Little Black Bird, by Anna Kirchner, is an Urban Fantasy novel that’s released by Gurt Dog Press today, on June 20th. It follows Wiktoria as she discovers that magic is real and sorcerers are living hidden in her Polish hometown. This realisation leads her to question the origins of the strange abilities that have plagued her since she was a child. She finds herself battling both sorcerers and demons alike, with only her friends and a strange boy she seems to share her dreams with.
We’ve asked Anna to tell us a little bit about her book and the important queer representation in it.
Little Black Bird is the start of a new series that is heavily inspired by Anna’s native Polish folklore.
The book has questioning/asexual representation.
Representation in Little Black Bird
There will be people who won’t see Little Black Bird as a queer book. They are the acephobes and exclusionists who claim that people falling on the aromance/asexuality-spectrum aren’t queer, and questioning isn’t even a thing, or because everyone does it, it doesn’t matter. And even less so since my characters are in a heteronormative relationship(-ish). So let’s settle it once and for all. You can be in a heteronormative relationship and be queer. Questioning people can identify wherever they feel the most comfortable, but we have an extra Q for them in the acronym and questioning your sexuality is a very non-heteronormative thing to do. And people on the a-spectrum are queer as hell—we challenge not only the heteronormative standards of the society, but also the amatonormativity. You can’t fight me; these are the facts.
All of the characters in Little Black Bird should be considered queer unless stated otherwise (and, so far, I haven’t stated otherwise). Mostly because I strongly believe that the world is much queerer than we give it credit for, but also because Polish queer rep is long overdue. But, at the centre of the story, we have two of the least represented queer identities: questioning and a-spectrum. I can only think of I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman when it comes to questioning rep. Everywhere else, if a questioning aspect appears, it’s solved within a couple of chapters and I wanted—needed—to write something truer to my experience. And while a-spectrum identities are becoming slightly more written about, they are still few and far between, and obscure enough so that I have to follow up every coming-out either with a Power Point presentation on what asexuality and aromance means, or fight through all the harmful stereotypes (I’m really not sure which one bothers me more). So, we definitely need more a-spectrum rep.
First, a disclaimer: I call it a-spectrum because at the end of the book, Wiki tells Artur to look up ‘asexuality’ and we don’t find out yet what part of the spectrum he identifies with. I don’t know, either; it’s for him to discover.
Both of my main characters, Wiki and Artur, aren’t sure about their sexuality and their feelings are additionally muddled by a magical, soulmate-style bond that makes them feel very close. They read each other’s minds, feel each other’s feelings, share each other’s dreams. They figure stuff out as the book progresses, and I like saying that their experiences mirror as they help each other accept the part of their identity they are uncomfortable with. Wiki hates her magic, while Artur is super comfortable with it and slowly helps her change her mind. On the other hand, Artur absolutely rejects the idea that he might not be allo, whereas Wiki, while maybe not fully accepting it, is at least resigned to questioning and makes him realize that he really isn’t allo and to try to embrace it.
Artur believes in society’s fairytale, that he’s just waiting for ‘The One’ and Wiki seems to be it. They must be soulmates, right? Except, the magic between them is very confusing and he isn’t sure if they have the spark or not. It was important for me to have an a-spec character who doesn’t have the word to describe his experience and who really tries to conform to everything that society has taught him about relationships. Most aces I see in books are more confident in who they are but that always seemed to me a little too perfect. How can someone so young so easily be so sure of themselves, so secure in how they feel, in a society that holds romance and sex on such a high pedestal, and that is so saturated with (often unintentional, not that it makes it any less horrible and harmful) aphobia? I strongly believe that we need to normalize queer rep where the queer character is more hesitant to embrace their identity. Not all queer people are out and proud and they deserve to see themselves in books, too.
Some people aren’t even sure how they feel about romance and sex at all. My protagonist, Wiki, changes her mind all the time. Is she bi? Is she ace? Is she simply straight? Or is she a repressed lesbian? I questioned for a long time, too, and I think it’s important to finally have a book that shows how horrible this feeling is. How utterly lost you feel in a world that demands you to label every part of your identity, to just know. How you overthink every gesture, every encounter, every feeling. And, frankly, with all the magical mayhem, demons, curses and death threats, Wiki doesn’t have time to sit down and think much about it.
Questioning rep is another thing that I was really missing in books and I hope to see more of it in the future.
In the first book, both Wiki and Artur are just getting started on their long journey of questioning and embracing their identities. I don’t think that Wiki will figure things out by the end of the series—it wouldn’t be true to the rep, especially since the action takes place in a short amount of time. Artur has a lot of work to do on himself, too, and it will be hard—reassessing his whole identity, trying to embrace being on the a-spectrum, finding out where exactly he sees himself—is it only ace, or aro, too? Is he demi? Is he grey? At the same time, Wiki and Artur will be reassessing their relationship, too, trying to find what they are comfortable with and what’s off-limits. Queer-platonic relationships are so rarely portrayed (okay, I’ve never seen one portrayed), and I can’t wait to explore it with them. Whatever happens, I know that they’ll have each other’s backs and that’s what I wish for everyone who finds themselves in a similar situation.
To the reader: You’re valid. You’re wonderful. And you definitely deserve to see someone like you as the hero of a story.
// Anna Kirchner, author of Little Black Bird
About the author:
Anna grew up in Poland and lived in a number of countries before settling in Sweden. She spends more time in imaginary worlds than in the real one. She grew up on a mixture of Polish legends and original Grimm fairy tales, which she channels into fiction. She’s a proud Hufflepuff and a dog lover. She is easiest to find on her Instagram, where she talks about books and goes into queer-feminist rants.