Why aro/ace spec characters are so important in books

Happy pride month!
Hey, everyone! I’m back with another discussion post and I’m super excited for this one. As it’s pride month, I figured this would be a fitting post to write right now! This is a topic that is really personal and important to me and I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time. I hope I’m able to teach you all a little bit about this! Let’s get right into it.

I want to start by explaining what the aromantic and asexual spectrum is. The spectrum covers anyone who is not alloromantic or allosexual and, while there is no good way of describing the term allo, it basically means anyone who experiences attraction at a level which society seems to have dubbed ‘normal’. On the other end of the spectrum is aromantic and asexual, meaning someone who experiences no romantic or sexual attraction. More and more people are beginning to know of the words ‘aromantic’ and ‘asexual’ but the rest of the spectrum is still relatively unheard of. While I don’t want to turn this post into a dictionary, here’s a few aroace-spec identities and their meanings: (links go to the LGBTQA+ wiki pages)

  • Aroflux/aceflux: When someone’s sexuality fluctuates, however it usually stays on the aromantic spectrum. This means that they could feel entirely aromantic one day, somewhere in between another day, even sometimes feeling allo.
  • Demiromantic/demisexual: Someone who does not experience attraction until they form an emotional connection with the person. (does not mean that they’re attracted to everyone they experience the connection with – just that there’s the possibility)
  • Grayromantic/graysexual: someone who has experiences relating to being aromantic/asexual, including (but not limited to) experiencing attraction infrequently, experiencing attraction weakly and much more.
    Credit to LGBTQA+ wiki for parts of these definitions.

I highly suggest you check out these terms or the page for the aromantic spectrum or the asexual spectrum, which lists even more terms, if you are curious!

As some of you might know, I identify as grayromantic and asexual. However, I’d never even heard of the term grayromantic until less than a year ago. It was very confusing for me, before I’d heard of the term, because basically all of my friends had already figured out their sexualities, etc and I just…didn’t know. I had no idea how they seemed to know this, why I was so far behind. Even after I learned of the term for the first time, I was skeptical, simply because I’d never heard of it until that point. How could I be a sexuality that I’d only just heard of?
It took me even longer to realize I was asexual because of all the stereotypes that surround the sexuality–I had no idea what constituted as asexual and what didn’t and it made me not even consider that I could be ace until probably late December.

So, where am I going with this? How does this tie in with books?
Well, one thing that you might have noticed is that books have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to the aroace spectrum. There are very few books with aromantic or asexual characters, though there are certainly some, but when it comes to the rest of the spectrum, there is practically nothing. And honestly, I think this is why it took me so long to figure out my sexuality. I’d never heard of those words in my life, not even from books, where I’ve learned so many things. I’d never seen someone like myself in a book and that left me confused as to my sexuality.

This is why I think that we need more books with aroace-spec characters and just more diverse characters in general. There are so many people out there who get their knowledge from books or who turn to books to escape the actual world, and if someone is not able to see themselves in a book, it can hurt, if they know who they are already. If they don’t know who they are, it can leave them confused. Maybe I’m putting too much faith in books by asking them to teach me who I am, but I want to be able to put that faith in books. I want books to represent me, and I want books to represent everyone else who’s felt underrepresented in literature. Even if your story of a greyromantic superhero with a strong group of friends helps one person feel represented, or one person understand who they are, that’s enough. That makes a difference.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen tiny little aphobic things in books. Things that authors don’t even realize are aphobic, because maybe they’ve never even heard of the spectrum. Or maybe there’s something that suggests the main character is on the aroace spectrum but it’s never addressed–because the author doesn’t even know their character is on the spectrum. One quick example of this is when a character doesn’t get their first crush until they’re 17 or 18. I don’t know why authors do this, but my best guess would be that it makes it more interesting for the character to be navigating through a first crush, through these feelings for the first time. I know that the author does not intend for this to be this way, but it does feel rather disheartening for me, at least, to read these books.

Here’s a few books with aroace-spec characters that I have read and enjoyed! Almost all of these books have aroace characters. However, they’re all amazing books that I’d highly encourage you to check out!

