The interesting thing about writing YA novels is that they’re all (so far as I can see) about people who feel as if they’re oppressed. No matter how powerful the characters might be, they always see themselves as geeks and nerds and losers who want to be on top. It’s like the X-Men. The X-Men have super duper magical powers and can read minds and destroy planets and shit like that, but they’ve always got this hangdog “We are so oppressed” thing going.
And my novel is no different! It’s about an Indian girl who’s valedictorian at her school and is from a relatively well-off family…who still feels oppressed. She’s one rung down from the top at the social hierarchy of her school, but she’s full of poison towards those who are above her. And you feel it. You empathize with her. Because that’s what we’re all like.
Personally, I’ve led kind of a charmed life, but I still feel oppressed almost all the time (unless I make a specific effort not to). It’s really easy. I just need to focus on one or two specific things where stuff hasn’t been as easy for me as it possibly could be, and I’m like wahh. Which is not to say my complaints aren’t real. It is harder for queer people to date and figure stuff out in a heteronormative society. It is harder for people of color to write fiction that will succeed in a marketplace dominated by white editors, agents, and readers. But…in the grand scheme of things, the oppression obviously wasn’t that terrible, because life still turned out good.
It sounds here like I’m saying that all those women and minorities out there are whiners for caring about their oppression, but I’m not. What I’m saying, though is that all the wealthy white guys feel oppressed too! That’s what leads to all these comments by billionaires where they compare themselves to Jews who are being persecuted by Hitler. White guys feel so oppressed! They talk about it with each other all the time! How all the jobs are going to women and minorities! It’s kind of amazing, actually. I want to criticize them for it, but it also makes me wonder: maybe there’s something inherent in human nature that causes us to think of ourselves as underdogs? Maybe it’s not actually possible for people to perceive themselves as powerful and on top of the world. I feel like every overly-confident person I know is hiding, at their core, a deep sense of insecurity. And every humble person also carries around a sense of their unworthiness (except in their case that sense has been transformed into gratitude). There’s nobody who’s simply secure with their own high opinion of themselves.