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02 July 2009 @ 08:36 pm
YA Fantasy book lists for characters of color  
ETA: This list is still in progress but I absolutely need to get a dissertation chapter to my committee before updating I need to recover (breathing and thus cognitive focus) before the list is anything but a confusion and a daunting thing. 

ETA2: I am not well enough to put all of this information together yet, but wanted to add a link to this wonderful post now, rather than delaying till I can deal with all the data without head-explosion :)

I have been making 'em. Because a) I love YA, so I need these, b) The Carl Brandon Society has several wonderful lists but not a specific YA one yet, so this fills a gap (and is mostly made up of suggestions from the CBS listserv, as well as suggestions and resources from sdn .) and c) I'm co-modding a YA fantasy roundtable at MythCon and realized my knowledge of the sort of YA about POC is shameful.  This is the first step towards fixing that.

It's doubtless woefully incomplete, but it's a work in progress.
And I haven't read nearly everything here, so please tell me what doesn't fit, or if I have anyone in the wrong category; I've done the best internetsearching I can, but I'm basically going off suggestions.
And I haven't liked everything I've read (a couple books have problem-notes).  But it's a start!

ETA: There's so much stuff here that's worth noting even if it doesn't fit on these lists that I've started an addendum here.

YA fantasy novels by POC about POC that are more or less the same sort of POC they are

Octavia Butler

Fledgling (consensus: not YA)
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The Conch Bearer
Louise Erdrich

The Birchbark House
The Game of Silence
Not fantasy, oops.
Eugie Foster
Halp, does Eugie Foster write novels?  I'm finding lots of YA and kids' short fiction...
Jewelle Gomez
The Gilda Stories: a novel (vote: is it YA?  Cause I don't know!)
Hiromo Goto
Half World (illustrated by Jillian Tamaki)
The Water of Possibility
Virginia Hamilton
The Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl
Willie Bea and the Time the Martians Landed
Walter Mosley
Marilyn Nelson and Tonya C. Hegamin
Pemba's Song
Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu (now Nnedi Okorafor)
Zahrah the windseeker
The Shadow Speaker
Long Juju Man (younger kids' book).
Helen Oyeyemi
The Icarus Girl
Cindy Pon
Silver Phoenix
Salman Rushdie
Haroun and the Sea of Stories
Cynthia Leitich Smith
Note: Unlike her books for younger readers, these don't seem to feature POC or Native traditions or mythology. Apparently Eternal's heroine is Chinese-American.  Anyone know if Tantalize belongs on this list?
Drew Hayden Taylor
The Night Wanderer

YA graphic novels by POC that are more or less the same sort of POC they are 
...AFAICT, again. 

Marguerite Aboutet & Clement Oubrerie
Note: I have no idea if this is fantasy or not.  I need to get it.
Los Bros Hernandez (Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez)
Love and Rockets
Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis (1&2)
Note: not fantasy.  But I'm keeping it in here anyway.
Shaun Tan
The Arrival
Gene Yang
American Born Chinese

YA Fantasy novels by 'non-POC' that are about POC of a different sort from them
...AFAICT, again
And I put "non-POC" in quotes 'cause I've yet to meet a colorless person.

