UPDATE: Depictions of Race in Young Adult Dystopian and Science Fiction, Children's Literature Association 2015 Confernece

full name / name of organization: 
Miranda Green-Barteet and Meghan Gilbert-Hickey/Children's Literature Association
contact email: 

ChLA 2015 Conference, June 18-20, 2015: Depictions of Race in Young Adult Dystopian and Science Fiction

full name / name of organization:
Meghan Gilbert-Hickey & Miranda Green-Barteet/Children's Literature Association
contact email:
RaceinYAlit@gmail.com

Panel Proposal for 2015 Children's Literature Association Conference: Ambivalent Ambiguities: Depictions of Race in Young Adult
Dystopian and Science Fiction

In dystopian series such as Divergent, Blood Red Road, The "Chemical Garden" Trilogy, Legend, the "Pure" Trilogy and The Lunar Chronicles, authors writing young adult fiction have created female protagonists who openly defy the oppressive societies in which they live. In these series, and many others, a young female protagonist challenges gendered limitations, thereby subverting the culturally-prevalent image of a boy-crazy, fashion conscious teenage girl. Indeed, in diverse settings and circumstances, authors writing in this genre offer readers female characters who are active, empowered, and take charge of their own lives. Often, these young, female characters find themselves in positions to fight on behalf of oppressed others, who are marked by gender and, to an even greater extent, class.

Many of these authors, however—specifically those who have achieved commercial success and published with mainstream presses—seem hesitant to delve into issues of race and racial difference. Instead, they employ a variety of techniques to sidestep race, particularly the race of female characters. Racial markers are layered with those of differing categories; rather than create characters who are racially diverse, authors create extraterrestrials, cyborgs, individuals with telekinetic and technological powers, among other differences. Thus, many of these texts appear to confront race directly only to dismiss racial differences as a form of speculative adaptation. In other texts, such differences disappear altogether, under the guise of a post-racial society.

Many lesser-known texts within this genre do feature female protagonists of color, including Justine Larbalestier's Liar, Nalo Hopkinson's The Chaos, Karen Sandler's "Tankborn" series, and others. In creating protagonists of color, these authors challenge the normative assumption of whiteness that so many of their colleagues reinforce. These books, however, aren't on the best-seller lists, nor are they being made into films, while dystopian texts featuring white female protagonists are.

In keeping with the conference theme "The High Stakes and Dark Sides of Children's Literature," we seek essays that consider why so many of these critically acclaimed and commercially successful books overlook, disregard, or deflect attention away from race. Specifically, we seek to consider why, in books that so often subvert, transgress, and openly deride gender stereotypes, race is relegated to the margins.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:
● The normalization of whiteness
● Subversion of gender stereotypes vs. subversion of racial stereotypes
● Technology as a marker of difference
● Marked and unmarked bodies
● Prevalence of telekinetic powers or other types of mental powers
● Consideration of other forms of difference (i.e., LGBT characters, disabled characters) as they relate to racial diversity
● Role of the environment and race
● Role of publishing industry (i.e., marketing, attracting authors, size of publishers)

The 2015 Children's Literature Association Conference will be held in Richmond, Virginia, June 18-20. Please submit a 300-word abstract and a one-page CV to Meghan Gilbert-Hickey and Miranda Green-Barteet at RaceinYAlit at gmail.com by January 5, 2015. Please include "ChLA Conference Panel Proposal" in the email's subject line.

We are also seeking a book contract for an anthology of the same title. For that project, please submit a 500-word abstract and a one-page CV to Meghan Gilbert-Hickey and Miranda Green-Barteet at RaceinYAlit at gmail.com by February 1, 2015. To submit a proposal to that project, please include "Race in YA Lit Anthology Abstract" in the email's subject line.