Discussion: Where’s the Love for Brown Eyed Girls?

wheres-the-love-for-the-brown-eyed-girls

Today’s discussion topic is one that I feel people mention in passing, but never really give much thought to. Today, I want to talk about the brown eyed, female main characters in YA fiction. Or rather, the lack of. Brown eyes are the most popular eye color in the world, and yet, they are a very small minority in fiction. To me, as a brown eyed girl, that’s a little upsetting.

You’ve probably read a few passages in books describing a character’s eye color. Blue eyes are often related to the sky or water, green eyes to the ocean or grass, grey eyes to mist or steel, but what are brown eyes related to? Chocolate? As much as I love chocolate, it doesn’t make me think “beautiful” or “ethereal” like some of the descriptions for colored eyes do. One famous odd eye-colored character is Celaena Sardothien from Throne of Glass–and her eyes even have a damn poem written about them! Here’s the poem (I redacted the first line of the poem because it’s a huge spoiler from the end of the 2nd book):

The fairest eyes, from legends old

Of brightest blue, ringed with gold

As you can see, every other color but brown eyes get all the attention in literature. It’s a little odd, considering over 55% of the world’s population has a brown eye color (and that’s not even counting hazel, which can also look like a shade of brown in some cases). I can’t even think of 5 characters off the top of my head with brown eyes, but I can sure as hell think of more than a few with blue eyes.

You might be thinking right now, Alex, who cares what color eyes a character has? Aren’t there more important things in regards to diversity to worry about? You may be right, but all diversity should be important, and I’ll tell you why eye color matters.

It’s a little hurtful, honestly. Ever since I was a little girl, I was jealous of my sister, who somehow managed to end up with blue-green eyes even though our parents both have brown eyes. I desperately wished I could have something other than brown eyes, and to some extent, I still wish that. I know for a fact that millions of girls feel the same way I do; it’s almost a right of passage for people with brown eyes.

Ally A, one of my favorite characters ever, repping brown eyes 🙂

Fiction is a reflection of real life, to some extent, and when there’s no brown eyed heroines–what then? What message does that send to girls? Sure, I may love the character Celaena, but there’s a disconnect between her and me. She has blue eyes ringed with gold and I have brown eyes, along with over 50% of the world. How can I compete with someone who has eyes that are goddamn ringed with gold?

The answer? Brown eyed girls need to know that they can be the heroine of their own story, too. They need to know that their eyes are just as beautiful as blue eyes, or green eyes, or grey or whatever else. I say girls because male characters don’t often fall victim to the brown eyed drought that plagues YA characters. For some reason, brown eyes can be swoonworthy and dreamy on a male character, but not on a female character (don’t get me started on double standards in YA, or real life. That’s a post for anther day).

So, I say we celebrate the brown eyed girls! Yes, you may be one of the girls with the most popular eye color in the world–but your eyes anything but ordinary. They’re beautiful, and one day someone will fall hopelessly in love with them, and you. Your eyes may not be the same color as the sun, but they’re the color of the earth, which makes life flourish beneath our feet; they’re the color of trees that give us air and they’re the color of warm cookies from the oven that taste like heaven (please forgive me for this terrible attempt at a moving paragraph. brown is just not a nice color for comparisons).

Who would I be without sending you off with some recommendations of kickass girls with brown eyes? Here’s my (sadly) small list of characters:

  • Emily from Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry
  • Cinder from Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  • June from Legend by Marie Lu
  • Mara from The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
  • Blue from The Raven Boys
  • Izzy from City of Bones

Brown eyed girls deserve more representation in YA, period. Let’s get on that, authors, shall we?

How do you feel about the lack of brown eyed females? Who are some of you favorite female characters with brown eyes? Let me know in the comments!

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28 thoughts on “Discussion: Where’s the Love for Brown Eyed Girls?

  1. Jess I. says:

    alex, I LIVE for your discussion posts. I agree that eye color is a trivial aspect in the grand scheme of things but it’s still important. Authors want to represent us? Then represent US. It’s like every heroine, and even guys, have eyes the color of gems– “emerald green,” “startling blue,” and my favorite “flecks of gold.” From the top of my head I can’t remember any, but I think I’ll pay more attention it it now!