Alma Alexander
Jin Shei trilogy
Lloyd Alexander

The Iron Ring (1997)
Note: Much as I love Lloyd Alexander, I find this one problematic: exoticizing, projecting values
MT Anderson
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party
Susan Cooper
The Green Boy
Diane Duane
So you want to be a wizard
Deep Wizardry
High Wizardry
A Wizard Abroad (I find this one problematic: exoticizing from POV character, indirectly evoked colonial cliches).
Note: There are four more books out in this series and one more forthcoming; my only issues are with book four.
Nancy Farmer
The ear, the eye and the arm
A girl named disaster
House of the Scorpion
Alison Goodman
The Two Pearls of Wisdom
(Published as Dragoneye Reborn (US) and Rise of the Dragoneye (UK))
Lian Hearn
Across the Nightingale Floor
Grass For His Pillow
The Harsh Cry of the Heron
Diana Wynne Jones
Castle in the Air
Justine Larbalestier
Magic or Madness
Ursule Le Guin
- The Earthsea sequence:
A Wizard of Earthsea
The Tombs of Atuan
The Farthest Shore
The Other Wind
- Annals of the Western Shore:
China Mieville
Un Lun Dun
Andre Norton
Lavender-green Magic
Tamora Pierce
Trickster's Choice
Trickster's Queen
Note: This duology is perhaps problematic.  Approaches the "white kid comes in to solve the dark peoples' problems" trope.  IMO subverts rather than hits this, or perhaps sort of does both (though the books are still really about the white kid) but YMMV.
Terry Pratchett
Sherwood Smith
A Posse of Princesses
Suzanne Fisher Staples
Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind
Shiva's Fire
Note: These made me uncomfortable as a kid, and I'd now say: seriously problematic.  Girls with oddly westernized values have to deal with their Misogynistic Cultures.  Even where I agree with the author, it still reads as cultural imperialism.
Susan Vaught
Carole Wilkinson
The Dragon Keeper

Thoughts? Additions? Fixes? Cookies?
Tags: , , ,
Current Mood: amusedProcrastinating
Kate Schaeferkate_schaefer on July 3rd, 2009 04:04 am (UTC)
This is a really useful set of lists.

I don't think of Fledgling as YA, unless all vampire novels are automatically YA. I don't think the Gilda stories are YA, either (I didn't like them, but that's not terribly relevant for this kind of listmaking). In your third category, China Mieville's Un Lun Dun is pretty good, as is Cory Doctorow's Little Brother.
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on July 3rd, 2009 04:08 am (UTC)
I'm going for Fantasy specifically here, not SF, so Little Brother wouldn't fit.

I admit I found the writing of Un Lun Dun too clunky to deal with, so I never finished it. On the list it goes :)

I haven't read either Fledgling or the Gilda stories. Am rather averse to vampires atm, and granted if anyone can make me get over that it's Butler, but... not just yet.
(no subject) - shweta_narayan on July 3rd, 2009 04:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thewronghands on July 3rd, 2009 04:58 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shweta_narayan on July 3rd, 2009 05:07 am (UTC) (Expand)
Annetxanne on July 3rd, 2009 04:14 am (UTC)
I wouldn't call Fledgling YA. I read it in college and it was far beyond me. I should try it again--I bet I can handle it now.

Persepolis is autobiographical. I wouldn't call it YA either. OTOH, I showed the movie to my (HS) seniors and they were floored. Maybe it's a difference in definition, but I tend to think of YA as being for younger teens as well, not just 18yos.

edit: Persepolis isn't fantasy. The weird stuff happens when she takes acid. Plus she talks to God when she's little, but it's very clearly a religious experience.

Edited at 2009-07-03 04:16 am (UTC)
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on July 3rd, 2009 04:19 am (UTC)
I'd say YA could be for any age between 13-18; the Windling/Datlow Mythic Fiction anthos are for the older side of YA, while the Sharyn November Firebirds anthos are for the younger side, sortof...

And those sort of define the range for me.
And yeah, the graphic novels aren't fantasy-specific. Cause. :) But I would count Persepolis in with the older YA, just for the POV character. I certainly don't count YA as a category that excludes adults...
(no subject) - txanne on July 3rd, 2009 04:22 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shweta_narayan on July 3rd, 2009 04:25 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - txanne on July 3rd, 2009 04:29 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shweta_narayan on July 3rd, 2009 04:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - txanne on July 3rd, 2009 12:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shweta_narayan on July 4th, 2009 12:22 am (UTC) (Expand)
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No.ressie_noldo on July 3rd, 2009 05:21 am (UTC)
I've sort of been driven a little up the wall by Tamora Pierce lately, I must admit --a thirteen-year-old I know raves about many of her books, and I find that I've had to bite my tongue rather a lot at the frequent use of the image of opulent non-white barbarians/all the good white people visiting said opulent hot deserty non-white countries and being Utterly Appalled by all the terrible, terrible slavery & amorality there. Of course, my reading might be slightly to substantially off, but I left with a certain unease.

