“We’re learning about Manifest Destiny!” my daughter declared, beaming. I asked her to explain it to me, and she talked about how it was the idea that our country should span from coast to coast. “Hmm. But the land in between wasn’t really empty, was it?” I asked. Her eyebrows drew together, and she shook her head. “No. It wasn’t.”
In fantasy, we often see the trope of The Chosen One. The one person who, simply by existing, is the most powerful/most special/most needed. The only thing they did to merit their Chosen One status was be born. They didn’t ask for it, they might not even want it, but by claiming it, they can save the world.
But what happens when you aren’t The Chosen One? What happens when, simply by existing, you’re the opposite of chosen? You’re the wrong color. You’re the wrong nationality. You’re the wrong class. You’re the wrong gender. In Illusions of Fate, I wanted to write a world of magic and privilege, a world of wealth and power—and a main character who, by virtue of her birth, could access none of that.
This isn’t your world, everyone around her had told her for her whole life. Why should she try to save it?
Jessamin, the main character, isn’t The Chosen One. But she chooses to help anyway.
In my daughter’s end of the year play, they dramatized the settlement of California. She played a member of an indigenous tribe, concerned about the influx of settlers. “They will hunt all our food!” was her one line. She said it with an angry flourish, raising her fist in the air.
“I added that gesture myself, Mom!” she told me afterward, proudly. Because of the stories we explored, because of the questions we asked, she identified with someone whose history was not her own.
There’s nothing simple about post-colonialism. There’s nothing simple about boundaries and borders and histories both recorded and silenced. We don’t get to choose what burdens and privileges we inherit simply by being born. But we do get to choose to see them, to recognize them, and to work toward a better future.
Stories matter. Choosing to reject your own Chosen One narrative—whether your life and history have been telling you you are the chosen one, but more importantly if they’ve been telling you you aren’t and never could be—matters.
Kiersten White is the New York Times bestselling author of the Paranormalcy trilogy, The Chaos of Stars, and the psychological thriller Mind Games and its sequel, Perfect Lies. She lives with her family in San Diego, where she regularly avoids the beach. Visit her online at www.kierstenwhite.com.
Illusions of Fate will be released Sept. 9, 2014.