This month’s selection of books has a special theme. I have chosen fantasy novels that feature people of color as the protagonists. It just so happens that they also feature LGBTQ characters as well.
It began last month when I bought my eldest daughter a new sketch pad. She is a huge manga/anime fan and like many budding artists, she often tries her hand at creating characters in that style. We sat together and flipped through the pages of her old sketchbook and I noticed that while she had characters with cat ears, tails, horns, claws, purple, pink, and blue hair, she had not once drawn a character that had dark or brown skin.
In her imaginary world, she herself was absent.
I asked her why and she simply shrugged her shoulders. It hadn’t occurred to her. IN the world of imagination the rules were clear. Anime characters had white, cream or even pinkish skin. Period. Without anybody ever saying a word, she had erased herself from her fantasies.
It made me angry.
It made me very angry.
But, I understand that the earliest stages of an artist developing their own style begins with copying. She was simply copying what she saw. She was trying out elements that she saw were popular. She had not yet developed the strength or confidence to dare to buck convention. And, sadly, there were precious few examples of those who’d done so and been successful.
As always, I recognized that I have two choices in this matter. I can get angry or I can get pro-active. I can spend time on the internet bemoaning the lack of diversity in sci-fi and fantasy, or I can find examples of it and amplify them. So, I showed her Star-Trek: Discovery and 3% and Cleverman (all available for streaming on Netflix and worth every minute). I introduced her to black nerd blogs and black fandom forums. And I encouraged her to read non-European myths.
And now I am encouraging you, dear readers. Whether your thing is Steampunk or some sort of K-Pop fanfiction, seek out those stories that include you. You are not an intruder or an accessory to somebody else’s fantasies. You deserve a featured spot in the world of fantasy and sci-fi. And if you can’t find one, them create one. Write your own novel, draw your own manga, and most importantly, support those who do.
This month’s reading selection is more than a reading list, its a battle cry against an industry that seems to think that people of color and members of the LGBTQ community should forever be extras or at best curiosities, fetishes to feed the desires of spectating audiences who are themselves the real protagonists in these stories.
For more on this:
Hello, fellow angry ranter! This is a think piece that makes my little nerd-heart break as I relive my own alienation from my peers during my adolescence.
All great recommendations.
This is an amazing list of books broken down by ethnicity and genre, check it out!
As always I encourage you to find these books at your local library. Your patronage goes a long way to keeping libraries open. And to somebody like me, a library is a sacred place and a necessary resource, especially in lower-income communities. If you can’t find it there, Amazon is your friend.
If you haven’t already, don’t forget to like, share and subscribe. Do you have any titles that we simply must read? Leave them in the comments below.