Race in Young Adult Speculative Fiction
A wrestling with the faults and possibilities of the portrayals of race in this powerful genre
Winner of the Children’s Literature Association’s 2023 Edited Book Award
Contributions by Malin Alkestrand, Joshua Yu Burnett, Sean P. Connors, Jill Coste, Meghan Gilbert-Hickey, Miranda A. Green-Barteet, Sierra Hale, Kathryn Strong Hansen, Elizabeth Ho, Esther L. Jones, Sarah Olutola, Alex Polish, Zara Rix, Susan Tan, and Roberta Seelinger Trites
Race in Young Adult Speculative Fiction offers a sustained analysis of race and representation in young adult speculative fiction (YASF). The collection considers how characters of color are represented in YASF, how they contribute to and participate in speculative worlds, how race affects or influences the structures of speculative worlds, and how race and racial ideologies are implicated in YASF. This collection also examines how race and racism are discussed in YASF or if, indeed, race and racism are discussed at all.
Essays explore such notable and popular works as the Divergent series, The Red Queen, The Lunar Chronicles, and the Infernal Devices trilogy. They consider the effects of colorblind ideology and postracialism on YASF, a genre that is often seen as progressive in its representation of adolescent protagonists. Simply put, colorblindness silences those who believe—and whose experiences demonstrate—that race and racism do continue to matter. In examining how some YASF texts normalize many of our social structures and hierarchies, this collection examines how race and racism are represented in the genre and considers how hierarchies of race are reinscribed in some texts and transgressed in others.
Contributors point toward the potential of YASF to address and interrogate racial inequities in the contemporary West and beyond. They critique texts that fall short of this possibility, and they articulate ways in which readers and critics alike might nonetheless locate diversity within narratives. This is a collection troubled by the lingering emphasis on colorblindness in YASF, but it is also the work of scholars who love the genre and celebrate its progress toward inclusivity, and who further see in it an enduring future for intersectional identity.
"A substantive and fruitful response to Ebony Elizabeth Thomas’s call for more critical attention to the Dark Fantastic. Meghan Gilbert-Hickey and Miranda A. Green-Barteet offer a timely anthology that speaks to this moment in the evolutionary history of speculative fiction, and each essay peels back layers of institutionalized racism and discrimination that have been both endemic and unaddressed within this genre for far too long. This volume constitutes a call to action for writers of YA speculative fiction—a genre that is experiencing an ‘earthquake’—and will surely seed critical ‘aftershocks’—future scholarly conversations about a genre that is only beginning to realize its potential. "- Michelle H. Martin, Beverly Cleary Professor for Children and Youth Services at the University of Washington
"Taken together, these essays provide a foundation for discussing race in YASF and demonstrate how YASF can change so that all young readers might see themselves represented in YASF."- C. A. Nadon, CHOICE