Ambivalent Ambiguities: Depictions of Race in Young Adult Dystopian and Science Fiction
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.
This proposed anthology seeks essays that interrogate the impulse to prioritize conversations about gender and class, while deflecting attention away from rich work on race geared toward a young adult readership. 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)
We are currently seeking a book contract for this anthology. 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.