Jul 19, 2009

The Sunday Salon Meets Diversity Roll Call

The Sunday Salon.com Diversity Roll Call

So, Susan and Ali host a bi-weekly meme whose goal is "to encourage readers to broaden their reading habits". I always mean to participate and never do because... well, I don't have a good reason, really. The current theme is how race is portrayed in science fiction and fantasy, and since this is my favourite genre, I really wanted to participate.

There were several debates online about this recently, debates I watched from the sidelines and tried to learn from. I have to confess that sometimes I'm afraid to talk about race - afraid because I'm privileged and ignorant and don't want to say anything stupid. But I realize that this is both silly and potentially dangerous. There's absolutely nothing to be gained from silence, and we learn by saying stupid things and having others call us on them, right? So, here it goes:

First of all, one of the questions Ali and Susan ask is whether race matters in speculative fiction. I think it does matter. One of the grounds on which fantasy and sci-fi are sometimes dismissed is that they are not real, and so we can't take them too seriously: nothing that happens in an imaginary world can be of any consequence to us. You've heard me go on and on about how much I disagree with this before, so I'll spare you this time. I do take speculative fiction seriously, as seriously as any kind of fiction, and I do think that no matter what you call them, stories have consequences. They don't exist in a vacuum, so even if the author's intention is not to make social commentary of any kind, cultural and social assumptions do come into play.

To give you a concrete example, if a book unquestioningly evokes the old association between dark skin and inferiority, it doesn't matter if what it's talking about is the Necrocats of Jupiter - that association unfortunately exists for a reason, and it inevitably says something about power relationships that exist in our world. So no matter what you're applying it to, it's still racist. This is of course an extreme example, and what happens tends to be more subtle than that. I also know that all this stuff is pretty obvious, but I still see things dismissed on these grounds far more often than I'd like. This upsets me for what it says about how people see fantasy, but it upsets me far more for what it says about how people see (or refuse to see) racism.

As for fantasy or science fiction works with people of colour as protagonists, this is the case with one of my very favourite series, Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea. I absolutely love this piece she wrote when the TV mini-series based on the books completely whitewashed the story:
As an anthropologist's daughter, I am intensely conscious of the risk of cultural or ethnic imperialism—a white writer speaking for nonwhite people, co-opting their voice, an act of extreme arrogance. In a totally invented fantasy world, or in a far-future science fiction setting, in the rainbow world we can imagine, this risk is mitigated. That's the beauty of science fiction and fantasy—freedom of invention.

But with all freedom comes responsibility. Which is something these filmmakers seem not to understand.
As always, she says what I mean better than I ever could. Speculative fiction can give authors more freedom, but that doesn't mean they're not responsible for how they portray race.

Ali and Susan also ask readers to highlight books by authors of colour: I absolutely loved Nalo Hopkinson's The Salt Roads and have been meaning to read more by her ever since. Though I've only read short stories by them so far, both Octavia Butler and Samuel R. Delany are authors I think I'll love. And I also wanted to call your attention to the 50 Books by POC community on livejournal, which is full of reviews and recommendations.

I'd really love to hear your thoughts on this: What do you of the way race is portrayed in science fiction and fantasy? Are there any books you'd recommend?

And now I wanted to take the time to tell you about several fun bookish events to enjoy or look forward to in the next few months:

First of all, still on diversity, Susan is challenging bloggers to read and review as many multicultural books as possible between now and August 30th. Here's a great list of reading suggestions she compiled.

Secondly, July 19th-August 15th will be YA Appreciation Month at The Book Smugglers, and they're inviting all bloggers to contribute with posts for a mega YA lovefest on the last day.

Sex in Teen Lit Month

Speaking of YA - and I can't believe it took me so long to mention this! - Jo's Sex in Teen Lit Month is well under way, and there are reviews, authors interviews, discussions and guest posts to be enjoyed.