Amazon.com: Summer Bird Blue (9781481487757): Bowman, Akemi Dawn: Books
Amazon.com: The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (Montague Siblings,  2) (9780062795328): Lee, Mackenzi: Books
  • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. The main character, whose POV this entire book is from, is actually bi, but Katherine, the other MC, is aroace. There was a great friendship in this book between Jane and Katherine (enemies to friends) and overall I really enjoyed this
  • Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman. I just read this book, finishing it less than a month ago, but it was really enjoyable! The main focus is more on grief, however the main character Rumi is somewhere on the aroace spectrum and it is explored at points in the book.
  • The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee. This book is actually technically the second in a series, and the MC is the sister of the MC of book 1, but honestly you could probably read this without reading the first one. There were some parts that were a little weird, mostly with the plot, and the fact that Felicity is aroace is not actually mentioned, simply implied, given that it’s set in the 1700s (or 1800s, I’m bad at time please forgive me).
Rick: Gino, Alex: 9781338048100: Amazon.com: Books
  • The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow. The MC of this book is demi and it’s a very good book overall. I was at first really nervous to read this because the premise sounds…super weird…but it was an awesome book!
  • Rick by Alex Gino. This is a middle grade book and a bit of a companion novel to the book George, but you definitely don’t need to read George to read Rick. It’s a book about a 10 or 11 year old who is questioning throughout the book and eventually decides he’s aroace. It’s a super sweet book and well written for middle grade readers, while still being enjoyable for those who read YA as well!
  • Loveless by Alice Oseman. There are a lot of mixed reviews on Loveless, specifically how the MC, Georgia’s experience is shown throughout the book. I, personally, loved it, though, and would encourage others to read it as well!

I was imagining this post to be longer but the words will not come so I will end here. I just wanted to let you know, that my comments and my email and my goodreads PMs are always open if you want to know more or if you are questioning. Seriously, do not be afraid to reach out to me about it, even if you are just writing a book character and want to make sure you get it correct (in reality, I will feel extremely honored that you went to me for this and also extremely happy that you care enough about this to ask me). Also I will forever love you if you have a WIP with an aroace spec character*. It doesn’t need to be a major character. Just a character. (or if you have a published book, I’ll love you for that as well).
*Obviously, there’s a few restrictions to my love….the character has to be represented well and also your book can’t be discriminatory in any way to ANY of your characters, you know, stuff like that.
Thank you all so, so, much for reading. Like I said before, this is a very important topic to me so it means a lot that you’d take the time to read this. I hope that you learned something and that you enjoyed this post.

48 thoughts on “Why aro/ace spec characters are so important in books

  1. All people on the aromantic and or asexual spectrum are valid and amazing. Seriously, you guys are fantastic. Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