    Like

  2. Lila says:

    as funny as it sounds, eye color *is* important to diversity. the blue/green eyed girl represents the traditional european standard of beauty and perpetuates the idea that girls with other eye colors (and hence, most girls of other races) cannot be beautiful. nice job on noticing!

    Like

  3. Katy Goodwin-Bates says:

    This is not a bookish comment but I feel your pain as a brown-eyed girl. My daughter inherited my husband’s blue eyes and she likes saying their eyes are “sparkly” then sighing at me and saying “but yours are just brown.” It is basically bullying. Awesome discussion, as always!

    Like

  4. Kat Impossible says:

    I always wanted more characters with brown eyes, so when I started writing my own books, they mostly had that colour hahaha I only mixed it up with green eyes every now and then. My latest story features a woman with blue eyes too though … But I mostly used brown for girls, boys had every colour on the planet: brown, blue, grey, etc.

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  5. Faith @ Faiths Bookspiration says:

    That last paragraph was definitely moving 😛
    I think a lot of books go off of a certain standard of beauty (and for some reason having brown eyes means you can’t be beautiful? Um no.) Even I can’t name a brown eyed character off the top of my head without scouring the pages of a book looking for a description. What’s this about?!
    Great discussion Alex!

    Like

  6. Ali @ Arctic Books says:

    I LOVE this post! Brown-eyed girls, as you said, are such a minority in young adult literature, and they really do need to be represented more. I’ll definitely keep my eye out for them so maybe your list can grow!

    Like

  7. Nicolette Elzie says:

    OMG, I can’t express my love for this enough! And yes, I’m on it. As a brown eyed girl, I felt the disconnect between myself and the characters I was reading. And you’re right, it’s not the worst thing in the world but it is important that girls all around be able to see a part of themselves in the books they read. Which makes eye color important.
    When I set out to write my main character, I didn’t think of what was missing in YA, I thought about what I saw as beautiful. So while I do think green and hazel and blue rimmed with damn gold is fascinating, I think brown is just as captivating and I wanted other girls to see that as well. Challenge accepted my friend. 🙂

    Like

  8. Maha @younicornreads says:

    This post is AMAZING! I loved it! I could relate to it because I’m part of that 50% of people in the world.
    When I think about a brown eyed female character from a book, I immediately think of Lena from Delirium by Lauren Oliver. Her eyes are bright, though, I mean not exaaactly brown, but let’s say they’re brown.

    Like

  9. Ranu (@araliyabooks) says:

    I ADORE THIS POST WITH ALL MY LIFE. I IDENTIFY SO MUCH WITH THIS. Honestly, this shit is absolutely crazy because I’m from a country where 99% of the freaking population has dark eyes. I say “dark” because our eyes are so deep brown they look black most of the time. Actually, where I’m from, if you have eyes “the colour of chocolate”, or any shade of recognisable brown that doesn’t look black, people will stare at you because it’s so rare to have eyes that are even that light!

    But ANYWAY, my point here is that I used to get insanely jealous of characters or real people with green or blue or grey or hazel or EVEN JUST LIGHT BROWN eyes, especially when I was little. I suppose it’s a little different from what you’re arguing (because I would LOVE to have light brown eyes instead of “black” ones), but I think our principles are the same?

    For me, I’d just adore reading about a character who has dark brown eyes like mine, and I DID use to get hurt when I read about so many “beautiful” people with kaleidoscope eyes, when I’m stuck with my “plain” ones. It took me a while to get past Euro-centric beauty standards and realise that people can be beautiful without blue/green eyes, blonde hair and fair skin, and I would LOVE some more books breaking stereotypes, with beautiful girls (like Isabel and Cinder) who have brown eyes.

