A new YA novel by the author Julie Murphy (of the best-selling Dumplin') has created controversy among YA readers and members of the LGBT community. The book, Ramona Blue, follows a girl who is "an out and proud lesbian" but falls in love with a boy. The Goodreads summary is this:
[Spoiler (click to open)]Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever. Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. One of only two out lesbians in her small town and standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the responsible adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, her responsibilities weigh more heavily than ever.
The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool.
As Ramona falls more in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift as well, and she must decide if knowing who she is is more important than figuring out who she might become.
Lesbian YA readers have not been pleased by this description, since writing a character specifically as a lesbian and then having her fall in love with a boy is hardly revolutionary and a lot like the "you just need to find the right man to change your mind!" narrative that lesbians are constantly subjected to.
The author (who is bisexual) did not address lesbians' concerns, but said the book is about bisexuality and suggested on twitter that the whole thing was a result of a "vague jacket copy" for the book, and said she was receiving "gross threats" via email.
I'm in the process of writing new, less vague jacket copy for Ramona Blue. Also, discourse is healthy. Gross threats via email are not.— Julie Murphy (@andimJULIE) 1 de dezembro de 2016
when you open your inbox to CHOKE & DIE BITCH emails so you cuddle your cats instead bc if you decide to choke & die it will be on their fur— Julie Murphy (@andimJULIE) 1 de dezembro de 2016
Whether the jacket copy is vague or not, here are the author's own words, from an interview: "The book is set on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and follows a too-tall blue-haired girl named Ramona as she’s entering her senior year. As a young child, Ramona survived Hurricane Katrina and though her memories of it are distant, it's been a shadow that’s followed her family ever since. Ramona lives in a small FEMA grade trailer, which is falling apart in every way, along with her father, her pregnant sister, and her sister’s slacker boyfriend. She's also finding that she has feelings for a childhood friend who has recently returned to town. That wouldn't be a problem, but Ramona is a lesbian and this friend happens to be a straight boy. So everything Ramona knows about her life is changing. Her home is too small, her sister isn't prepared to be a mother, and Ramona worries that she’s abandoning a part of herself if she is in a relationship with a boy."
Meanwhile, fans of the author are defending her, alleging that the book is meant to represent sexual fluidity, that the people who are criticising her are biphobes and don't understand human sexuality, and also that Chasing Amy is positive bi representation.
Lesbians and other people who have expressed concern about misleading lesbian representation in this book are being called bigots, biphobes and garbage on social media. There is a "ratings war" on Goodreads, where Julie Murphy supporters are rating the book 5 stars, and the people unhappy with the book are rating it 1 star.
not gonna feel bad criticizing author perpetuating harmful LESBIAN stereotypes even if she & her fans wanna call me a biphobe for it. SHRUG— j♔ (@journeyette) 1 de dezembro de 2016
"it's not about lesbophobia" y'all say pic.twitter.com/BcmYYbQrtf— j♔ (@journeyette) 1 de dezembro de 2016
Some of the criticism towards the book:
[Spoiler (click to open)]
Some of the support for the book:
[Spoiler (click to open)]
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whose side are you on, ONTD?