Lack of Representation

Agni Gupta (’24) writes about lack of representation in fantasy literature. “All the protagonists had similar traits to me but none of them truly reflected me, my family, or my heritage.”

I’ve lived my whole life surrounded by excellent fantasy series, people singing praise for great characters and greater worlds, great protagonists, and greater enemies. My friends always saw themselves in the pages, be it as Percy Jackson or Nancy Drew there was alway someone for them. I guess I did too, but not to the same degree. All the protagonists had similar traits to me but none of them truly reflected me, my family, or my heritage.

Most of my middle school years were spent reading Lord of the Rings, and if you look at me now, you can see the mark it left. I own a replica of the one ring, I wear it almost every day like a nerd but it’s probably one of my most prized possessions. Reading the books exposed me to different sorts of writing, separate from the countless YA novels I had previously consumed. I think one of the biggest draws was how removed from our world the story, the people, the
cultures, and the languages were. Granted I know more Quenya than I know Hindi and I can point out more places on a map of Middle Earth than I can for India, Lord of the Rings feels like home. A world with eons of history and miles of land to travel, to explore.

When the pandemic hit, I stopped reading and started writing. I locked myself into writing, building a story of a man of South Asian descent in a world of magic, running through plot after plot till I settled on one I liked. I repeat the process, with different stories; an Indian boy on his way to a summer camp where he’s destined to meet the love of his life, a south Indian girl in her first weeks of college having silent mutual jealousy for the guy who lives across the hall and a subtle crush on her roommate. A man named Dev Dhawan who dies, leaving his time-traveling boyfriend to solve the mystery. I had so many ideas for stories centering people like me that it’s almost overwhelming, but I’ll make it work, for the future, for kids like me.

One thought on “Lack of Representation”

  1. I am also an avid fantasy reader. A few years ago, I noticed the lack of representation of main characters, and it started to irritate me. As you said, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy the books, like the way you enjoyed Lord of the Rings, I just felt that the experiences were so far removed from my life. This seems ironic, as it’s a fantasy book, and they’re supposed to be fantastical. But I think it’s because the characters didn’t share life experiences as me, and therefore the same way of thinking and reacting. Anyways, I enjoyed reading your piece, and it was nice to see that someone feels the same way I do.


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