    Also thanks for the recs, I can’t wait to read them. 💖

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved this post!!! I agree with you that we need more a-spec characters in literature in general. And I didn’t know dread nation had asexual representation *bumps it up on my never ending tbr*
    Ahh I did read through a couple of mixed review for loveless on goodreads. I can’t speak for the pansexual rep – whether it was harmful or not – but i personally felt that Rooney was a very realistic character (idk whether it’s me coming from a country where sex before marriage isn’t a thing) and this book was very sex positive. I think it’s a bit weird to peg down Georgia’s journey as being shown as the only aro ace experience, given that the story reminds us several times that there are many different ways to be asexual. (Also, there are around four different ace characters who’re not just on the same part of the spectrum??) Idk but that’s what I feel about it. Or maybe that’s me defending my new favourite book, who knows?
    If you want another book with an asexual main character there’s a book called Elatsoe by Darcie little badger. I haven’t read it yet but it’s got some good reviews on goodreads, so I’m thinking of checking it out as well!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yah, there’s so few aspec characters anywhere…I realize that’s literally what my entire post is about…but still haha.
      Yep, one of the main characters in Dread Nation is aroace and she’s really awesome! I mean, it’s not explicitly stated I don’t think because it’s based in the 1800s, but she definitely talks about not experiencing any romantic attraction or sexual attraction.
      Yeah, I agree! I feel like the book was just being sex positive and stuff like that…I can see how pan people might feel offended about it, however, but I didn’t think into it. But some people could be worried that it could create a stereotype or something? I can see how some people wouldn’t like that.
      I AGREE!!!! Yeah, I’ve seen SO MANY people saying that it was passed as ‘the only aroace journey’ in the book, but I feel like I remember it being explicitly stated that there are MANY ways to figure it out and stuff (I feel like Sunil said it?). Yah, I heard about people saying that before I read it and I got a little wary but I really don’t see why people think that.
      Oh, I’ve actually read Elatsoe! I entirely didn’t think of it for this, but that’s an awesome rec! It’s a really good, I’d highly suggest you read it. It doesn’t go into the main character’s sexuality really at all, just mentions she’s ace once or twice, but it’s an amazing book!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Awesome post! There really aren’t that many aro/ace characters in fiction, and that makes me sad. We really do need more LGBTQ representation. I feel like if there was more representation then a lot more LGBTQ+ people would figure out their identity (I mean, it took me practically forever to figure out mine, which is fairly well represented).
    Again, great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. thank you for these recs and for writing this post!! i agree that representation in books, and seeing yourself reflected in a book, can be validating and empowering ☺️ as an ace person, i also really hope there will be more and more aro/ace rep in books!! out of the books you mentioned, i’ve read and loved Summer Bird Blue and Loveless. for Loveless, i loved how much of a focus there was on the importance of friendships and platonic relationships, because those are sooo important in my life 🥰 and i’m really excited to read Rick and The Sound of Stars, they’ve been on my TBR for forever now haha. once again, great post :)) happy pride month! 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad that you enjoy! Yeah, Summer Bird Blue was amazing, and I LOVED Loveless. I TOTALLY AGREE. I feel like allo people don’t really realize how important platonic (and familial) relationships really are. That is to say, of course they can have really amazing friends and really value those friends, but it’s not like their entire world to them. I hope that you read Rick and The Sound of Stars soon! Happy pride month to you too!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post! I’ll have to check out some of those books sometime. I’ve read Loveless and I do own The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy which I really should read at some point!
    I think Every Heart a Doorway was the first book I read with an asexual main character and I only read that a few months ago. But it made me so happy to read a fantasy story with a character who straight up says that they’re asexual.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Oh, I hope that you read The Lady’s Guide. Have you read the first book in that series?
      Yeah, I’ve heard of Every Heart a Doorway having an asexual main character but I’ve also seen reviews that the book as a whole isn’t very good–what’d you think about it? I may have to check it out soon.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve not read The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, but I own that too (bought a lot of books last year that I’ve not gotten too :D).
        I can see why some people don’t love the book – it does have a very rushed story line because of it’s novella length – but I honestly loved Every Heart a Doorway just for the characters and the themes more so than the story. It’s one of those books that I just had a very emotional reaction too so even though it does have plot pacing issues and can be a little confusing, it’s still one of my favourite books.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah, I see. Yah I was just wondering because I feel like reading the Gentleman’s Guide first might change the way that people think about the Lady’s Guide, just because while book 1 is purely historical fiction, there’s like…a little bit of a fantasy element in book 2? Also, some people actually like the MC of book 2 better in book 1 lol.
        Huh, okay! Yeah I might have to pick it up soon we will see (‘soon’ meaning like a year from now because….so many books…lol)

        Like

      3. Yeah, soon is anywhere in the next two years for me 😀
        Good to know that about Gentleman’s Guide and Lady’s Guide. I got both of them at the same time but didn’t actually know if they were stand alones or had to be read in a specific order. I’ll just read Gentleman’s Guide first and go straight into Lady’s Guide after that.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Haha same, my tbr is too large.
        Ah, okay. I mean they actually don’t have to be read first and second. Felicity, the MC of book 2 (I don’t know if I already said that but ah well) is definitely in book 1, as she’s Monty’s sister, but it’s not like the plots build off one another–it’s just her own story and they just happen to be related to each other. But I hope that you enjoy them when you read them!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I definitely agree with some of the things you touched here! Representation in literature and any other form of art is so important and crucial even! Characters that are on the aro/ace spec still seem to be “rare” (for the lack of a better term) and sometimes even seem to be “forgotten” when talking about lgbtqiap rep…so yeah, I can only agree with what you’re saying!! Great post love, and thanks for giving some recs, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “Maybe I’m putting too much faith in books by asking them to teach me who I am, but I want to be able to put that faith in books.” damn that hit hard. thank you so much for writing this post Phoenix. representation in books of all kind is so important, truly, and it really sucks that there isn’t much aroace rep out there. everyone deserves to be seen. thank you for this post and for these recs!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahaha I didn’t even realize what a dramatic sounding line that was but wow I may have to save that somewhere because that really is a good line (*gives myself a pat on the back*). Aah I’m so glad that you enjoyed it and that it made an impact! I hope that you’re able to read the recs and that you love them and once again I’m so happy that you liked this post.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol yah it’s hard to make a best line not dramatic. The reason lines are dramatic is because they are good lines. …apologies for the logic I’m trying to bestow upon you and failing lol. Yes, I hope you read them soon!