    This post = UTTER FABULOUSNESS.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Denise says:

    I love this so much! I have brown eyes, and they’re never romanticised in books like blue or green eyes are. I’ve never seen a picture of a real person EVER who has gold eyes, or eyes like Celaena, so I wish there was more representation!

    I think another reason for the lack of representation of brown eyes is because of the lack of ethical diversity. A lot of asian people have brown eyes, but there’s not much representations of other races, apart from white Americans/English. Eye colour is so important, so I do wish there was more representation! It’s becoming more like blue/green is the norm, and brown is unusual. I love brown eyes! 😀

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Alex! This discussion is so important ❤
    Denise | The Bibliolater

    Liked by 1 person

  11. lostwithinwordsx says:

    Your discussion posts are so amazing Alex 😀 I totally agree with you on this one, eye colour can seem less important in the midst of other aspects of diversity but us as brown eyed girls definitely needs to be represented!

    Like

  12. Bhramori says:

    Ah, this discussion is so on point! I have brown eyes too, and now that I think about it, brown-eyed heroines are, well, RARE. I guess I’ve never really given much thought to it. I should have, though, considering that I’m brown-eyed myself. Oh, and that paragraph was beautiful, Alex! Those were some really lovely comparisons 🙂

    Like

  13. Geraldine @ Corralling Books says:

    Oh wow, your sister is crazy lucky to get those eyes!
    Anyway yeah it’s definitely important to get diversity in ALL matters – including eye colour!
    I’d never really thought about how rare brown-eyed heroines are until now, and as a fellow brown-eyed girl, I AM BLOWN AWAY and cannot believe this!
    Thought-provoking post, Alex!! 🙂

    Like

  14. novelcravings says:

    Your discussion posts are awesome! I have also noticed the lack of brown eyed female leads. I have grey/green eyes so I can’t relate but I would like to have a more diverse MC eye color. Im reading Everything Everything and they mention her brown eyes a lot. So it is ironic that you should posts about this just now since it was on my mind. Tell you what when I am published one day the MC will have beautiful rich brown eyes 🙂 haha

    Like

  15. Sara @ freadomlibrary says:

    Although I have green eyes and they change color, I have always thought brown eyes were amazing. Specially because there are so many people who have that color, that there are never the same. I had a slight obsession with looking into brown eyes to try to find their uniqueness. So I totally agree with you!

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  16. Sarah Cone says:

    Once again, you’ve brought up a topic that hasn’t really crossed my mind but that yes, does affect our perception of things so *is important to discuss. I think most would easily agree that all genres need to be more diverse in areas of race/ethnicity & sexuality/ gender roles but the issue of the need for diversity in general character appearance is rarely ever brought up. It’s true that the majority of female MCs not only are *not brown eyed but are also rarely brunette. Again I think it goes back to the perception of what society thinks beauty is, which typically seems to be blond hair, blue eyes or red/auburn hair with green eyes. I certainly don’t understand anyone’s aversion to brown hair or eyes; seeing as there are many beautiful shades of brown. But you’re right again in that, (maybe even more so in YA), more attention needs to be paid to bringing diversity in all the obvious ways but also in general appearances of characters so that everyone feels that they’re being represented,considered beautiful, worthy, included and capable.

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  17. Paloma @ Pages and Pineapples says:

    As a fellow brown-eyed girl, I totally sympathize with this post! I’d also like to see more brown-eyed love interests – they get a lot of jewel-toned eyes in books, too.

    My (green-eyed) boyfriend tries to say nice things about my eyes, sometimes describing them as “endless black voids”… which ends up making me sound like a monster from a horror movie! hahah

    It’d be great to move away from eye color as a marker of beauty, period. Eyes are described so very often. There are other physical attributes a character could be proud of – the shape of her face, or the bone structure of her wrists, or the texture of her hair…. etc.

