I started following Victoria Aveyard after reading through her Young Adult fiction "Red Queen" sometime last year. As an avid reader and English major, I've taken a distinct interest in some of the newer literary phenomenon that has come up in the past ten years or so, especially the YA dystopian genre. While the dystopia has been around for a very long time, newer books like "The Hunger Games," "Divergent" and "Maze Runner" have formed a sort of category of their own in recent years. Somewhere around this genre is where we find Aveyard and "Red Queen." At this point, you might be expecting me to summarize the book, maybe provide some feedback or tell you my experience. Not happening. There are plenty of places where you can learn more about that kind of thing elsewhere.
Aveyard's Twitter account is a world of its own, always full of lively (even heated) conversation about current events. Lately there's been a lot of political commentary and thoughts on "The Bachelor." Sometime since Donald Trump began his political tirades Aveyard came out in open protest against his various prejudices, especially taking on his statements about Islam and immigration. It wasn't long before the Trump crowd found out and began bombarding her account with anti-Muslim / anti-immigrant tweets. During these exchanges Aveyard made some crucial points that, I believe, represented the beliefs of many of her Millennial peers and fan base. If the Bernie Sanders campaign has taught us anything, it's that social justice and equality are incredibly important to our generation. Increased conversation across cultural boundaries has made it more and more evident that racial, economic and religious equality has not yet been achieved and that we must take purposeful action if we want to fix it.
This opinion becomes more popular as more Americans actually begin to interact with Muslims, many of whom are American themselves. In an open letter to Donald Trump on his Facebook page, Humans of New York photographer / journalist stated:
"I’ve watched you compare refugees to ‘snakes,’ and claim that ‘Islam hates us.’ I am a journalist, Mr. Trump. And over the last two years, I have conducted extensive interviews with hundreds of Muslims, chosen at random, on the streets of Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan. I’ve also interviewed hundreds of Syrian and Iraqi refugees across seven different countries. And I can confirm -- the hateful one is you."
So we have these two major Millennial voices saying, "We do not hate people for being Muslim," and people who actually do have it out for Muslims begin to pour in (check out the Humans of New York visitor posts on Facebook). Millennial fans see two very different opinions exhibited. On one hand you have all these claims that Islam consists of a bunch of dangerous, conniving criminals and on the other hand you have people saying, "Hey, doesn't your own culture have some of the same types of people?" I know mine does. While I am openly Christian, I desperately hope that I will not be grouped with Christian radical hate groups like the Westboro Baptist Church, the Puritans of the Salem Witch Trials, the massacres of Muslims during the Crusades, etc. Even with all of that aside, it really just takes getting to know a little bit about the Islamic community in your own area to see the distinct difference between murderers and the majority of people at your local mosque.
Point 2 (or maybe 1.5).
Hating an enormous, complex group of people is not the way to retain a Millennial or Generation Z fan base. Aveyard is a YA author -- that stands for Young Adult. And who do we see advocating for equality and standing against prejudice? Young adults. By openly condemning xenophobia (the irrational fear of people from other countries) Aveyard may alienate a few, but I would venture to guess that she will entice far more readers than she lost. We want to hear strong voices speaking out and standing up for other people. Millennials may be the poorest generation financially, but I think we are far more likely to throw whatever support we have behind efforts for cultural equality.