The role of acceptance in literature

In a world where discrimination and prejudice run deep, learning to accept one’s self can be very difficult. Here are three characters who learned to love and accept themselves for who they are, despite the hardships they faced.

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Image courtesy of Ariel Bianca

The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Margot Sanchez is a Puerto Rican girl living in South Bronx, with her mom, dad, and brother. Margot cares a lot about her image, so much so that she would not be caught with her natural curly hair.

This is further exacerbated when she gets accepted to the prestigious Somerset Prep. Not wanting to fall to the bottom of the social ladder, she befriends the popular girls and shimmies her way into their group.

While they accept her as a friend, she can tell they do not truly see her as one of them. Margot is not as rich as the kids in her school, and this majorly sets her back. She is not able to live the lavish lifestyle her friends do; she can’t go shopping every weekend or travel during breaks.

Summer break rolls around and, feeling pressured to look the part, she steals her dad’s credit card and goes on a shopping spree to spruce up her wardrobe, racking up a cost of $600. When her dad finds out about this he is livid and forces her to work off her debt at the family’s supermarket.

The only problem? Margot was invited to a beach party in the Hamptons by her friends, and she does not know if she will be off the hook by the time it rolls around.

This novel takes the reader on an adventure as we experience the summer through Margot’s eyes. Through her punishment and interactions with the people around her, Margot learns to accept herself for who she truly is: a fierce, curly-haired, Puerto Rican chica.

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow is a very gritty and realistic take on mental health and the problems people can face when dealing with it. It features Charlotte Davis, a 17-year-old girl in pieces.

Born to a family who never showed her love, she learned to seek comfort elsewhere, but what comforted her was not healthy for her. Charlotte’s escape was self-harm, and although it brought her pain and scars on her body, it was the one thing she really knew. It was the one thing she could control in the chaos she was surrounded by daily.

Loneliness is mostly all she felt in St. Paul’s Psychiatric Facility, where she stayed to get help. She was guided in the right direction through group talks with her counselor there, but that did not ultimately help her.

After her time runs out at the facility, she finds herself in need of a place to stay. Charlotte finds herself in Tucson, Ariz. working at a coffeehouse bussing dishes. She finds solace in a man named Riley West, a kind of famous musician who has problems of his own. For a while he helps her stop self-harming, and she even grows to love him; but two people dealing with problems does not equal a stable relationship, and it falls through the gutters.

Charlotte is sent spiraling, and she does not know what to do with herself. She invested so much time into him, slowly melded herself into his life, and now she does not know how to function without him.

Through this heartbreak, Charlotte learns more about herself, and her strengths. She learns that she is not in this alone and that she has friends who are willing to help her, if she is willing to reach out to them.

Girl in Pieces is ultimately a book about self-discovery and finding who one truly is. In the end, Charlotte accepts that while she may have not had the best start to life, she is what she makes of the rest of her life, and defeat is not an option.

The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss

The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss taught its readers the effects of discrimination.

The story is centered around two different types of Sneetches: Sneetches with stars, and Sneetches without stars. The Sneetches with stars are seen as superior to the Sneetches without stars. They parade around their beaches with their stars, looking down upon their unmarked peers.

This leads the Sneetches without stars to become envious of those with them, and through this discontent comes Sylvester McMonkey McBean who claims he can put stars on the no-star Sneetches. This, of course, does not please the star-bellied Sneetches, who do not want their circle muddied up by these new starred Sneetches.

Suddenly the Sneetches are running around paying this man to mark them, and un-mark them, and so on. It comes to a point where they do not even know what they originally were, and they come to realize that it does not matter whether or not they have a star. They were all the same, regardless of whatever markings they had on their bodies.

Humans are just as guilty of discrimination as the Sneetches were. Many are quick to judge those who live a different lifestyle than them, when at the end of the day, all humans breathe the same air, bleed the same blood, and see the same sunset.