Welcome to week three of Lunarthon! This week, we’re reading chapters 26-38 of Cinder and discussing the importance of intersectionality in diverse YA lit.
In last week’s readalong, I looked at the discrimination Cinder is subjected to as both a cyborg and a Lunar. Despite the peace between the countries of the Earthen Union, prejudices against cyborgs are still ingrained in Earthen society and in the Eastern Commonwealth’s laws, and Cinder is a social outcast in New Beijing. For most of the book, Cinder is ashamed and acutely aware of her cyborg parts, keeping them hidden beneath her gloves and boots at all times. It’s not until the final chapters of Cinder that we see her begin to accept and take pride in her identity.
She kept her head high, even as her eyes stung, even as panic filled her vision with warnings and precautions.
It was not her fault he had liked her.
It was not her fault she was cyborg.
She would not apologise.
This moment is one of my favourite scenes in the series. Cinder’s struggle to accept herself reminds me that Cinder isn’t just a minority in her own world; as a disabled woman of colour, she’s also a minority in ours. The discrimination she faces in New Beijing mirrors the pervasiveness of discriminatory laws and socially acceptable behaviours in our own society. That’s what makes Cinder refusing to apologise for who she is such a powerful moment, and it’s why I love that Meyer chose to make Cinder an intersectionally diverse hero.
Unfortunately, Cinder isn’t just Meyer’s most diverse character – she’s also one of the most frequently whitewashed. Trawl through the Lunar Chronicles tag on Tumblr for long enough, and you’re bound to come across whitewashed fanart or a heated discussion of Cinder’s race. That’s in part due to the unfortunately ambiguous descriptions of the Lunar Chronicles characters; Cinder is described as having light brown skin, dark eyes and brown hair, and although Meyer has revealed through Word of God that Cinder is mixed race with Asian heritage, her ethnicity is never explicitly revealed in the text. Despite this, there’s plenty of signs in the series pointing towards Cinder’s Asian heritage, particularly in these last few chapters of Cinder, in which the reader learns that she was initially hidden underground in France, only to later be brought to the Eastern Commonwealth, where she could easily hide in plain sight. But as reactions to the casting of Noma Dumezweni as Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child recently demonstrated, far too often racially ambiguous characters are defaulted to white.
These chapters mark the end of the first book of the Lunar Chronicles. We leave Cinder with the revelation that not only is she Lunar, she’s also the long lost Princess Selene, and she’ll have to escape from New Beijing prison if she wants to live long enough to reclaim her throne.
Soon, the whole world would be searching for her – Linh Cinder.
A deformed cyborg with a missing foot.
A Lunar with a stolen identity.
A mechanic with no one to run to, nowhere to go.
But they would be looking for a ghost.
Did you see that ending coming? Tell me your favourite scenes from Cinder in the comments below – and don’t forget to come back next week for a feature on Stars Above, the soon-to-be-released collection of novellas, and a special giveaway!