MLA 2020 Panel CFP
Co-Sponsored by Children’s Literature Association and Society for the Study of Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States
For several years, the sub-genres of dystopian and futuristic children’s and young adult fiction has held sustained readerly and scholarly interest, with some of the most popular novels becoming massively successful film series. However, these texts have been overwhelmingly written by white authors and feature white protagonists and mostly white supplementary characters. Notably, characters of color still only account for 22% of characters in children’s and young adult literature generally, not accounting for differences in genre. This panel seeks to draw scholarly attention to dystopian or futuristic children’s and YA texts written by authors of color, featuring primarily characters of color. At a time that feels apocalyptic for many children and teens of color, including those affected by deportation, mass incarceration, police violence, gendered violence, and environmental degradation, imagining a future through literature where characters like them can be heroes is not only relevant, but potentially life-changing.
Metís writer Cherie Dimaline has said in interviews, when thinking about how to make a difference for Indigenous teens during difficult times—“I was so excited by the idea of showing [Native] kids other kids, [actually] themselves, in a future and not just surviving but being the absolute answer, being the heroes. I was driven by that idea.” Beyond Rudine Sims Bishop’s famous call to offer young readers mirrors, windows, and doors into the lives of children of color, we need to consider the importance of offering literature about these children’s futures. It is not enough to recognize that children of color exist, literature for young readers needs to depict children of color thriving in the future when, as many race critics have pointed out, they are not expected to survive the present.
In addition to considering the contributions of American authors of color to racial constructions and representations in futuristic ChYA, papers in this panel should be intersectional, considering the implications of gender, class, sexuality, and ability in the imagined future. By focusing on this specific set of texts and questions, this panel will be bringing together discussions occurring in the fields of children’s literature, multi-ethnic literature, childhood and girlhood studies, critical ethnic studies, science fiction and fantasy, and queer studies.
Please send abstracts (350-500 words), academic affiliation, and AV needs to Kaylee Jangula Mootz (Kaylee.Mootz@uconn.edu) by March 1, 2019.