I was just speaking with a colleague about the need to incite curiosity as the basis for research. Questioning, wondering and imagining are essential real life skills that are certainly nurtured in speculative fiction.
Earlier this year, authors Zetta Elliott and Ibi Zoboi published part of a conversation about race and representation in The Hunger Games and YA speculative fiction. Their conversation, which continued on Zetta’s blog brought out significant points on the critical importance of brown girls being seen in worlds of flight and fantasy.
IBI: My first contact with speculative fiction was the stories I would hear my family tell. They
happened in Haiti—political stories intermingled with loogaroo stories, which is like a vampire-type figure in Haitian folklore. There was always a sense of magic and darkness and fear in those stories. There was always somebody who didn’t come home and it was usually associated with the tonton macoute (a bogeyman with a sack), or a loogaroo who came to get somebody’s child. I had two mystical, folkloric figures woven into these political stories about family and friends, so that line between what was real and what was not was never clear.
ZETTA: In my childhood, that line between fantasy and reality was very clear because I was reading British novels in Canada—C.S. Lewis and Frances Hodgson Burnett, which isn’t
exactly fantasy. But her work featured these wealthy, white children living on the moors in England and was so far removed from my reality. And because those books didn’t serve as a mirror, fantasy was very much something that happened to other people. I didn’t really imagine magical, wonderful things happening to me because everything that I read said it only happened to kids of a certain color or a certain class. In terms of gender, at least girls were having adventures, too, so that was a good thing.
You and I are both writers and we’re obviously trying to generate our own stories. Is there a way for us to make an intervention in the field of YA fantasy? How do our stories reach our kids? MORE
Eboni Elizabeth, writing at the Dark Fantastic positions the following regarding people of color and Native Americans and how YA lit fails in this regard.
There is an imagination gap when we can’t imagine a little Black girl as the symbolic Mockingjay who inspires a revolution in one of today’s most popular YA megaseries.
There is an imagination gap when one of the most popular Black female characters on teen television is stripped of agency, marginalized within the larger story, and becomes a caricature of her literary counterpart.
There is an imagination gap when a Korean-Canadian woman’s critique of J.K. Rowling’s character Cho Chang in the Harry Potter novels is seen as more problematic than certain aspects of the character herself.
There is an imagination gap when a Nambe Pueblo critic’s perspectives on a pre-Columbian America “without people, but with animals” are seen as more problematic than the worldbuilding itself.
This is taken from “The Imagination Gap in #Kidlit and #YAlit: An Introduction to the Dark Fantastic“, her initial blog post. In addition to pulling readers into spaces of deep conversation, Eboni highlights numerous Dark Fantastic/Black Speculative Fiction resources in her side bar.