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Tag: Nancy Farmer

Diversity YA Life: Diverse Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

shadowshaperMuch of diverse young adult literature is contemporary, realistic fiction, or historical fiction about the struggle of being a person of color.  As a teen library worker, I get to know the personal lives of teens and some of their stories are heartbreaking.  From poverty to bullying, I recognize that the struggle is real and I am happy to be a non-judgemental adult soundboard.  I am also grateful for the plethora of young adult fiction available so that I can hand a book to a teen I feel will provide some insight and comfort.

But when life is tough, many teens also like to escape into fantasy and science fiction. Readers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror also like to see themselves in these books.  If people of color can survive slavery and oppression and poverty, they can also survive zombies and maniacal kings and naiyadragons. So, where are the black Hermiones?

I am a teen services specialist and a major part of my job is to connect teens with books.  I have an avid reader, who is Middle Eastern, who asks me to recommend fantasy books about once a month.  A year ago when the We Need Diverse Books movement started, I asked her to do a cue card about why we need diverse books and she stated that she would like to see more Middle Eastern characters in fantasy.   A little over a year later, I gave her The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh and she came back and absolutely raved about the book.  She said that she particularly loved the inside cover because there was a girl who looked and dressed like her.  This is one reason why we need diverse books.

If you are a library worker looking to enhance your diverse young adult repertoire or a teen reader looking for yourself in a magical world or a speculative fiction reader seeking something new, here’s a list of speculative young adult fantasy/science fiction titles for you to try.  Please note that some titles feature characters of color in a supporting role—but that’s okay because Hermione was a supporting character, too.

What Would They Read?: Firefly Part 2

firefly-title-card-logoAfter a slight break to feature various spooky monsters, I’m heading back to the ship “Serenity” to finish off a few more characters.  I promised you all I would not leave you hanging.  Back in September I told you all about the crew of “Serenity.”  The comments section hit on an obvious title that I overlooked so I wanted to make sure that it was added.  Blog reader Shari said that Kaylee would also love Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  After I read that comment, I mentally kicked myself and I’m not ashamed to say it hurt a bit.  Of course Kaylee would love the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer!  Not only is it futuristic, it’s set in a world where Chinese influences run abundantly…just like Kaylee’s world.  Also, with as much as she likes to take apart and fix “Serenity,” she would love a story where cyborgs run freely.  Great suggestion!  I just wish I thought of it first.  :P

Ok, back to the ship.

Inara Serra – Inara is a very proper lady by those viewing her merely for her profession.  A companion is basically a fancy prostitute and Inara holds her head up high at the prestige she gains.  However, we academy 7witness every episode a subconscious, or sometimes very conscious, desire for real love.  Her schoolyard relationship with Mal makes the audience cheer for their snarky exteriors to melt away and their true romantic feelings to take the lead.  That is why I believe that Inara would love books that regard strong female characters in a positive light, but still has a bit of romance.  I would recommend The Selection by Kiera Cass to Inara particularly because America stands tall with her convictions instead of following the crowd of wannabee princesses.  The romance is there, but it’s America who decides to whom those romantic tendencies will flourish.  In a similar vein, I would slip Inara Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund.  This title is a bit more romance, but the secrets kept by the main characters definitely taking center stage over the romance from time to time.  And I believe that Inara’s secrets are fairly unmatched.

Dystopia in Color

Elysium2I saw the movie Elysium when it opened earlier this month. This dystopian movie includes a multicultural future, with Matt Damon plays Max daCosta,  a Hispanic anti-hero in future LA.   This look at a Hispanic main character given the chance to change the world or save his life (he can’t do both) was a break from the usual round of science fiction in general and Dystopia stories in particular, where the man or woman who rights wrongs and changes society is usually white. A search of recent young adult and middle grade books led me to several that provide readers with a future filled with heroes of different backgrounds, ethnicities, locations and circumstances.

silver sixThe Silver Six is a middle grade dystopian graphic novel written by A.J. Lieberman, and illustrated by Darren Rawlings and published in 2013 by Graphix.  The cover shows the six heroes: Phoebe,  Hannah Yoshiama, Patel, Oliver, Rebecca, Phoebe, and Ian. Their scientist parents are assassinated after they discover a cheap form of power that would free humanity from bondage to Craven Mining, the world’s only energy  supplier.

The children meet at an orphanage where they are assigned silver jumpsuits, a sleeping pod, dangerous jobs, and little food (the future is truly cruel to orphans). Thus begins a story that will have young readers turning pages as the children learn the value of friendship and sticking together, and work to find a place they can call their own. They discover that their parents’ deaths was not an accident and find a way to beat Craven Mining and have their own, peronal paradise. The science is more fun than real, but the pages are full of heart and love and self-discovery, the graphics are fun, and kids who are into science fiction will enjoy this story.

NCAAL: Empowering the Voice of the Black Male in Children’s and Teen Lit

library1Only a month after many librarians were in Chicago for the 2013 ALA conference, a number repacked their bags this week and headed for the Cincinnati, Ohio/Covington, Kentucky area for the 8th National Conference of African American Librarians. The theme of the conference was Culture Keepers: Challenges of the 21st Century: Empowering People, Changing Lives. The conference had several tracks, and the Diversity and Cultural Heritage track included a panel called “Empowering the Voice of the Black Male in Children’s and Teen Lit.” The panelists and audience discussed a number of YA books and how they might or might not attract reluctant teen readers, especially young black men. The discussion began with talks about how black male children perceive the world of fiction: many see American fiction as a place where they do not belong or are not wanted. The result of this alienation is lower reading abilities and standardized test scores among these young men. The discussion centered on the differences in the kinds of material that attract boys vs girls, especially regarding covers, and how to change the current status quo.