Persephone Reading Week

August 24th will mark the beginning of Persephone Reading Week, hosted by Claire at Paperback Reader and Verity at The B Files. Everyone is invited to read along and celebrate these forgotten classics. Though I've yet to read a Persephone book (something that will change during Persephone Week), I just love what they do. I think I've mentioned before that one of my impossible dreams is exactly to open a small publishing house devoted to bringing forgotten classics back into print, though mine would focus on fantasy and children's literature.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2009And last but certainly not least, Amy's second annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week has been announced. It'll take place between the 14th and the 18th of September and it promises to be even more fun than last year's. The goal is to celebrate all online bookish talk, so even if you're not a blogger yourself, you're invited to join the conversation, enter the many giveaways, and even nominate your favourite blogs for awards. So join the fun. You know you want to.


  1. "I have to confess that sometimes I'm afraid to talk about race - afraid because I'm privileged and ignorant and don't want to say anything stupid."

    Oh Ana, that so perfectly says what I've always felt! And you know, you're absolutely right...silence is so potentially dangerous.

  2. First off, thanks for the heads up on the different YA events around.

    Second, as I don't read a lot of science fiction, it's hard for me to chime in here in specific, however, in general, I like books where people are of different races and this doesn't matter at all. The first example I can think of off the top of my head (because it's on my mind already) is the Harry Potter series, which mixes together various anglo cultures in Britain who do regard each other as different races, plus people of African and Indian decent, and it doesn't interfere with their relationships or personalities. I like that Dean and Ginny date and no one makes a fuss about them being a mixed race couple, you know? That the issue isn't even though of. I think the best thing to do with regards to race is show there is no difference, rather than show how people can get along despite differences, which inherently creates a dividing line.

    Then again, I might be completely ignorant here.

  3. Two thoughts (and I'm sure I WILL sound like an idiot for both of them):

    1) While it would be nice, sure, if people were completely accepting of other races, I think it's important to present the world as it is, sometimes, not just as it ought ot be (not that we should NEVER present it as it ought to be, just that both are needed). France is a good case study in this. In France (and I'm not a legal scholar) the law basically makes it illegal to consider race, ever. The law should be completely colorblind. So, for instance, French census records don't even record how many black people there are in France, or Middle Eastern, or whatever. This hasn't destroyed racism, at all - on the contrary, France had a major scare in the last election, when a far right anti-immigrant candidate nearly got elected, and there were huge, very racially charged riots south of Paris recently, as well. All it does is make it so there is no information on the issue, and it's more difficult, as a result to understand it. The difference is one between ideals and policy - in the United States, for instance, there is a policy of affirmative action, even though the ideal is that noone care what race you are. Is it reverse discrimination? Maybe, if you consider the world to have reached a place where it can live it's ideals. But it hasn't. So, the same is true in books. Sometimes, it's nice to see a book that reminds us of how things could be. Kind of like listening to John Lennon's 'Imagine'. But, to really grapple with race, we also need books about how things are, about what it is in our minds that can't let go of the issue.

    Second - while science fiction/fantasy, in general, seems to be written with a pretty progressive viewpoint, and there's a long tradition of grappling with race (Star Trek, for instance, did plenty of shows with racism as a theme, I know), SF/F also has a bad habit, at times, of creating worlds that, while they don't conform to the particular racisms that we have in our world DO emphasize a feeling of otherness, of us versus them, of categorizing people into groups based on their parentage or other uncontrollable factors. Think of, for instance, the Orcs in LotR. Evil isn't like Orcs, it's more banal than that. You can't recognize bad by the color of skin, or the accent of language, like you can with an Orc or a Troll or a (notably black) Nazgul. This isn't universally true of SF/F, of course - the villains in the Dune series are disgusting but very human, while heroes are easy to sympathize with but highly imperfect. The same is true of Neuromancer, as another example (though it has it's moments). But look at Star Wars - for all that these movies caught my imagination as a kid, they ain't exactly a model of open-mindedness and egalitarianism...

