[DWJ] recommendations

Gili Bar-Hillel gbhillel at netvision.net.il
Wed Jul 31 03:56:14 EDT 2013

Racewise, Rick Riordan seems to make a conscious effort to break out of the
all-white mold. The protagonists of his Egyptian trilogy (The Kane
Chronicles, starting with The Red Pyramid) are brother and sister of mixed
race, who don't look like siblings (she's more white, he's more black).
Each of the Heroes of Olympus books has multiple protagonists, including
characters who are Asian, black, Hispanic and Native American. He's based
some of his characters on students he used to teach in elementary school.
They are somewhere between MG and YA as far as themes and difficulty.

I would DEFINITELY recommend Frank Baum. Even he has been labeled a racist
in recent years, for two highly unfortunate editorials he wrote while he
was a newspaper editor in South Dakota, surrounding the death of Sitting
Bull and the events of Wounded Knee. However, unlike in some cases where
once you discover an author's racist bias you realize it permeates his
works, with Baum these editorials are extremely unusual and seem at odds
with the bulk of his writing. They are also pretty obscure, and have only
made available in recent years because people seem to enjoy engaging in
this kind of discussion (if you look for them online, keep in mind that
they are sometimes shortened or fitted with headings that weren't in the
original newspaper, to highlight the terrible bits). His children's books
feature a host of characters who are as other as other can be: each one is
made of a different material, has different ideas of what is good and
desirable, and yet the characters get along in harmony. The bad guys in the
books are often those who try to enforce their one narrow way of living on

I haven't seen Malorie Blackman recommended. Some of her books are
alternate history ABOUT race struggles, in a world where dark-skinned
people are the leading race. She is highly popular in the UK but I think
relatively unknown in the USA (interesting, that). I've only read one,
"Noughts and Crosses": it was a bit too earnest for me, but I can see why
she's popular. Maybe wait a couple of years.

I'd also recommend the Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix, don't even
know what color the characters are. And of course Diana Wynne Jones. Aren't
most of the Dalemark protagonists non-white? They have different race
distinctions than ours, in any case. Ditto Power of Three. There are POC
lead characters in several DWJ books, including A Tale of Time City,
Wilkin's Tooth, etc.

What I find disturbing about race in books for young people is that there
seems to be an assumption that unless stated otherwise, characters are
white. It's so strong that even when characters are explicitly described as
having dark skin or other non-caucasian features, some people tend to glide
over these descriptions, as seen by the fact that every so often book
covers are white-washed "by mistake" so that the images show white
characters even if they are explicitly non-white in the text, or that
viewers express surprise when black actors are cast to play black
characters onscreen (i.e. Rue in the Hunger Games). In many beloved books
no reference is made to character's skin color or ethnicity. While I wish
this meant that readers of all races could identify equally with the
characters, I know that in actual fact many readers will probably assume
that the characters are white. The problem is in our minds even when it
isn't in the books.

On Wed, Jul 31, 2013 at 12:26 AM, Martha Hixon <marthahixon at gmail.com>wrote:

> Recommendations:
> > Lloyd Alexander (especially the Vesper Holly ones, which are fun, and the
> Prydain ones, which are classic)
> > Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks series (neither fantasy nor mixed race,
> but truly wonderful reads, and this is coming from a person who has always
> vastly prefers fantasy to realistic fiction).
> > Rick Riordan's various series using Greek, Roman, and Egyptian myths,
> maybe?
> I'd second L. Frank Baum, and I'd suggest keeping Garth Nix's Abhorsen
> series for an older teen, as well as Alison Croggon's Pelinor series for
> the same age. Duane's So You Want to be a Wizard series would be good for a
> 10-year-old, but not some of her others.
> Martha
> Dr. Martha P. Hixon
> Department of English
> Middle Tennessee State University
> Murfreesboro, TN 37132
> 615-898-2599 / martha.hixon at mtsu.edu
> On Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 6:19 PM, Otter Perry <
> ottertee at silverwinggraphics.com> wrote:
> >
> > My partner has an acquaintance, a 10-year-old girl who is very bright.
> > She likes fantasy. I've recommended DWJ, of course, but any suggestions
> > are welcome. [I also recommended Nesbit, Lewis, Baum, Jansson, and
> > Pratchett.]
> >
> > She is also mixed-race*, so if anybody knows a particularly good author
> > for that, tell me. [I'm loaning her _The Wizard of Earthsea_.] It would
> be
> > nice to have protagonists who aren't just white.
> >
> > Garth Nix just occurred to me. And Diane Duane.
> >
> >
> > *Her father is African-American, her mother is European-American.
> >
> > --------
> >
> > People say nothing rhymes with orange,
> > but it doesn't.
> >
> >
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> >
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