Each month, we interview an Australian writer about feminism, writing and the connections between the two. This month, we speak to Alison Evans, author of Ida.
What does feminism mean to you?
For me, I think feminism is about a drive to be better. It’s about learning ways you and systems hurt people, and how we can do better.
Was there a particular moment you can pinpoint that was crucial to the development of your perspective on feminism?
Seeing the ways growing up within a gender binary seems to hurt everyone, not just trans people but cis people as well. We’re supposed to fit these roles and when we don’t, we’re punished. No one should be expected to do anything just because of the sex they were assigned with at birth, and everyone should have the same opportunities.
In Ida, you have characters that are queer, trans, non-binary and of colour. How do you approach representation in your writing, and what are things that people should keep in mind when writing diverse characters, especially those that have experience outside of the author’s?
I try to approach with the mindset that you can’t speak for any group, including one you’re a part of. I am non-binary, but my experience is not the same as any other non-binary person’s. Finding a broad range of experiences through many different people is how I try to go about it. Talking to people, reading their work, consuming their art. The most important thing I think is to be kind and understanding, and be open to criticism. If someone tells you something you’ve written is harmful to a group they’re a part of, listen to them.
A lot of your writing is within the YA genre. What’s the importance of YA in the literary landscape, especially in a feminist context – and how can we encourage people outside of “YA age” to read it?
YA is great because it’s very accessible. It’s fun and quick to read, and it’s very earnest. Australian YA right now is amazing and diverse, there’s a real community behind it that is incredibly supportive of everyone in it.
You are a published author but have also made many zines, including the ongoing series Concrete Queers. What role does the zine scene play for queer and feminist writers?
The zine scene is great because anyone can make a zine. They can be made as cheaply as you like and can even be made from just a single sheet of paper folded in the right way. Everyone is welcoming and friendly and there are no lofty expectations you need to meet to make a zine, they can be as formal or informal as you like. And there are no gatekeepers, as long as you have an idea, you can make a zine.
How can the Australian literary scene be more welcoming to writers and readers who identify outside of the gender binary?
Listen to us, I think that is the first step. When we say we’re not men or women, listen. I can’t count the number of times I’ve tried to explain this to people and then they don’t listen, or they don’t care. Realise that we exist. Realise that you don’t know someone’s gender just by looking at them. Learn how to use singular they pronouns. Stop ignoring us because we’re ‘too hard’ to understand.
Which women or non-binary writers do you think everyone should read?
Cally Black and Demet Divaroren wrote some wonderful books that came out last year, In the Dark Spaces and Living on Hope Street respectively. They’re an amazing selection of Australian YA books that I’d recommend to everyone. JY Yang is a non-binary Singaporean author who writes fantasy, and their exploration of gender in the Tensorate series is something everyone would benefit from reading.
What piece of writing advice would you give to your younger self?
Keep going. The first book you actually finish writing is going to be awful but don’t worry, just start the next one. Every rejection is going to be useful in some way, too. Don’t take it personally, just keep going.
Alison Evans writes for young adults and lives in Melbourne. They write about gender, plants, magic, weird stuff. You can find them over on twitter as @_budgie or on their website alisonwritesthings.com.