Book Review Round-Up

I’ve been reviewing some interesting books for Foreword Reviews lately, and I thought I’d share those reviews with you. Hopefully they will introduce you to books you might be interested in reading. Enjoy!

 

Mary McAuliffe, Paris, City of Dreams. Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann, and the Creation of Paris. (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).
The re-creation of Paris from a medieval urban maze to the city of lights and boulevards comes to life in Mary McAuliffe’s historical exposé Paris, City of Dreams.

 

 

 

Sam Van Schaik, Buddhist Magic. Divination, Healing, and Enchantment through the Ages (Shambala Publications, 2020).
Sam Van Schaik’s historical investigation Buddhist Magic reveals the significance and historical roots of magic in modern Buddhism.

 

 

 

 

Lynn M. Hudson, West of Jim Crow. The Fight against California’s Color Line. (University of Illinois Press, 2020).
California’s history of racist legislation against Black Americans is brought to light in Lynn M. Hudson’s West of Jim Crow.

 

 

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

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.

 

 

Academics Are At War Over Racist Roots of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ Studies

On December 1, 2019, I was back on The Daily Beast, continuing my coverage of the connections between modern racism and pre-modern history. This time I expressed my take on the ongoing debate on whether or not the term “Anglo-Saxon” should be phased out because of its racist meaning. Enjoy!

Academics Are At War Over Racist Roots of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ Studies

Academics Are At War Over the Racist Roots of Anglo-Saxon Studies | The Daily Beast | The Boomerang

At the RaceB4Race symposium held in Washington D.C. in September 2019, medievalist Mary Rambaran-Olm took to the podium and called out the inherent racism of the term “Anglo-Saxon.” She asked the prestigious professional organization called the International Society for Anglo Saxonists, or ISAS, to change its name, and then declared her immediate resignation from that organization.

Rambaran-Olm’s speech sent shock waves through the world of experts on Anglo-Saxon England—and in the months that have passed since then, colleagues have turned on each other in a heated debated over the use of the term “Anglo-Saxon” and whether it constitutes white supremacy.

This debate might seem like an example of typical academic hair splitting with little to no relevance to the general public. But in the case of “Anglo-Saxon,” what might look like academic inside baseball has, in fact, major implications for wider society. This debate cuts to the root of the polarization that we are currently experiencing in the United States and the United Kingdom.

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

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

Interview for Geek Dad/Geek Mom on Racism and Diversity in Speculative Fiction

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St. Maurice

On April 11, 2017, I was interviewed by the blog Geek Dad/Geek Mom. We talked about racism and diversity in speculative fiction, about the state of the art in historical research, and how to locate trustworthy sources when you do your own historical research when writing speculative fiction.

And of course, I recommended some books. And referenced Stargate SG-1.

You can check out the interview here.

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

People of Color in the Middle Ages: A Primer to Promote Diversity in Fantasy

On February 6, 2017, I published the following post on Book Riot.

People of Color in the Middle Ages: A Primer to Promote Diversity in Fantasy

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St. Maurice

A recurring topic of debate within the SFF community is the issue of historical accuracy in medieval fantasy fiction. Claims are repeatedly made that there were no people of color in medieval Europe. Therefore, the argument goes, medieval fantasy fiction with all white, Christian characters is historically accurate. Any inclusion of people of color or other religions is a distortion of history in the name of political correctness.

In actual fact, medieval Europe was a complex society where several different cultures, religions, and linguistic groups coexisted under the umbrella of the omnipresent Catholic Church.

As Jonathan Hsy shows in his book…

If you’d like to read the post in its entirety, please click here.