It’s that time again: that time every week where I round up links to articles written by marginalized people pushing back against oppression in publishing. I’m aggregated as many marginalized voices as possible from as many vectors as possible, and the more intersectional the better. As always if you’ve read something I missed please link it in the comments.
My end goal is books that don’t give non-Native children incorrect information. I think Carson’s book does that. Her protagonist pushes back on racism, but I believe the take-away for most readers is not sufficient to undo what she introduces with respect to grave-robbing Indians and measles infected blankets. I believe their takeaway is going to be a subconscious “yeah, those Indians were really savage.” I think that will be the take-away because grave-robbing Indians dovetails with the existing misinformation about who we were, and who we are.
“Criticism of Representation in YA is Essential” by Justine Larbalestier
I’ve heard many POC critics point out that most white writers only feel they can write about race from the point of view of POC. This feeds into the idea that “race” is not something that white people have. We are neutral. We are somehow outside race. Newsflash: no one is outside race.
“Some Thoughts on Tragic Queer Narratives” by C. Lundoff
The tragic queer narrative? Widely available. Very, very, very common. Arguably more common than positive depictions of queer characters and relationships. Books by LGBTQ authors with LGBTQ protagonists who are not tragic queers? Much less common and much harder to find. Every now and then, an out queer author makes it big despite the obstacles, which include “Queer author writes queer characters = autobiography,” “Queer author, queer books = won’t sell, don’t bother promoting, and of course, “Queer author, queer books, don’t bother picking up for representation or publication.” But those authors sell better if they write straight characters and they know it (see recent interviews with the likes of Emma Donoghue and Sarah Waters for examples).
“Moving Past Octavia Butler” by Justina Ireland for Book Riot
To always default to a single black woman is lazy, but more importantly it gives the impression of the Exceptional Negro, that there are few authors of color charting the sci-fi and fantasy waters, or that except for a few rare exceptions Black people don’t write sci-fi or fantasy.
“Black Speculative Fiction Is Protest Work” by Troy L. Wiggins for Book Riot
With the specters of death, poverty, and inequality still surrounding African American communities, many African American creators of speculative fiction are illuminating their desire for change in the pages of their literature.
“White as the Default” by Marissa Rei Sebastian for Book Riot
I had consumed hundreds of books, encountered thousands of characters and a large majority of those that were human, or humanoid, were white or white coded. Characters of Color were lacking and many of my favorite series were guilty of having all white characters or one or two token People of Color.
Now, I was born and raised in the West; thus, I was exposed to the genre of science fiction and its importance to and popularity in society. Nevertheless, I couldn’t relate to these narratives within the books and films because I never saw reflections of myself, my family, my cultures, Africa in those stories. When I read science fiction growing up, I felt more like a tourist in those stories than a citizen. So when I first started to tell my own stories, I didn’t lean toward writing science fiction; magical realism felt most natural. But as I got older and started noticing more whenever I travelled to Nigeria with family to visit family, I started noticing Nigeria’s (Africa’s) futuristic ways. Then I started imagining. Then I looked for novels imagining what I was seeing and imagining and realized there were none. So I decided to start writing some. And because I was exposed to the genre of science fiction, I wrote the stories that I created from my experiences and observations in Nigeria in the style of the genre of science fiction that I was exposed to because I grew up in the United States.
That’s my longwinded way of saying, my being Naijamerican (Nigerian American) played a pivotal role in my writing my flavor of African science fiction, despite the fact that I really had no previous examples.
“The Need For Real, Honest Diverse Books: A South Asian Perspective” by Meghana Ranganathan at S.C. Write
I’ve come to realize, most of these movies and books end up being about white people experiencing India, not Indians sharing their experiences (e.g. Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Outsourced). There are exceptions, but I remember my first picture book about India when I was little got me so excited in the bookstore, because it was a book about someone like me. I took it home and opened it, only to find it be about a white girl going to India on vacation and her experiences.
“Five Things I’d Like To See In Urban Fantasy” by Angelia Sparrow
2) Paranormal creatures that fit the demographics. Here in Memphis, we have 10,000 Asian people. But because we have 9000 Vietnamese and only a few hundred Japanese, we would be far more likely to have a Ma cà rồng (Vietnamese vampires) than a kitsune.
“Your Work Matters” by Kameron Hurley
And, of course, this is assuming we’re all on an equal playing field. I get angry, often, at writers I see who are generally talented or not-so-talented white guys, who seem to be floating up through the publishing ecosystem like they shit gold, and it grates on me. You are always going to wonder how things would have gone if you had more advantages: if you were born a guy, or born a different color, or born rich, or had better brain chemistry, or if you were better at parties.
You’ll always wonder.