    Like

  18. Melanie Noell Bernard says:

    Is it bad that I honestly don’t pay much attention to what the characters look like? >.> Personally, when reading a book, I think I focus so little on what the characters actually look like that when a character’s physical trait is mentioned I’m taken aback. I’m all surprised because I’m like ‘what? This character looks like what?’ *might just be a horrible reader* But I can understand what you’re saying. It’s like the diversity in YA concept, except with eye color. Maybe it’s just another way for writers to make their characters ‘unique’ because so many girls have brown eyes. After all, the purpose is that the main character is ‘different, unique, special’ (which I have a serious issue with, but that’s a diff subject. >.>) All in all, I can’t say I pay attention, but perhaps you’re right. Perhaps we need a more ‘common’ looking female character and by common I mean someone who fits the standard, rather than the out-liar. (not to have that sound absolutely horrible. >.>)

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  19. Tasya says:

    *nods* I agree with you! My eye color is dark brown, it’s so dark that it looked black. Even in direct sunlight, where other people’s eyes would turn brown, my eyes are still dull and black. I mean, Iike all the fictional characters have this amazing, complex eye color “blue with swirls of green” “grey almost silver” “blue/green with flecks of gold” and more, and here I am reading with my simple super dark brown eyes…. And eyes seems to catch characters attentions the most, especially the love interest, which make me kind of wonder what do people see in my brown eyes? I mean it’s not that complex and beautiful so what do they see? Just wondering XD

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  20. Josh says:

    I’m in a long term long distance relationship with my girlfriend Elizabeth she has the most beautiful hazel eyes.♥
    She takes care of her parents and I take care of my grandmother I only see her about twice a year but everytime I do I look deep into her eyes.
    They remind me of gingerbread cookies.

    Like

  21. The Mirror and The Soul says:

    Dear Alex,
    As an Indian, I would like to tell you something.
    GIRL, we got some of the most beautiful women EVER- Madhuri Dixit to Katrina Kaif to Vidya Balan..and all got some beautiful dark brown eyes. Just google Katrina. You wouldn’t be disappointed, I promise. Yet, at the end, the most beautiful woman is said to be Aishwarya, simply because she got green eyes. *sighs*
    I agree with everything about your post. To make you feel better, I have made a list of brown-eyed fictional heroines.
    1. Hermione Granger from Harry Potter has got warm brown eyes. Come now, she’s badass.
    2. Ginny Weasley from Harry Potter has bright brown eyes. Noteworthy, all her six brothers have blue eyes. Also, she gets Harry at the end. 🙂
    3. Soraya Taheri from The Kite Runner has “walnut brown eyes shaded by fanned lashes.” There are multiple references to her luminous brown eyes throughout the book. She is also the protagonist’s love interest.
    4. Bella Swan has eyes the color of milk chocolate and attracts the attention of the gorgeous Cullen’s.
    5. Her daughter Renesmee is an exquisitely beautiful child with chocolate brown eyes.
    6. Margaery Tyrell from A Song of Ice and Fire has brown hair and eyes. She is said to be as lovely as dawn.
    7. Catherine Earnshaw of Wuthering Heights has handsome dark brown eyes and dark brown hair, and is said to be the bonniest in her county.
    8. Her daughter, Cathy inherits her brown eyes. The narrator describes her to have “irresistible” eyes.
    9. Arianne Martell of A Game Of Thrones has dark brown eyes. Arianne is said to be so beautiful that she wears a veil else her beauty would eclipse that of the sun.
    10. Lindsey Lee Wells of An Abundance of Katherines has large brown eyes that are greater than planets. She is awesome!
    11. Matilda from Roald Dahl’s novel had mysterious and pretty brown eyes.
    I’ll add more if I can. I also have dark eyes, but they are ringed by blue. I am ashamed to say, in my stories, I always make myself blue-eyed. I’ll change it and keep my old eye color.
    Adore your post!!!!

    Like

  22. ADaughtersHero says:

    Thank you for the recognition! I also have felt this same frustration with having brown eyes and feeling they are just ordinary/plain. My daughter has brown eyes, but they are golden and absolutely stunning. Mine are more hazel and have changed a lot since I was younger. I found a man who thinks they are beautiful! To all the brown eyed girls; Your eyes are just as unique and sparkling as any others. When you need a reminder, listen to Van Morrison!

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