Let’s not mince around here.
I am a cis white dude.
Corey/Kori, the star of Why We Fight, is biracial and bigender.
What the hell was I thinking? Why did I think I had the right to tell a story like this with a character like them? I am queer, yes, but that in no way equates my experience and journey to that of a person of color (PoC) or someone who is trans/bigender.
To top it all off, this series is written in a first person POV which means the character is narrating, and uses “I” statements. I did this. I went here. I feel this way.
Fuck me, right?
I knew going in to this book I had to be careful. I needed to make sure this story came across as me writing about a bigender PoC, instead me sounding like I was writing as said character. In addition, this book was the culmination of a series (At First Sight) while also incorporating two other series (BOATK and The How to Be books—you might just find out some little tidbits if you pay attention to that last). At the same time, I wanted this story to belong to Corey/Kori without having the weight of nine (!!) other books upon it.
Yep. Fuck me.
Except I have never been one to back down from a big situation. I might procrastinate a bit, but when I do decide to tackle what’s ahead, I do it with everything I have. Aside from wanting to tell a good story, I have an obligation to get things right for communities that I’m not part of. I discussed in a previous blog post (which you can read here) the lengths my white ass went to in order to get things right. And I still got things wrong, which I was grateful to have people who did live these lives point out to me, and make this a better story while still retaining the ridiculousness of the narrative. And even though this is yet another door being closed, much like I’ve done with the BOATK series and the How to Be series, I think this is a worthy ending to all that has come before. Saying goodbye is never easy, but I can’t imagine a better character to have the honor of doing so.
Corey/Kori is an absolute delight. A lovely, snarky, irritated delight. This isn’t a book about coming to terms with being bigender. They are comfortable in their own skin. Nor is this a book about whether or not they think their love interest can be attracted to all that they are. I wanted to avoid both of those things as well as I could. Why? Because this series started as me wanting to explore people who you didn’t normally see getting their own books.
Paul in Tell Me It’s Real is fat. He doesn’t want to change. He doesn’t need to change. When he meets Vince, he’s bewildered by how much Vince pursues him, but he doesn’t try and slim down for him, nor does Vince ever ask him to.
Sandy (AKA Helena Handbasket) is a drag queen. Sandy/Helena have been together a long time. Darren doesn’t give two shits about that. All he wants is Sandy. Sandy doesn’t want to change. Darren never asks him to.
The same is true with this last book. Corey/Kori is who they are. Jeremy Olsen, the sweet dorky professor who might have another side of his own, appreciates Corey as they are. Corey doesn’t want to change, nor do they have any reason to do so. Jeremy never asks him to.
This is important to me. We come in all shapes, sizes, color, sexuality, gender and anything and everything in between. We all deserve to have stories told about people like us. And those who are telling those stories have a duty to be authentic, especially when, for example, a white dude is telling a story about a kickass PoC.
Two things for full transparency:
—There is a slur used against Corey/Kori in the book that is transphobic. It’s said by a side character first introduced here, and is shut down almost immediately by everyone around them. I worried about this. I know how slurs hurt, having been called a faggot by many, many people, including people I’m related to. I had the book beta read by a trans reader. They didn’t mention the use of the slur. I went back and asked them what they thought about it. Contextually, they replied, it works, given that the character who utters it is an asshole and we the reader know he’s an asshole. Then they said something that has stuck with me: “These insults happen all the time. It’s good to know you didn’t have your cis-blinders on when writing the scene.” Cis-blinders is a phrase I given a lot of thought about. I don’t think for a moment that I’ve done anything revolutionary here in this story, but it made me think for a long time what I’ve said/didn’t say because I have blinders on.
—Secondly, Michael Lesley, who has narrated this series, has withdrawn from the narration of the book, citing that he wasn’t comfortable as a cis white man narrating a character like Corey/Kori, believing that the job should go to a PoC. While disappointed, I agreed he could decline the project. Unfortunately, auditions for narrators are handled by the publisher and Tantor, and there is no option to ask for PoC narrators only. I asked. I was told that they can’t do that. I don’t know what that means for the narration of the book, but the publisher is moving forward with the audiobook, and it will be produced. I am supposed to get a list of people who audition, so I have a new job to do. I wish Michael well on all his future projects.
On May 14, I hope you’ll join me back in Tucson to see what some old friends are up to before we say goodbye. The journey will be happy and bittersweet, as endings usually are, but I promise you that by the end, you’ll see there is a reason the book is called Why We Fight, and why it couldn’t be anything else.
From Paul, Vince, Sandy, Darren, Corey/Kori, Jeremy, Nana, Mattie, Larry, Daddy Charlie, Robert, Wheels, and Johnny Depp, know this: goodbyes are hard. Let’s go out with a bang, shall we?
Next week, sex, sex, sex and why I challenged myself to make this story as sexy as possible (which doesn’t always mean fucking, fyi).
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