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Why are we so afraid of difference? What is it about race that difference is equated with judgment and that judgment will be perceived as negative?

    Jason, while series like Star Trek do address race/culture, a big concern for me as a person of color is that when I read sci-fi and the dominant culture resembles the dominant culture of our real world, it reinforces a sense of marginalization, invisibility and a power hierarchy that is says even in an imaginary world, I'm the minority.

  6. I share your sentiments about being scared and uncomfortable when discussing race. I struggled with reviewing Disgrace a couple of days ago because I had so much to say but didn't want to come across as naive.

    I hope you read Octavia Butler's Kindred some time soon so that it gives me an excuse to purchase it off my wish-list!

    Jingo by Terry Pratchett sprang to mind whilst reading your review; I loved what he did with race and racism when they went to Klatch.

    Thank you so much for raising the profile of our Persephone Reading week! I am very excited. I too love what they do.
    Were you aware that they publish some Children's titles? The Young Pretenders, The Runaway, and The Children who Lived in a Barn are classed as children's books and they publish adult titles from predominantly children's novels (at least known as such), Richmal Crompton and the wonderful Frances Hodgson Burnett

  7. "But I realize that this is both silly and potentially dangerous. There's absolutely nothing to be gained from silence, and we learn by saying stupid things and having others call us on them, right?"

    Right. We need dialogue, an exchange. Not a lecture. I want to hear what you think. And while often share views which I love, when we don't, well, these are some of the best opportunities to learn. We don't have to always embrace a different perspective, but I personally want to hear them.

    Silence gains us nothing. Sure there is a risk but what is the alternative: fear, misconceptions, misunderstanding.

    Have I told you lately that you rock. :-) Thanks for weighing in.

    I was reading the POC challenge for a while until I lost the link during a layout change. Love it!

  8. Great topic, Nymeth! I have never really considered the role of race in fantasy before. You bring up several good points. I agree with you that it does matter--and just because the world we may be reading about is completely made-up, shouldn't be an automatic dismissal of the social context and ideas that may arise from the work. There are quite a few fantasy and science fiction books out there that are in fact social commentaries on society in general or even that tackle a specific issue--it's sometimes easier to accept when set in a make believe world, but it does not make the message any less valuable.

    Thank you for the other links as well, Nymeth! Have a great week!

  9. One reason race does matter in science fiction and fantasy is that it helps a reader find a way into a story.

    I read an interview with Octavia Butler some years ago in which she described reading science fiction as a teenager and loving it, but finding no one like herself in it. So she decided to write herself into science fiction by creating books about black people.

    I can tell you what it was like reading science fiction and fantasy and not finding a single gay character in anything except for a terrible villian in Dune. I read the stuff anyway, just like Octavia Butler did, but always with a sense that I was reading as an outsider.

    When the hero of a book is someone like you, it makes a difference.

  10. Thanks C.B.

    I was trying to explain that to a librarian yesterday who insisted she didn't care about the race of the author or characters and I was trying to say that while I enjoy all good stories, I also want identification and yes, sometimes I want it in a very concrete way: someone who looks like me, who has had experiences like me because we look alike or love alike.

    I think for many white readers race isn't an issue because you are the radar. Imagine if you the norm for you was to feel you were invisible and marginalized.

    Thank you.

  11. Hmm, I don't normally think about race, when I'm reading something. But, I do admit, I usually fall on imagining someone as white, as a default almost, unless otherwise stated. It's hard to break free of that, but I'm getting better! One author that I love is Tanith Lee. She was one of the first authors I read, where a different skin tone was blatantly described, and it works well! She was also one of the first authors I read whose fantasy world was based on a race that doesn't follow the traditional, English fairytale-heroic story - power hierarchy etc.. so she's wonderful in so many ways! I see now, more and more authors are doing it (i.e. Shannon Hale in Book of a Thousand Days for one), and also there's a new one out that I'm very interested in Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon!

