The Power of Story—Finding Yourself Through Writing

Now I know that I identify as aromantic bi-gray-asexual, and I never would have known if not for writing Tarnished Are the Stars. There’s inherent power in seeing yourself in the pages of a book, but there is power, too, in writing yourself onto those pages, in making sure your story is told.


When I was little, my favorite book was a picture book about a young girl and her grandmother who wore their clothes inside out to remind them to buy oil for potato latkes. I loved this book because it was silly and bright, but also because the girl and her grandmother were Jewish, which meant they were like me. On some level, I knew even then—before I understood the power of representation—that the girl and her grandmother were mine, I was theirs, and we were real.


I’ve always known I was Jewish. That was the easy part of my identity to figure out because… well… I was born with it. It was baked into the culture of my childhood and there was never a moment when I questioned my cultural identity. My family told me we were Jewish, and so we were.


No one tells you you’re queer.


When I first began writing Tarnished Are the Stars, a science fantasy epic about a young woman named Anna with a clockwork heart and her struggle against a repressive regime, I was in college and full of questions and doubts and coffee. I didn’t even know what all the letters meant in LGBTQIAP, let alone that I was any of them. The first draft of Tarnished Are the Stars didn’t tell me who I was, but with each draft I explored Anna’s trials and character; her conflict with the Commissioner’s son, whose journey to his identity mirrored my own; and the unexpected feelings she develops for the assassin Eliza. The more I wrote, the closer I got to understanding who I wasn’t until eventually I looked at my novel and saw myself staring back.


Queerness isn’t something anyone can bestow upon you. You can’t inherit it. It’s something you learn about yourself at your own pace on your own path. No two journeys are exactly the same. For some people, they just know. Others stumble across it in the wild and recognize themselves in the reflection. For me, it took a long time.


I read about queer people in books long before I ever saw that queerness in myself. I didn’t recognize a kinship or sameness when I read those stories like I did with the girl and the grandmother, so it never occurred to me that I could be queer. But the thing is, queerness isn’t just one identity; it’s thousands. Each letter of the acronym represents thousands upon thousands of different ways to be queer. There is no single experience that links us all, no one trait we all share.
 

Now I know that I identify as aromantic bi-gray-asexual, and I never would have known if not for writing Tarnished Are the Stars. There’s inherent power in seeing yourself in the pages of a book, but there is power, too, in writing yourself onto those pages, in making sure your story is told, and in being the one to say it to someone, somewhere, who desperately needs to hear it: I am yours, you are mine, and we are real.


Rosiee Thor began her career as a storyteller by demanding that her mother listen as Rosiee told bedtime stories instead of the other way around. She lives in Oregon with a dog, two cats, and four complete sets of Harry Potter, which she loves so much, she once moved her mattress into the closet and slept there until she came out as queer. Follow her online at rosieethor.com and on Twitter @rosieethor.


This article is part of the Scholastic Power of Story series. Scholastic’s Power of Story highlights diverse books for all readers. Find out more and download the catalog at Scholastic.com/PowerofStory. Check back on School Library Journal to discover new Power of Story articles from other guest authors.

 

 

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