That said, hurrah for lists! Shall definitely be checking some of these out, and rather strongly recommend R. K. Narayan's 'Swami and Friends' as a possible addition -- not quite sure if it qualifies as YA, but it is utterly charming and marvellous.

(P. S. : I sort of friended you a while ago & did not introduce myself very well; I'm not terribly interesting & therefore don't necessitate much introduction, but found your work through a discussion of race (+Indianness) or another, am lurking & reading with interest!--don't mind me, etc.)
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on July 3rd, 2009 05:43 am (UTC)
Hm. That isn't how I've read her more recent stuff; I see culture clash where each group is restrictive compared to the other on *some* axis; but then -- I could just be missing things or reading more subtlety into the stories than there is.

But part of what's nice about having lists, I think, is that one can annotate them :)

Is there any fantastic element to Swami and Friends? It's certainly going on my list, but I'm not sure if it fits on this list...

(and hi! I'm glad you did. I don't comment much, but I find your posts interesting. So it's not true that you're not interesting!)
(no subject) - ressie_noldo on July 3rd, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shweta_narayan on July 4th, 2009 12:20 am (UTC) (Expand)
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Dichroicdichroic on July 3rd, 2009 05:47 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure at least one of Andre Norton's fantasies centers on a POC girl though it may technically be MG rather than YA - Lavender-Green Magic, or something like that?

(ETA I just checked and I got the title right. Also, the whole Magic Books series are available on Kindle, yay!!! And there are at least 6, not just the three I've read, so more yay! Of those, Dragon Magi centers on four boys, two of whom are of color.)

Also, I do not remember the title, but I'm reasonably sure that Lloyd Alexander has another book very similar in story to The Iron Ring, but set in Chinese rather than Indian culture.

And there are Alma Alexander's Jin Shei trilogy, and Diana Wynne Jones' Castle in the Air and Susan Cooper's Green Boy.

(And yes, I do realize it's a bit pathetic that I have contributions only for list three..)
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on July 3rd, 2009 06:09 am (UTC)
Ooh thankya :)

Any idea if Alexander's Chinese story was better/worse?
(no subject) - dichroic on July 3rd, 2009 06:37 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - txanne on July 3rd, 2009 12:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shweta_narayan on July 3rd, 2009 06:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
Naominaomikritzer on July 3rd, 2009 06:07 am (UTC)
You considered The Birchbark House and The Game of Silence to be fantasy? I read them both and considered them historical novels.

I keep thinking of books I think you missed and then realizing they're SF not F, or middle grade and not YA.
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on July 3rd, 2009 06:09 am (UTC)
Actually I am just terrible at remembering what I'm supposed to be doing here. They were suggested, I went "Oh yeah I read that it's cool" and forgot it wasn't fantasy :) Thanks!
(no subject) - naomikritzer on July 3rd, 2009 06:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shweta_narayan on July 3rd, 2009 06:18 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shweta_narayan on July 4th, 2009 12:53 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - dichroic on July 3rd, 2009 06:40 am (UTC) (Expand)
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shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on July 3rd, 2009 07:23 am (UTC)

Julie Andrewsjulieandrews on July 3rd, 2009 01:54 pm (UTC)
Diane Duane's Young Wizards series. Though it feels very much like science fiction to me, I think it mostly gets labelled as fantasy.

I guess Scott Westerfeld's Extras is sf.

Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat books?