    On another note, I like to write stories myself, and I find that allowing yourself to be open to other cultures that aren't usually taken in to the fantasy world, really opens up your imagination.

  12. Susan,

    For me, it's not difference that I'm afraid of. I tend to shy away from speaking about race because I am so afraid of offending. Because no matter how much I despise racism and no matter how much I can hurt for the pain someone experiences due others' actions or attitudes, I can never truly be in that person's shoes. I know this isn't a very apt comparison, but I can't think of a better way to try to explain what I mean. Well-meaning people sometimes make statements about rape that feel like a knife to heart. I know they don't mean harm...but that doesn't make the hurt any less real. This is what I fear. Saying something totally stupid or hurtful out of ignorance.

    But I will try hard to take to heart what Ana said, "But I realize that this is both silly and potentially dangerous. There's absolutely nothing to be gained from silence, and we learn by saying stupid things and having others call us on them, right?" Because honestly, there is so much truth held in those few words.

  13. Nymeth - Another brilliant post. "There is absolutely nothing to be gained by silence". Like you, being white and privileged, I did not want to appear "stupid" or "unaware", but I've gotten too old for that foolishness. Now I want to learn and share and will be joining the Diversity Roll Call. Of course race matters in speculative fiction, it matters in all fiction.

    I've read Butler, Delany, Hopkinson and Whitehead but never written about them. I picked up a copy of "Kindred" on my vacation and will write about it when I read it.

    You are amazing. Have a wonderful week.

  14. I just read through these comments, and you know, the thing that makes my perspective different, I think, is that even though I'm white, I grew up as a minority my whole life. I lived in Columbia SC for my first 10 years, and was one of few white people in school, and then we moved to West Side San Antonio, which is like 85% hispanic, and where people hated me for being white. It wasn't until I was nearly 22 and moved to Wisconsin that I stopped being a minority, and that was a really weird experience for me. That was the first time I'd ever experienced racism towards anyone other than whites. I didn't actually believe it existed before that, because all I saw were people who hated me because of my race. I learned to distrust white people.

    I know that's weird. But maybe because I was always a minority, I feel like my thoughts on the subject do count for something even if I'm not technically a minority. Does that make sense?

  15. Great post! I need to think about the topic before I can write something meaningful here, but you are right that nothing is to be gained from silence or from thinking one is unqualified to have an opinion. State your opinion but keep your mind open, and you've set yourself up for a great learning experience.

  16. I have absolutely no idea why I am not participating in this meme. I thought it was a challenge thing. Oops! I should do this! You know I love reading about other cultures!

    I just got the Salt Roads and I am so excited you liked it a lot. I don't know when I will get to it, unfortunately. I have been not in the mood to read lately, which is crazy. But I guess I am just in a slump or funk or something.

    By the way, speaking of Sci Fi/Fantasy, I totally nominated you for that blog for BBAW. :D

  17. Speaking of Ursula le Guin, whom I love, have you ever read Four Ways to Forgiveness? It is a favorite of mine, and one that deals overtly with race.

  18. First of all, I so love that there's a conversation going here.

    Debi - I worry about unintentionally hurting people's feelings too, but we both just need to get over ourselves :P We need to remember that silence only adds to the problem and join these conversations more often!

    Amanda: I liked how Rowling handled diversity in Harry Potter too. It was subtle but effective. And yeah, not every book with characters of colour needs to be about racial conflicts, though books about them are definitely important too. Also, I think everyone has the right to an opinion as long as we also listen to others whose experiences are different, which I know you do! I hope I don't sound like I'm dismissing your experience growing up, because I really don't mean to, but I do wonder if isn't different to grow up as a minority somewhere but know you're not one in your culture at large (in art, in the media, in pop culture, etc) and growing up not only as a minority, but also as someone who's mostly excluded from cultural representations.

