The Dark Fantastic. A Groundbreaking Book on Race in Children’s Literature.

We have all heard the saying.

Catch them while they are young.

Focus on the children and you will build the future you want to see. But what is that future you claim to be building? Are you building a future for change? Or is it a future that maintains a status quo that serves some groups over others?

In publishing, the issue of the future comes to the fore in children’s literature. In 2014, the non-profit organization We Need Diverse Books was founded in response to a publishing industry that publishes children’s book that fail to address the diverse experience of what it is to be a child in the United States today. The purpose of WNDB is to “help produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.” Since its foundation, WNDB has helped shape the conversation on diversity in children’s literature, highlighting the good work that is being done and exposing the instances when children’s literature perpetuates racism, ableism, and gender discrimination.

71cPAgR+hKLIn 2019, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, Associate Professor of Children’s and Young Adult Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, joined the conversation with her groundbreaking book The Dark Fantastic. Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games (New York University Press, 2019. Paperback, September 2020).

By taking a closer look at the representation of race in fantasy, Dr. Thomas cracks open the thick shell of the genre’s deep legacy of non-inclusivity and racism.  Dr. Thomas picks apart the massively popular franchises of Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Merlin, and The Vampire Diaries and reveals their use of race, which, on the surface, looks like an empowerment of Black characters, but which at closer scrutiny is only more of the same.

The Dark Fantastic is a groundbreaking book for several reasons. First, it is one of few academic publications to discuss race in children’s literature. Second, to my knowledge, it is the only such publication to take fandom into account as an authentic source. Third, in addition to revealing children’s literature and publishing’s relationship to race, it simultaneously shines a light on racism in the genre of fantasy as a whole. Fourth, it presents a Theory of the Dark Fantastic and in so doing moves the field of research forward in that it provides future scholars and authors with a framework in which to position the work of their own as well as that of others.

The Dark Fantastic is a groundbreaking book on race in children’s literature that exposes and highlights while charting a way for the future of children’s literature.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

 

 

Historical Sources and N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy

On December 17, 2019, I published part two of my ongoing series for Tor.com, History and SFF. This time I wrote about how N.K. Jemisin uses historical sources to tell the story, and to contradict that same story, of her award winning trilogy The Broken Earth. Enjoy!

History and SFF: Historical Sources and N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy

History and SFF | Historical Sources and N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth Trilogy | Tor.com | The Boomerang

History is the interpretation of the past based on written and recorded texts. These texts are known as historical sources and they are the sine qua non of history writing. Over the past centuries, techniques have developed for how to categorize, evaluate, and analyze historical sources. Being a historian means that you dedicate a substantial amount of your time mastering these techniques in order to make your interpretation of the past valid and reliable.

In The Broken Earth trilogy, N.K. Jemisin uses historical sources to tell the history of The Stillness, a seismically overactive continent where human civilization is repeatedly destroyed through prolonged cataclysmic events known as Seasons.

Please click here if you wish to read the article in its entirety.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

History and SFF Storytelling: A New Monthly Column

On October 15, 2019, Tor.com published the following post, announcing the launch of  the column I will be writing for them. I am really excited about this column. Not only because it’s about history and the historian’s craft, but because I have been wanting to work with Tor.com for a long time.

Enjoy!

History and SFF Storytelling: A New Monthly Column.

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Welcome to Tor.com’s new column on History and SFF!

My name is Erika Harlitz-Kern, and I will be your guide during the coming months in discussing the ways that history is used in fantasy and science fiction. But don’t worry—I won’t be dissecting your favorite story digging for historical inaccuracies and judging its entertainment value based on what I find… The purpose of this column is to take a look at how authors of SFF novels and novellas—with a focus on more recent works, published after the year 2000—use the tools of the trade of historians to tell their stories.

When any scholar does research, they use a set of discipline-specific tools to make…

Click here to read the post in its entirety.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

I’m on Goodreads

Last year I took the plunge and joined Goodreads. I’ve been searching for a way to keep track of my readings as well as writing short reviews, since I’ve noticed that doing both of these things helps me retain what I read to a higher degree. I’ve tried keeping book journals, writing about books here on The Boomerang, tweeting about books I’ve read, but nothing seemed to work out in the long run.

I joined Goodreads in July last year, and so far, it seems to be working out well. If you’d like to follow me on Goodreads, you can find me there under my full name.

Here’s a sample of the books I’ve read and reviewed on Goodreads. Hopefully it will help you find some new books and authors to read. Either way, I hope you enjoy the reviews.

Nnedi Okorafor, Binti: Home.

Eric Idle, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. A Sortabiography.

Brian McClellan, Promise of Blood.

Aeschylus, Oresteia.

J.Y. Yang, The Black Tides of Heaven.

Eve MacDonald, Hannibal. A Hellenistic Life.

Myke Cole, The Queen of Crows.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

When Your Favorite Fantasy Book Series Comes to an End

On January 18, I published the following post on Book Riot.

When Your Favorite Fantasy Book Series Comes to an End

“When the music’s over
Turn out the light.”
–The Doors

Two of my favorite fantasy book series have come to an end—N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth Trilogy and Myke Cole’s The Reawakening Trilogy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is a little bit ironic that that both of these series ended at the same time, because I found Jemisin and Cole at the same time. A year and a half ago, I had reached a point where I felt unchallenged by what I’d been reading lately, so I went searching for new writers to discover. Through a combination of the serendipity that is the daily life of a Book Riot contributor and the chaos that is twitter, two names caught my attention.

N.K. Jemisin and Myke Cole.

A couple of sure-why-not-induced mouse clicks later, and their books were on the way to me in the mail.

The first book—or should I say books—by N.K. Jemisin I ever read was…

If you would like to read the article in its entirety, please click here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.