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.
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?