My Pride Colors are Ramona Blue
Well, actually they're pink, purple, and blue.
Or pink, lavender, and blue, if you want to get technical.
I don't know that I've ever publicly written about being bisexual before and I think part of that is because I so rarely saw bisexual people represented in literature in real, human ways. Logic tells me that surely there were YA novels with bisexual characters when I was growing up, but either they weren't available to me or I didn't know how to find them.
Now that I've gotten older and can easily get whatever books I want without fear or judgment, I'm reading all those YA novels I wish I'd had as a kid. Enter the book Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy.
Having only come out last year, Ramona Blue wasn't out when I was growing up, but I so wish I'd had it to read then. It's about Ramona, a teenage girl in rural Mississippi who lives in a trailer park with her single dad and pregnant younger sister and is reckoning with her future. She's saving up her pennies from odd jobs and trying to have some semblance of a social life before deciding if she's going to go to community college or enter the workforce. She's also absolutely certain that she only likes girls until her long-lost childhood friend Freddie appears and makes her question whether she might actually be bisexual.
On the surface, Ramona and I don't have much in common. I was always smart, so there was no question about whether I'd go to college or not. And I was never able to be open about liking girls in the way Ramona was, so I spent pretty much my whole adolescence pretending to only like guys. And there was certainly no reappearance of a long-lost person from my past come to romance me.
But there are a few key similarities between us too––similarities I'd never before seen between myself and another character. We're both Southern (though I grew up in Alabama, not Mississippi), we were both raised by a single parent (her a single dad, I a single mom), and we're both bisexual (even if she first identified as lesbian and I first identified as straight). Since these are things I've lived with my whole life, they feel inextricable from who I am as a person and yet it hardly seemed strange to me that I never saw anyone with these qualities in a book until I read Ramona Blue.
I think there was a subconscious feeling of "the literary world doesn't want to read about people like me" and "I'm supposed to read about these people, but not people like myself." Most books I'd read with LGBTQIA+ characters were set outside the South as if the place was magically able to birth only perfect little cishet babies. But logic dictates that couldn't possibly be true.
Of COURSE there are LGBTQIA+ people in the South! Our Pride parades may not be as large and we may not have a gay club on every corner, but we exist all the same and our identities as both Southerners and members of the LGBTQIA+ community are valid. As much as people like to believe in strict binaries like "north: socially/sexually liberal" and "south: socially/sexually conservative," that has little bearing on the real truths of people's lives.
Sure, I've seen bi characters in books before, but they tend to be painted in a biphobic way. The bi character "can't make up their mind" so they sleep with everyone. The character's bisexuality is a convenient plot device to have them steal another character's partner away in secret slut undercover fashion. They're not shown as real people with deep, complex human desires, just bags of horny hormones and sexual promiscuity.
It's a tired old trope and one that makes real bisexual people's lives difficult because we're the ones who have to contend with these absurd stereotypes.
Representation in literature takes many forms. Usually, when I hear people talk about representation in lit and diverse books, they primarily refer to books by and about POC, which is absolutely important. However, I'd argue there's also room for nuance and representation takes many forms. Yes, I want to see more books about POC. But I also want to see more books about people across the wide LGBTQIA+ spectrum and more discussion about how one's identity, particularly if you're bisexual, is not defined by who you're in bed with.
I'm immensely grateful for Ramona Blue and to author Julie Murphy for writing it. It's my sincere wish that everyone will happen on the books that make them feel seen, heard, and validated. It's what makes the reading life especially sweet.
Happy Pride Month, y'all! And "y'all" means ALL. :)