Flora Segunda - Ysabeau Wilce

Runaways for graphic novel.
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on July 3rd, 2009 11:53 pm (UTC)
In Runaways, only Alex and Nico are POC that I remember. We're still following mostly white people (though granted, one of them turns out not to be human).

In the Weetzie Bat books, I can't tell that any of the main characters are POC.

And that's another list again, IMO -- YA fantasy with truly mixed casts. And is also a good list to make. But it shouldn't really be the same list as the POC protagonist, I think.

Ditto some SF lists. Those would be great. But I don't read nearly as much YA SF, so I'm not the person to make them.

I don't know Florz Segunda -- which list does it fit on?
(no subject) - shweta_narayan on July 4th, 2009 12:54 am (UTC) (Expand)
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Sherwood Smithsartorias on July 3rd, 2009 02:38 pm (UTC)
Tentative offering: My book A Posse of Princesses has as the main characters POC, with the pale people as minority that aren't particularly liked or admired, but not much is made of any of it, so it may not be a strong enough signal.
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on July 3rd, 2009 11:58 pm (UTC)
Ooh, yes, thank you. *adds that*
I was thinking about putting in the Wren books, but don't think it's blear enough with Wren, so decided against it.
(no subject) - sartorias on July 4th, 2009 12:04 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shweta_narayan on July 4th, 2009 12:25 am (UTC) (Expand)
Thank you for writing these characters! - Autumn Gonzales on February 20th, 2013 03:20 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Thank you for writing these characters! - sartorias on February 20th, 2013 03:22 am (UTC) (Expand)
whswhswhswhs on July 3rd, 2009 05:12 pm (UTC)
You know, above the cut, you have the titles for the first two clumps

( Big long list 1: YA novels by POC about POC that are more or less the same sort of POC they are )

( Intermission (little list 1): YA novels by POC about POC that are more or less the same sort of POC they are )

and those seem to be word for word identical, making it puzzling what distinct categories they refer to. Below the cut you have a reference to graphic novels for the second list, but it took me a little time to figure that out.

I was confused partly because I was expecting from the title of the first big list that the logical little list to follow it would be

YA novels by POC about POC that are POC of a different sort than they are

such as Koreans writing about black people, or black people writing about Inuit; you don't seem to have any of those. Are there any?

There is also the category of stories by white people about people of ambiguous ethnicity. For example, there is a widespread theory that Robert Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky has a black hero, based primarily on the suggestion of a romantic attraction between Rod Walker and Caroline Mshiyeni, which would have been scandalous in the 1950s when it was first published had Rod been white; on the other hand, it's quite clear that Rod is attracted to Jack Daudet and is quietly upset when she marries his best friend Jimmy Throxton, and yet Jimmy is an Irish redhead, so whatever ethnicity Jack is, there's a cross-racial element there, so I'm not sure about that theory. (As opposed to Starship Troopers, originally submitted as YA, whose hero is from the Philippines, which I'm pretty sure would be classified as POC now.) And if you don't mind a look at an adult series that's probably accessible to YA readers, by midway through Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War series it's clear that Kylara Vatta is dark-complected and is viewed as racially inferior by the inhabitants of one particular lily-white planet that she visits . . . but Vatta's ethnicity has not been an issue on the other planets she's visited and she hasn't given it much thought. It's sort of like the way the second Earthsea novel makes it explicit that the Kargad peoples are "white" and everyone else on Earthsea is not, including all the characters of the first novel.
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on July 4th, 2009 12:02 am (UTC)
The titles were an lj-cut typo. Because of all the formatting I was doing this in rtf format rather than html, which makes actually editing or noticing the cut text pretty painful. So thanks much for the heads-up -- I'd totally have missed it!

I would love to make a list of YA novels by POC about POC that are POC of a different sort than they are, and am deliberately leaving that open, but I don't think I know of anything that fits in it.

Your suggestions -- are any of them fantasy? All the ones I recognize are SF, which ought to be another set of lists...

