The Sea in Winter by Christine Day HarperCollins / Heartdrum Publication Date: January 5, 2021 ISBN: 978-0062872043
Maisie, a Makah/Piscataway middle schooler, is in a dark place. A serious ballet dancer who dreams of a career as a ballerina, competitive summer academies, and a life filled with movement, Maisie has been unable to dance since a serious knee injury early in the first semester. Maisie isolates herself from her friends and family and begins to sink into depression. A family hiking trip over winter break brings her emotions, physical limitations and dreams all crashing to a head.
Sword Princess Amaltea by Natalia Bautista Tokyo Pop Publication Date: June 26, 2018 ISBN: 9781427859174
This year Tokyo Pop is shaking up the formerly male-dominated graphic novel genre, and Sword Princess Amaltea is one of its flagship titles. Spoiled Princess Amaltea must go and rescue a prince in order to maintain her royal privileges in her matriarchal society. Unfortunately, rescuing the sleeping prince is not nearly as easy as one would hope.
Paranormal Romance is a sub-genre of Romance. For a novel to be a Paranormal Romance, a simple thing must occur: love must begin between a human and a supernatural being (whether wholly supernatural or partially, just as long as there are supernatural elements present). However, this can be a broad interpretation. Usually, the protagonist (often the human) in these novels is put in some kind of danger, where they come to realize they can overcome this danger either on their own or with the help of the supernatural love interest.
Main characters include both humans and supernatural beings. The supernatural being can be wholly supernatural or partly, and include but are not limited by the following “types”: vampire, werewolf, fairy, magician, mermaid, zombie, psychic, ghost, demon hunter, demon, angel, shapeshifter, dragon, and gods or goddesses. Additionally, the human in Paranormal Romances can have a touch of the paranormal as well. An example is the teen psychic that can see the ghost. Quite often, when it comes to paranormal romances written for teens, a love triangle is involved. There could be more than one human, or more than one supernatural being in the triangle. Continue reading Genre Guide: Paranormal Romances for Teens
As a life-long devotee of fantasy fiction, I’ve frequently defended the value of stories that feature dragons, magically gifted heroines, or angst-ridden werewolves. And while I’ve often stated that fantasy fiction isn’t necessarily an escape from reality simply because it includes magic or ghosts, even the most committed fan must acknowledge that the genre is incredibly disconnected from reality in fatal ways. For one, fantasy fiction remains an overwhelmingly white world–an area of literature where you might find vampires or psychic detectives but rarely characters of color.
This lack of diversity is a widespread problem in young adult literature and the larger publishing industry but speculative fiction is especially guilty of inequitable representation within its stories and industry. Just last week, The Guardian published an article by speculative fiction author & essayist Daniel José Older discussing the insidious ways that systemic racism and white privilege has permeated the science fiction and fantasy publishing & fan communities. At last month’s YALSA Young Adult Literature Symposium, there was an entire panel titled “Where Are The Heroes of Color in Fantasy & Sci-Fi?”, which Hub blogger Hannah Gómez recapped with great accuracy & insight.
So, how do we, as readers, fans, & promoters of these genres, demand & nurture fiction with imaginary worlds as diverse as the one we live in? To start, we need to read, buy, promote, and request titles by and about people of color. Accordingly, I pulled together some authors and titles to check out, focusing on fiction that falls on the fantasy side of speculative fiction. This list is far from comprehensive; for more titles, I recommend checking out Lee & Low’s genre-specific Pinterest board, Diversity in YA, and We Need Diverse Books.
2004 Edwards Award winnerUrsula K. Le Guin has long been considered one of the best and most beloved high fantasy writers; she’s also consistently written stories with people of color as protagonists–although film adaptions & book covers have often blatantly ignored this, white-washing characters like Ged, the brown-skinned protagonist of A Wizard of Earthsea. The 2013 Edwards Award winnerTamora Pierce also includes characters of color in her novels; her Emelan books feature both black & multiracial protagonists.
Friday afternoon at the YALSA YA Lit Symposium, I attended Where Are the Heroes of Color in Fantasy and Sci Fi?, which boasted quite the list of presenters and participating authors/editor. Led by Sarah Murphy, Kerry Roeder, Angela Ungaro, of The Watchers Podcast, the session started by acknowledging the fact that indeed, there are already quite a few heroes of color in SFF that we can pull out from history, thanks to authors like Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin. But we all know that there aren’t enough, and that’s a shame, especially when movements like We Need Diverse Books prove that we want them. To that end, participating authors Amalie Howard, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, and Cynthia Leitich Smith, plus editors Joe Monti and Stacy Whitman (who joined via video), discussed their experiences in the diverse (or not-so-diverse) world of publishing and genre fiction, especially in YA.
While there is much to say about diversity in YA literature that would take much longer than a simple post to get to, let’s agree that science fiction and fantasy seem especially to suffer from excessive whiteness (and excessive abledness, hetero-ness, etc, but that was not the theme of this session), probably due to the fact that publishers seem to think that characters of color only belong in realistic stories about very specific racialized experiences that are sanctioned by the status quo, like a story about a black person during the Civil Rights movement or a story about a Latino who is crossing the border into the United States. The question of the day seemed to be why there seems to be such resistance to genres that imagine entirely new worlds going on to imagine that people of color might be in them?
The presenters and participants all shared their frustration for the current state of publishing and their passion for changing it. Monti, who will be running his own new imprint, Saga Press, at Simon & Schuster, did not hold back from calling out other publishers’ refusal to change. He noted fighting with someone over a new cover of A Wizard of Earthsea, which failed to make Ged, the main character, black, even though the author has done nothing but insist that Ged is black. Monti noted that “we can’t get to a deeper truth if we ignore half the world…I don’t understand how a school system can be majority minority and publishers think Latinos are niche.” He said he strongly believes diversity will sell, because good stories are good stories, plain and simple. Continue reading YA Lit Symposium: Where are the Heroes of Color in SFF?