[DWJ] Chrestomanci needs help in the YA Fantasy Showdown

deborah.dwj at suberic.net deborah.dwj at suberic.net
Thu Aug 12 09:27:54 EDT 2010


Note I am writing at the top of the e-mail after I've composed
the entire e-mail: it will look from reading this long thing that
I am very angry at the YA showdown. I'm not. I like it, and I
participated in it and sent it to several of my friends and I
think it's fun. But I have a real issue with how genre
watchers ignore both authors and characters of color, and this
showdown pushed all of my buttons.

On Thu, 12 Aug 2010, Hallie O'Donovan wrote:
> http://thesecretadventuresofwritergirl.blogspot.com/
>
> Eugenides?  Katniss?  Not sure, though my not sureness about Katniss is
> mostly from not caring a whole lot.  I haven't read *Little Sister*, so
> didn't know about Gohanu, but the cover is kind of appealing. The
> characters of colour count is definitely better than two, at any rate

Oh, I forgot about Eona (mostly because of my reaction to the
first book, which I loved like mad for its portrayal of a heroine
with disability and chronic pain until I got to the last chapter
and I felt like it slapped me in the face).

And I didn't count Goranu because I also hadn't read the book,
and I got the impression from my initial reading that he was
non-humanoid. But looking again, as either shape shifter who
spent a lot of time a human body, so OK.

But I call shenanigans on Eugenides and Katniss. Eugenides maps
most closely to Greek-or-other-Mediterranean, which is not
"person of color" for 21st-century American author Megan Whalen
Turner's readers (nor is it "person of color" in his own context,
so he doesn't count either way). And as for Katniss, I would like
a text to do more physical description than "olive skin, dark
hair, gray eyes" before I feel like it's doing something about
the overwhelming whiteness of science fiction and fantasy in
children's and YA. Sure, Katniss could map to Latina. She could
also map to Greek. Hell, she could also map to Eastern European
Jew (I say, looking at the faint green tint of my own skin).

So the actual tally as I would count it is 4, three of whom are
written by white people. (Being written by white people doesn't
make them bad characters, obviously, but it is something the
compiler should have kept in mind if she was bothering to tally
ethnicity.)

How's about Pretty Pearl or Justice and her brothers;
Forty-Seven; the Matsika siblings and Matt Alacran; Anand and
Nisha; Gregor the Overlander; Zahrah the Windseeker and Eiji
Ugabe; Yep's Thorn; Rex's Tip. (Can you tell I just made a
syllabus for YA fantasy and science fiction and these books are
on my mind?)

Don't know who all of those people are? Maybe that's because
they never turn up on lists of awesome fantasy and science
fiction characters.

On that blog post you link to, Hallie, the creator of the
showdown says:

"I wanted this to show the breadth and incredible range of YA
literature, and that in fantasy, everyone has a chance to do
something awesome, to play nice and kick butt equally, so to
speak. So part of the challenge was to decide how to represent
that kind of scope."

If her goal had just been to have a showdown between characters
she loved, that would be one thing. But she is explicitly saying
that she wants to show the breadth and incredible range of the
genre, and in that case, I would say that 4/32 characters of
color and 1/32 authors of color is not doing a particularly good
job of it.

(It's also all literature written originally in English; mostly
US, UK, with a bit of Australian and a tiny bit of Irish; and
very fantasy-heavy. But those issues don't bother me as much.
Also, she's got a few people in there who really shouldn't be:
Lessa and Westley may have been consumed by teens, but weren't
really marketed to them -- at least not in book form, because The
Princess Bride is genre-wise in adult novel.)

-deborah



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