Wednesday, 3 June 2015

How Do You See Cinder?

Yesterday during Top Ten Tuesday Cait @ Paper Fury asked a question about the ethnicity of Linh Cinder, heroine of The Lunar Chronicles, that got me thinking: is Cinder herself Asian or not?

I've said before how much I love The Lunar Chronicles, one of the many reasons being that it's one of the most diverse series I've ever come across. There are characters from all different ethnicities, four completely different heroines who are never pitted against one another, a leading heroine who's missing an arm and a leg and a 'Prince Charming' from Beijing. It's such a fantastic series.

Now I have to admit that upon first reading Cinder I didn't picture Cinder herself as Asian, though I didn't picture her as white either. Something about the way Marissa Meyer describes her made me picture her as Hispanic, though I have seen many people picture her as Asian.

But the more I thought about it, the more I thought: Why on earth would a group of rebels hide someone as important as Cinder in China if she was going to stick out like a sore thumb? Surely she was taken to China because she could blend in.

Does that mean she's Asian? Personally, the more I've thought about Cinder the more I've come to imagine her as mixed race and there are three reasons for this:

1) I'm not entirely sure that Levana and Channary are/were Asian (though I could be wrong!), but there's every chance that Cinder's biological father was. After all, Luna itself is brimming with all different kinds of ethnicities, so I imagine a lot of the population of Luna is made up of mixed race people anyway; Winter is also mixed race.

2) I always thought that Cinder not being Asian was something else that distanced her from her neighbours. Not only is she a cyborg, but she's also 'not from around here'. I'm not trying to imply that mixed race people are social outcasts, but even today some mixed race people face prejudice from both sides of their heritage.

An Anglo-Indian Harry, art by Brigid Vaughn
3) I love reading books with diverse characters - I've had more white protagonists than I've had hot dinners - but I think I've read even less mixed race protagonists. The only one that springs to mind straight away is Callie from Malorie Blackman's Noughts & Crosses series. I know there are some books that don't describe skin colour, leaving it open to the reader's imagination (recently there's been a lot of reimagining of Harry Potter as an Anglo-Indian character, which I love), but sometimes authors need to take it that step further and say 'This character isn't white. End of story.'

Why is this important? Because representation matters.

The people who disagree with that statement, and thankfully I've never met a single book blogger who disagrees with that statement, are also the kind of people who would immediately picture Cinder as white. So the people who do disagree with that statement also end up proving it to be true, because they picture Cinder as they are, regardless of the fact that she's described as having 'naturally tanned skin' and that she lives in China.

What are your thoughts? How do you see Cinder?

Thanks to Cait @ Paper Fury for inspiring me to write this post!


  1. haha, this is funny because Cait commented on my post when I said Cinder was white. xD I looked it up and the author had a fan drawing contest where she said Cinder might mixed white/Asian, but she did it with a question mark like she really didn't know. .-. From the descriptions, I read Cinder as white, which kind of lessened my enjoyment of the book because I was expecting a Chinese protagonist. It also didn't help the New Beijing was described as an international hub with a lot of Western influence, so I honestly couldn't tell.

    I think you're absolutely right that authors need to flat out say whether a character is diverse or not. Representation matters and you don't get points for kind of vaguely hinting at it.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Anah! :)

      I 100% agree with you - sometimes it's like authors are afraid of saying their characters aren't white, but really what is there to be afraid of? If you lose potential readers just because your protagonist is a POC then I don't think those are the kind of readers you should want anyway!

  2. This is interesting - I remember thinking this at the time that I first read Cinder - wondering about her ethnicity - but if I'm being completely honest, if I pictured her in my head, she probably looked mostly white to me and I kind of forgot about my initial wonderings about her ethnicity. This makes me sort of sad because I agree that this means my "default" is to imagine undefined characters as white. Then again, I think that I truly do put myself into the characters that I read, so maybe it's not completely surprising. Still, something to think about ...

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. Hi Nicole, thanks for reading and commenting!

      The thing is when race isn't specified, I think we will immediately see ourselves in the characters. :) You're not a bad person for picturing Cinder as mostly white, the problem I have is with the people who don't understand why representation is so important.

  3. I SO agree with you that The Lunar Chronicles has one of the most diverse host of characters I've ever come across. ESPECIALLY in YA fiction. I wish more authors took Meyer's lead, because it really enriches the experience for readers. I think I always pictured Cinder as being at least half asian. It's funny because I had that exact picture of her on my blog just last week^^ That's more or less how I pictured her in my head from the start ♥

    1. I think so too! :) If anything The Lunar Chronicles proves that YA doesn't have to be whiter than milk to do well.

  4. This is a really good question! See, I had pictured her as Asian, at first. But then as I was reading the book, I wasn't so sure she was, just because she didn't really even know what she was. But I still have to assume she was at least partly Asian, because otherwise, she would have known for sure that she was from some other part of the world or something, right? I don't know, now I just want to go reread the book!

    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight