The world is diverse, and if author’s books don’t replicate this, it says a lot about their views. Alice Oseman is an author whose books are packed with diversity — although packed is the wrong word because books shouldn’t have to be forcefully crammed with diverse characters. Diversity exists naturally in the world and it should in books as well. I Was Born for This is just one of Oseman’s books that paths a new way for fiction.
Starting with the back of the book, I want to first acknowledge Oseman’s acknowledgement. Oseman shows that she is not an omniscient author who is already perfect. She had to research and ask for help to write one of the narrators Angel who is Muslim. This acknowledgement is important because it shows that writing about diversity is not something that one can just do. Everyone is brought up in a certain culture despite existing in a world of diversity. But it is our duty as a species to respect and educate ourselves on other cultures so we can all exist in harmony. Literature is a perfect way to represent this possibility.
I Was Born for This follows two narrations. Fereshteh “Angel” Rahimi, an Iranian and hijabi Muslim who is going on to study psychology at university. But she is portrayed mostly as a fangirl of the band The Ark. And Jimmy Kaga-Ricci, one of the members of The Ark (Angel’s favourite). He is transgender, a Christian and bi-racial. Jimmy also suffers from anxiety which leads him to bring his grandad’s nice with him to a lot of places.
There is little romance in this book which is insightful. Angel doesn’t fall in love and lives happily ever after with her celebrity crush. It paints a realistic depiction of fan girls, and girls in general. It provides them with a substance that the media never acknowledges. Angel is more than a fangirl, and this is something she learns to grapple with throughout the book.
Angel has met up with her internet friend for the first time, Juliet, and they are going to see The Ark together. It is not as simple as screaming over a boy band though. Both girls have issues of their own to deal with. Problems at home and trouble with their identity. At a meet and greet a fan hits one of the Rowan over the head with a brick after it is exposed that Rowan has a girlfriend and he is not in fact dating Jimmy. The queue quickly becomes a crowd and Jimmy gets trapped in the middle. Some fans help which Jimmy finds shocking, and he ends up locking himself in a toilet. The same toilet Juliet is also hiding in.
Their relationship develops from there. And so does the relationship between a fan and a celebrity. A mature and considerate understanding of young female fans is explored; something I have never seen any book or just anything do before!
Young bands with predominately female fandom like One Direction or 5SOS are usually not considered proper artists. It is something both bands had to grapple with and had to try and develop respect for their music. They were only famous because of their fans and their support didn’t count because they’re not middle-aged white men who know the true meaning of music. Not only does this toxic view undermine the hard work of artists, but it also a blatant misogynistic view of young girls. Perhaps they’re just scared of the power these young girls hold over the music industry to influence sales and streams.
Oseman brings up the important point: “Being a male fan of obscure old bands is, for some reason, more acceptable than being a female fan of a twenty-first-century boy-band”. At the end of the day, everyone has different tastes and their preference for an artist shouldn’t be degraded or belittled.
Nonetheless, Oseman doesn’t always present being a fangirl in a positive light. Of course, sometimes it can be all-consuming. Fandoms can be toxic and competitive. It is Jimmy’s granddad who says to Angel “And the saddest thing about you fans … is that you don’t care about yourselves”.
The past year there has been a lot of social change and with the spare time of peoples hands, cancel culture went a bit of control. It is important to remind celebrities, who hold a huge influence over individuals lives, about using their platform to spread important messages. But individuals mental health and their social views must also be taken into account.
I Was Born for This and any other Oseman book replicates the real world perfectly into fiction. Her work is realistic but never fails to get across a social message as well. Oseman’s writing may not be like that of Dickens but the world is changing with diverse characters, there is also needs to be literature accessible to the many. And all in all, in a time where escapism is needed, Oseman’s writing is enjoyable.