        Like

  8. I love this post so much! I love how you talked about books being a way to find answers for ourselves and how we put faith on them to provide us with some worldliness! I could totally relate with that and that’s why I believe representation is so important!

    Also, I would like to recommend reading Firebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace too. If I remember it right, the MC is aro/ace it’s such a great sci-fi read overall!

    Thanks for this amazing post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad to hear that! Yes, I believe that that is a very important part of books and I’m really happy that you could relate to this post!

      Oh, I’ve never heard of that book but I will definitely check it out! I just looked at it and it looks AMAZING, I will definitely try to read it soon!

      No problem, I am so glad that you enjoyed it!

      Like

  9. Great post Phoenix! I do agree that we totally need more aroace representation. You touched on how it is important to see yourself represented, and I think it’s worth adding that it’s also a great way to foster understanding in people who do not identify with that label. I’m happy to see more and more books with ace representation these days. I’m currently reading What We Devour by Linsey Miller, which has an ace MC (although I cannot speak for the quality of the representation):

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, and I’m so glad that you enjoyed this post! Yes, I believe that everyone deserves and should be represented, especially in books where it’s so important to see yourself in the pages! Oh, that is another great point, I’m so glad you mentioned that to me because that was honestly not something I thought about at all, but it’s really important! Books are used in a lot of ways to understand people who aren’t part of the same group as us or just have different experiences as us, and aroace spec rep in books would definitely help other people learn and understand more as well! I’ve never heard of that book but I will have to check it out!
      I just looked it up and realized I had actually heard of that book, I’d just never looked into it very closely, haha. Adding it to my tbr right now! Thank you so much for stopping by, I really appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This is such a wonderful and important post!! I figured out i was demisexual two years ago and it felt like an awakening. I used to be sex repulsed so I was constantly confused 😂 I’m so happy that we”re slowly gtting more books with aro/ace representation but it’s far from enough! I also heard mixed reviews about Loveless but I’m very curious so I can’t wait to read that! 🥰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you I’m so glad that you enjoyed! Yes, it just feels so good to finally realize your sexuality! I can’t speak for other sexualities but I feel like especially on the aroace spectrum, it feels great because there’s so little media or anything around it that when you hear these terms and realize they apply to you it’s like you just found another part of yourself that no one including yourself understood before. Yeah I’m really happy about it as well but i so wish that there were more because what we have covers so few sexualities! I think that you should read Loveless, I mean it’s obvi your choice and it is true that some people dislike it but for me at least it felt great to read a book that was just so, so aroace centric.

      Like

  11. Hello Phoenix! I’m new to your blog- and it seems lovely!
    You’ve no idea how delighted I am by this post! I’ll definitely check these books out.
    & to add a few titles to this list-

    Beyond the Black Door (biromantic ace)
    The Love Hypothesis (demisexual)
    Every Heart a Doorway (aroace)
    Radio Silence (gay-demisexual)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello! Oh, I’m so glad that you enjoy my blog and this post! This was my most personal AND most important post that I’ve written so I’m super happy that you enjoyed it as well!
      Oh, thank you so much for these recommendations! I’ve actually read Radio Silence, and I considered putting it on this list, but decided not to, given that the character who is demi (I have a terrible memory so I totally forget his name!) is a little bit more of a side character than the other characters in the books I mentioned. It’s definitely a great book, however, and a great introduction to demisexuality, so I’m glad you enjoyed it too! I’ve not read any of these other books but I’ve heard a lot about Every Heart a Doorway so I need to check that one out soon! I’ve seen The Love Hypothesis around a bit as well–is it a webtoon or am I thinking of something else?
      Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Like

      1. :)) as an ace person too, this post means so much to me. I find it rare to see aro and/or ace book recs on blogs!
        I’ve added all of these books to my tbr and will definitely check them out!
        Ofcourse! That’ll be Aled :))
        Nope, it’s a romcom.
        Welcome 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well I’m so glad it meant a lot to you because that was a big part of my goal! We need more aroace recs out there (heck we need more aroace books out there).
        Ah right haha thank you.
        Ah ok I must have been thinking about something else. Thank you!

        Like

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