    Jason: I really don't think you sound like an idiot. Your first point ties in with what I was telling Amanda: there's room for both, I think. For representing the world as it is and for positive portrayals of diversity like we have in HP. My brother's girlfriend is French, so I do know a bit about the cultural climate and racial tensions over there. I think being "colour blind" is a privilege, something only the majority can afford to do, so it's not likely to work very well as a political solution. I'm all for affirmative action. Secondly, I definitely see your point about LotR. I love it, but that's one of its major flaws for sure.

    Susan, you make a good point about being marginalized even in imaginary worlds. These are indeed opportunities to learn, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate all you and Ali do to keep the conversation going. I will stop being silly and join in more often.

    Claire: Kindred is on my Before August 30th list, so hopefully I'll be sharing my thoughts on it soon. Jingo is such a great book. And another one that portrays racial tensions brilliantly is Thud! I love that one so much. I think Discworld does the reverse of what Jason was saying about LotR. It always questions those assumptions about any fantasy race behind inherently "bad". Pterry is too good to just let them go unchallenged. Also, now I'm excited about those Persephone children's titles :D

    Wendy: Yes, it always matters. Some fantasy and sci-fi clearly sets off to make social and political commentary, but even when it doesn't, we are all influenced by the world we live in, and our assumptions turn up in what we write.

    C.B.James: Like I was telling Susan, you both made an excellent point. Being able to say we don't care about whether or not the characters are like us is of course a privilege of the majority. It matters, but it's easy to pretend it doesn't when we see straight white people everywhere.

    alwaysdreams: Like Susan and C.B were saying, it's a privilege not to notice race (or sexual orientation), but making an effort is a start. I try to make one myself. Tanith Lee has been recommended to me countless times, but I've yet to read her. Must change that. And I've seen Silver Phoenix around, and it does indeed look awesome!

    Gavin: I'm so glad to have you back! I'm very much looking forward to your thoughts on Kindred :)

    Beth: Yes, I agree :) It can be hard to get over our inhibitions, but we have to try.

    Rebecca: I always feel like reading less in the summer, even though I'm supposed to have more time. I hope your funk passes soon! And aww, thank you so much! :D

    Charlotte: Not yet - There's still so much on her back catalogue I have to catch up with, especially when it comes to short story collections. I will move that one up the priority list, though!

  19. Love the quote, and the topic deserves some serious thought. Reading the comments leads to more thinking about what books I've read that fit.

  20. Really great post, Nymeth! I do find issues of race--or otherness--do pop up in SciFi and Fantasy books all the time. Like Sharon Shinn's Archangel, where some of the groups are obviously derived from certain real-world cultures. Or basically any book with AI technology tends to treat robots as a dangerous and unknown "other." Very interesting topic.

  21. to me, even more than sci fi, fantasy has always been diverse in it's progagonists! and for every good fairy there is an evil one..I think fantasy really equals out good and evil , male and female and anything else there is needing to be equal!

  22. Interesting discussion, here are my two cents:

    I think there has been an increase of sci-fi being more racially diverse. I'm guessing this has a lot to do with more and more authors of different ethnicities being published in the UK and America. Fiction in Europe which used to be and can still be quite Eurocentric but has gradually become a lot more diverse.

    Of course, Eurocentrism is still quite strife.

    "I read sci-fi and the dominant culture resembles the dominant culture of our real world, it reinforces a sense of marginalization, invisibility and a power hierarchy that is says even in an imaginary world, I'm the minority."

    I agree, because occasionally a Caucasian male or even female author can tend to portray different races as being exotic and otherworldly. They are the ultimate Others. It’s like with many things, we always try and fit something strange or different to us into something that fits our view, something that we can cope with. I remember I saw an advert about crisps, and it showed Indians picking spices and herbs and the way it depicted them was people who were magical and exotic.

    I hate the instant dismissal of sci-fi too. I think sometimes that sci-fi or fantasy can be a better place to find well-written depictions of race.
    There is a downside to this, I would hate books to become like television or film in that the majority of actors are white and whenever someone of a different ethic background turns up, it seems like an obvious attempt to fill a quota. I want racially diverse characters but not in a “let’s put a black character in this scene”. It also has to be the right thing for the story.

