Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Some YA Fantasy to Add to Your Lists

One of the things I found doing podcast chats with authors and having seen panels, is that what have you been reading and enjoying lately can be the thing that trips people up.  I have encouraged folks to write down a list, and have it ready.  One of the things you can do creating the list outside of the time pressure to answer is make sure the list is as inclusive as you with.  My friend Adria Quinones posted a list to Twitter that someone projected onto the wall in a workshop at SCBWI.  (The whole thread is worth reading.) The list skewed old, especially on the middle grade side.  Now of course, books don't expire, good books remain good books. It skewed super white.  And being familiar with a number of the settings I can tell you it skewed very Europe or faux Europe.  And so my friend raised her hand and asked the person, are you aware of some great examples by authors that are Indigenous or otherwise of color?  The person was not able to come up with any examples in the moment.  
Now, I am going to tell you, I am a contemporary wonk.  So, I read less fantasy by huge margins.  But consulting my own have read, and to be read pile, and/or having seen an NYT bestseller list or two, I came up with the following: 
A Blade so Black by L. L. McKinney
*Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Warcross by Marie Lu
*Love is a Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson (Yes, I put this on almost all of my lists.  You can't stop me.)  
*Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyumi
Rebel Soul by Axie Oh
Prophecy by Ellen Oh
Toxic by Lydia Kang
*Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn
Joseph Bruchac's Killer of Enemies
And oh look at that - that's ten.  Now I'm not saying your lists need to be entirely native Americans and/or people of color.  I'm not even saying that this is the only type of inclusion we should strive for.  (The list did contain at least one main character that was disabled as an example. My list contains at least two bisexual characters.)  
But when you keep saying you are all for a wider variety of stories, but put up a list like this, it looks like what you mean is stories just like this, but with darker skinned protagonists.  And I am not casting aspersions on this person, they probably genuinely didn't think about this.  But that's actually why this journey is taking so long, because there are a lot of people not thinking too deeply about their comfort zones.  And I also think if this is a genre you love enough to present on, you should be more widely read in the new stuff. 
Also, yeah, I am really no help with middle grade.  But consulting this list from Book Riot I found these options: 
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
Archer's Quest by Linda Sue Park
Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Furthermore by Taherah Mafi
Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith
Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh
Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim
The Gauntlet by Karuna Razi
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

*Books I've actually finished.  The rest I am working on.  Swearsies.