I’m extremely excited to welcome author-blogger M. Hollis back to the site today with a very cool post on Brazilian f/f writers. It doesn’t really need any introduction, so I’m gonna shove off and let Maria take it away!
There is something about growing up without seeing yourself on any kind of media that alienates you from the world. It makes you feel like something is wrong with you. One of my most poignant memories from my teenage years was watching my friends just talking to each other and feeling like they were speaking in another language I couldn’t understand. And then being left behind.
It took me until my twenties to understand what was this barrier that existed between me and most of the other teenage girls. I like girls. In a sexual, romantic, any kind of way. I want to kiss women, marry women, have the epic love story with women. When my friends talked about wanting these things with men, I felt uncomfortable, broken, alone.
I didn’t know I could like women when I was as a teenager. Of course I knew gay people existed, but I didn’t know I was allowed to be like them. The first time I’ve heard the full acronym LGBTQIAP+ was in college and I only read my first F/F book a few years ago. So when I started writing my own fiction many years ago they were completely different from the stories I write today.
Brazilian television, books, any kind of media we have, doesn’t treat us LGBTQIAP+ folks in the best way. For many years, we were censored from telenovelas, and until today, any kind of kiss between people of the same gender is received with some rage from part of our society.
But change is happening. In the first days of 2018, Malhação, the biggest teenage TV Show on national TV with more than 20 years of running, had its first kiss between two women. And this change is happening in books too. Authors like Olívia Pilar and Solaine Chioro have been publishing stories with diversity that are finally giving young LGBTQIAP+ Brazilian people a mirror where they can see themselves. Reading their stories made me feel so incredibly happy. It was like finding everything I was looking for all these years. It can be great to read books about other people from other countries, but there is nothing like finding Brazilian characters who are living similar things I live.
There is a call for intersectionality that is clearly growing online to give marginalized readers and creators their own space. It’s a slow change. But it’s a change that I’m happy to be a part of.
I hope that this next Brazilian generation can have all the books they deserve. I hope that it makes them feel less alone. That we can keep fighting to make our media more inclusive and that we can provide every day more forms of representation for all kinds of people.
I talked to some other YA Brazilian writers and I’m glad to have Olívia Pilar and Mareska Cruz sharing a bit about their own journey in writing their stories.
Being a writer wasn’t always a dream or something that I wanted as a kid. I always liked to write, always loved words, but also thought that writing wasn’t for me. And then I graduated in Journalism. I thought that was the career I wanted to pursue. I thought that was what I wanted to write. And it wasn’t until the beginning of 2017 that I realised that what I liked to write weren’t articles or news or notes. It was fiction, that maybe had a little bit of reality — or not. I wanted to write about real people, but not exactly people that exist.
My first adventure into fiction was writing a fanfiction with a friend — it was a Camren story, the most popular ship from the girl band Fifth Harmony. It was my friend’s idea and I dove into it with her. According to her, it was the best way to practice my writing skills. I was a little lost by then, I didn’t know what to do with my life, so at least it was a good way to distract myself. And it worked! Little by little, I was able to get more comfortable, to understand the characters better — fanfic isn’t really easy, because you need to work with something that already exists.
Now our fanfiction — still being written — has more than 137k readings on Wattpad, but the best thing in this story (a fictional universe where Camila Cabello is a Brazilian girl from Rio de Janeiro and Lauren Jauregui is an American girl studying abroad) gave me was the courage to actually write something and show it to another person. The almost immediate feedback that was made possible by the platform was also a way to tell myself that I had potential.
My second work was a short-story created exclusively for a contest. I didn’t win, but I saw the bright side of joining in. It was the beginning of my path as a writer. This first story, “Dia de Domingo” (Sunday’s Day), was published later on Amazon. Before, I published “Entre estantes” (Between Shelves) and “Tempo ao tempo” (Time To Time), also on Amazon, and my first novel on Wattpad, “Dois a Dois” (2×2, a reference to soccer plays).
My path as a writer is still short (it has been almost a year since I first published my short story), not so long as others young writers, but as a bisexual Black woman (it’s important to say that), I can say it’s been amazing. I met a lot of people — from publishing or not —, got a lot of messages and every day, my feeling of belonging grows. It’s what I was looking for, back in 2010 when I started college. Did I find it in Journalism? Yes, but not as much as I feel right now.
I can also say the publishing world has been good to me. I’m still an indie author that doesn’t have a complete novel published, but the reception was so good that, for me, it was already worth it. I didn’t think that writing love stories about other bisexual women (most of them black) would take me to the top of Amazon best-selling list for weeks, but it did. My three short-stories are always on Amazon Top 5 of LGBT YA Fiction. They are there and being read.
But I’m not naïve. I know it’s a long road. I know that, like me, there are other girls that write f/f fiction that will never have courage to share their stories with the world, because our whole lives people tell us that they don’t matter. But they are as important as any other story. And it’s the messages from readers saying, “I saw myself in your short-story” that give me strength to keep going. To see what waits for me in the corner. To take risks. To share my stories. To show my characters to the world.
It started with a fanfiction, but it could have started in any other way. I think the most important is to start. Even though you think no one will read, even if it’s only for you. I don’t think the industry is totally open to some of our stories yet, but we don’t need to hide because of it. We need to put them out in the world and let them be seen.
I always liked writing and the desire to one day be a Writer (with the uppercase W) was always there, silent, but it used to be satiated with short texts. I never managed to stretch a story beyond the usual 10,000 words that I always wrote on NaNoWriMo before setting the project aside. One day I met the person who told me “let’s do something about this”, and we talked, and suddenly, I had something I never thought I would have: I had a novel. It existed. And then came another novel, which is still in the process of editing, but it was yet another victory. After this came a Christmas short story, my first published work in a collection, and with it came the realization that the desire to be a Writer was slowly becoming real. With it, there also came the notion of responsibility I have in this process: with the story I want to tell, with the people who will read it, and with myself.
It was only in my early twenties that I understood that what I felt wasn’t really a phase, or something that could be pushed aside. It couldn’t be pushed aside, and even I didn’t want to push it. When I was younger, I didn’t care about seeing only a part of me in the protagonists that I loved, because I didn’t know I could have it any other way. The time it took me to understand myself as a bisexual woman coincided with the moment I started to think about what kind of writer I wanted to be, and what kind of stories I wanted to tell. I wanted LGBTQ+ characters, happy with their sexuality and their relationships, living their lives with good and bad moments, but even more than that—I wanted those characters to EXIST. As protagonists, being the center of their stories, and not only being the token gay friend allowed in a sea of straight characters.
When my Christmas story was published I saw a lot of readers happily commenting the fact that my main character is a bisexual girl with a reciprocated crush on her best friend, I knew I was on the right path. Young-adult literature in Brazil and even the editorial market in general is just beginning to be open to more stories with LGBTQ+ main characters, but it’s still very slow, testing its ground. I still long for more main characters who identify as lesbian, bisexual, trans, and ace. I know our path is very long, but I’m excited that I get to be a part of this. It’s my gift to teenage me: “you’ve spent your whole life without seeing yourself. Now you can.”
M. Hollis is a Brazilian writer working on stories about women who love other women while also running Bibliosapphic, a blog dedicated to sapphic literature. In her free time, you will always find her baking, reading fanfiction and binge-watching too many TV shows. Currently, she is living her best gay life in Canada and writing more than she sleeps.