  23. I don't know how you manage to do it all, Ana--the school and work you have to do with that AND keeping up with all the events on the blogosphere AND writing out intelligent and thought-provoking posts.

    In terms of race in speculative fiction, I'm not sure I've run into a lot of this other than in The Left Hand of Darkness where I believe the main character is black (I think). But there were so many other notions in this book such as gender and sexuality to start. Yes, I think these questions to matter--as they matter in any type of writings. On another note, I'm about 4/5ths done with my current read and just learned that one of the main characters is black. Wondering what it says that this wasn't mentioned until page 500. It doesn't change anything in my reading of the book, but it is curious to think about. I think I'm getting off of your topic, though. Wish I could give more input, but LHofD is the only book I can think of where race plays a big part.

  24. I don't know, maybe it is different, but it really was shocking to me to find out that there were places in the country where whites were not looked on as the bad people. It was a really strange experience. I think when you grow up completely outside the norm, you develop the same sort of perspective, you know? Or at least it's a different pov than someone who has grown up in the white majority, you know? (and no, I didn't think you were dismissing me at all)

  25. Amanda,

    Your perspective counts because you count. I had friends in school who were the few whites in the population. We were cool and trust me, if anyone dissed you, they got an earful from me. In our school, it was a non-issue but in society-at large, it's like you describe.

    It's amazing to me how many people assume that because I'm black that I'm okay with prejudice against whites. I'm not. I'm not okay with racism or bigotry towards anyone and I make that known.

    Anyhoo, I'll get off my soapbox.

    Back to Amanda, come by Color Online of Black-Eyed Susan more often. Love chatting with you and I'll make it my business to come by your place. I'm reading for your LGBTQ challenge. You're hosting that, right?

  26. Amen, damnedconjure.

    Please don't throw in a black chick to please me. lol

    I hope some of you will consider responding directly to our meme. I have a few le Guin titles in our library because I heard so many wonderful things about her. I don't know if we have Four Ways to Forgiveness but I'm going to look and add it if we don't.

  27. I have like really strong opinions on this but I won't say anything, its because I fall on what you call "coloured" type :)

    But I agree with your thoughts here. Even if its speculative fiction, it does have an effect.

  28. I'm Chinese. I live amongst Malays, Indians, and many other races. Malaysia is a multicultural country and so far everything is so good. I've worked in a few US-based companies and was exposed to many types of nationalities from Southeast Asia to Asia Pacific to Europe to other parts of the world.

    Whatever it is in the world of fiction, I always read them with an open mind and they're often very enlightening. Fantasy is one of my favourite genres. :D

  29. The only series I can think of that stands out is the Vampire Huntress seris by L A Banks of which I have only read the first one. It's an urban fantasy series a little like Buffy, but the heroine is black and there are more "black" reference if that makes sense. The other series if The Daughters of the Moon series by Lynne Ewing which has a lot of Latino references and dialogue which I like.

    I feel like Scienc eFiction addresses race more than Fantasy somehow. There is so much more freedom with alien races and discrimination. Unless of course you count the discrimination between Dwarves and Elves in Tolkien which Gimli and Legolas overcome to a degree...

    I like the sound of the sex in YA. I will follow your link later this week thanks!

  30. I read a lot of SF, and "race" is often used to explore ideas about appearance vs cultural difference. Joan Slonczewski's main characters in Daughter of Elysium have dark skin, but it's more significant that their society is strongly matriarchal.

    Also have you seen that the movie version of Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief has the main character's best friend, the offspring of a nature god, played by a kid with dark skin? It comes out in Feb. 2010, but you can see previews.

  31. Oooh! Left Hand of Darkness! Great novel. I do remember that gender played a big role, but I can't remember anything about race.

