, our main character Eliza Mirk is a teenage girl who gains Internet fame under the username LadyConstellation. She is the anonymous author and illustrator of the webcomic Monstrous Sea. Balancing interaction with peers face-to-face versus through the Internet is a struggle for Eliza, and she experiences anxiety around the possibility of people at school finding out that she is LadyConstellation. The persona and facelessness provides her comfort, and in turn, a safe space to create. These feelings extend to a presence in the book community in two instances that come to mind. First, the book community provides a refuge (at least for me!) from overstimulation and difficult “adulting” tasks in my daily life, and allows me a space where I can exercise my creativity, much like Eliza. Second, choices can be made regarding distinguishing creator from creation; for example, when a Booktuber or blogger is also the author of a book and thus may receive criticism. Everyone interprets these situations differently, but I appreciated seeing them reflected in Eliza and Her Monsters.
More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer
Emma Blue has written her own computer game from scratch (which is so cool and definitely not something I could ever do!). Unfortunately, there is stigma against women who play video games, nevermind write them, which can lead to girls and women feeling unwelcome in these online communities. In More Than We Can Tell, Emma uses her creativity and scientific knowledge to perfect and edit her game, which provides her with a form of escapism from her parents putting her in the middle of their divorce. No matter what social media platform we choose, creating bookish content can also give us a place to escape. Emma also becomes the victim of targeted harassment by one man who plays her video game and she has difficulty banning him because he continues to make new profiles to harass her. Reading this, I felt fearful and cornered. An example of where this is mirrored in the book community is when one faceless, anonymous commenter continues to make derogatory or gross sexual comments on every video or post that a creator makes. If this is happening to you, do not feel guilty to mute or block these users if it will prolong your presence and safety.
Which one these characters’ experiences resonate with you the most? Have you felt any of these things when interacting online?
Thank you so much to Joce for this post, and for this wonderful discussion on being a woman in an online community!