    I've been meaning to pick up some Octavia Bulter!

  32. jenclair: I'd love to see your answers to the meme!

    heidenkind: They do pop up quite a bit, and you're so right about robots and AI and otherness. I actually haven't read that much sci-fi in that vein, but I'd like to.

    Deslily: I agree that there's some diversity in fantasy, but I also think there's room for more. There's always room for improvement, after all!

    damnedconjuror: Excellent points. Exoticizing is another problem, and one that readers often don't realize is a problem. And yes, just trying to fill a quota is definitely no solution.

    Trish: School's done now, so I'm free to blab again...mwahahahah :P And yes, the envoy from Earth in The Left Hand of Darkness is black. I've always appreciated that about Le Guin - the fact that diversity genuinely matters to her and how that shows in her work.

    Amanda - Susan said it perfectly. Your opinions matter and you matter. I agree that growing up as an outsider definitely does give you a perspective that someone who has belonged all their lives doesn't have.

    Susan: Get on your soapbox anytime! It makes no sense that people would assume that - prejudice is prejudice, regardless of the target group. It's sort of like the people who assume that feminists are about talking about what "animals" men are...it makes NO sense to me.

    Violet: I'd really love to hear your opinions if you felt comfortable sharing them...it would be great if you joined the meme sometime!

    Alice: That's fantastic that you live in such a diverse yet harmonious group :) And yes, I'm completely with you on fantasy!

    Rhinoa: I haven't read any of those series, but I'll keep them in mind! And good point - Tolkien does a good job with Gimli and Legolas. I think Terry Pratchett also handles those enmities very well in Discworld.

    Jeanne: I'm taking notes here...I like the sound of Daughter of Elysium :) And I hadn't realized that, no...I'm happy to hear it, especially since so often non-white characters are played by white actors in movie versions.

    Lenore: Genly Ai, the enjoy from the Ekumen, is black, but yes, gender is the main focus. I read the short story "Speech Sounds" by Butler at the beginning of the year and it was amazing. Must read Kindred!

  33. What a wonderful conversation. To be honest, I've only had time to read about half the posts, and will have to come back tonight to read thoroughly.

    I just had to add - its very odd from my point of view, the way people are using the words "majority" and "minority" because of course, in my country (South Africa) those words dont exactly mean what they mean to you :)

    Here we have a majority of poor and excluded people and a privileged rich minority.

    I'm always struck by how few science fiction books deal with africa. Just thinking quickly, I've only read two -
    the Ear, the Eye and the Arm by Nancy Farmer, and parts of Tad Williams City of Golden Shadow is set in Africa and it deals very much with racial issues. And both those authors happen to be white...

    And Ive just bought another one, but I cannot remember the title :(

  34. I don't think I've read enough science fiction to make an informed comment, but from what I've seen so far race totally matters. The SF worlds created by authors also have struggles between different cultures, also have societies where minorities are treated differently, also have people who want to rule over others. I guess SF worlds/stories address many of the issues present in the 'real# world.

    As for authors of color, I read Octavia Butler's Kindred this year and absolutely loved it, I'd recommend it to any SF lover. :-)

  35. Loved your roll call response. Thanks so much for linking to Le Guin's article. This challange was hard for me, since I don't read much sci fi/fantasy but I was able to find 10 MG/YA titles.

    I am off to check out Sex in Teen lit. Just finish an upcoming book where a girl 10th grader performs oral sex on a boy at a party. Maybe I can up right into the convo.

  36. Masha: Yes, majority and minority are of course relative terms. I remember reading somewhere that a lot of sociologists/political science people/etc use them not so much in a numerical sense, but in the sense of who controls the most resources. And there's sadly a huge power imbalance that favours white westerners. That you for mentioning those books that deal with Africa. I haven't read any of them yet, but they're going to the list.

    Joanna: Yes, I remember your review of Kindred! I actually have a copy on its way to me...can't wait.

    Doret: Going over to see your list now!


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.