(no subject) - whswhs on July 4th, 2009 12:25 am (UTC) (Expand)
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A monstrous ramblingbibliofile on July 5th, 2009 08:57 am (UTC)
Not sure which group:
-- Soul Enchilada, by David Macinnis Gill, is about a young woman who's going to school and ends up dealing with repo demons and other stuff. Not sure if it's truly YA; dunno what DMG's own heritage may be. (Research suggests he's white rather than chromatic.)

Third group:
-- Justine Larbalestier has three books in the Magic or Madness series: MOM, Magic Lessons, and Magic's Child.

-- Christopher Barzak's The Love We Share Without Knowing takes place in Japan and has a variety of characters (not all American; not all white).

Second group:
-- Jeremy Love and Robert Love wrote Shadow Rock, which takes place in a weird New England town in current times. ETA: I think it's a one-off.

-- Jeremy Love also writes Bayou, a webcomic (first book just out) about oddness in a Louisiana bayou in the early part of the 20th century.

-- Does Scott Pilgrim count? Or is that a) SF and b) too old? (Pilgrim is 23 when the books start.) Does life-with-videogame elements count as SF, fantasy, or both?

ETA First group:
-- Rogelia's House of Magic, by Jamie Martinez. Rather obvious neopagan evangelizing, but it had a story too.

Edited at 2009-07-05 09:03 am (UTC)
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on July 5th, 2009 09:06 am (UTC)
Thank you!

I've been up something like 40 hours and am finally starting to crash, so will integrate these in the list tomorrow -- but just wanted to say I saw them with much appreciation. (The other one too, I just am daunted at putting together an SF list too...)
beloved of monsters and women made freepopelizbet on July 6th, 2009 12:28 am (UTC)
Unless you would characterize it as SF - and I think the mystic quality excludes that, myself - I think Virginia Hamilton's Justice trilogy belongs in your first category.
Eugie Foster: looking downeugie on July 6th, 2009 12:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks for putting together this great list!

To answer to your question, I am currently working on a novel, but I don't have one out yet. I do, however, have a short story collection available which features POC: Returning My Sister's Face and Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice.
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on July 6th, 2009 12:31 pm (UTC)
I just saw that on the norilana lj! :) It's what reminded me that I didn't know that I ought to find out if I could put anything of yours on this list.

I'm looking forward to getting my hands on it. Thank you for the reply -- I look forward to your novel, too.
Diane Duanedduane on July 11th, 2009 02:09 am (UTC)
A Wizard Abroad (Problematic. Seriously cliched American's take on Ireland, iirc).

Um... if it's clichéed, it's the clichéed view of an American who had then actually lived in Ireland for seven years (and has now lived here for more than twenty). From the native Irish point of view, it works (so my neighbors tell me).

Maybe there's some truth in clichés?
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on July 11th, 2009 07:09 am (UTC)
I was going to note that I'm only claiming these problems from my point of view, but realized that I wasreally not clear about that on Wizard Abroad and the Staples books. I'm sorry for that, and I'll edit to make it clear that it's my point of view (and that the American intended in that line is not yourself but Nita).

And thank you for bringing my attention to it.

If you're interested in, or would feel less brushed-off by, a fuller discussion of how I find that one book problematic, I'm happy to have it -- but I don't want to give you cause to feel attacked here. Especially since it is the only one of all your books I don't have a great deal of love for (Well, all your own-universe books, with the disclaimer that I am a book or two behind on the young wizards, have not yet read door into sunset because it will only make me want book four even more).
(no subject) - dduane on July 14th, 2009 08:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shweta_narayan on July 14th, 2009 09:00 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Er - shweta_narayan on July 11th, 2009 07:45 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Er - dduane on July 14th, 2009 08:35 pm (UTC) (Expand)
kittypryde21kittypryde21 on July 22nd, 2009 11:01 pm (UTC)
Thought this blog post applied to your list:
http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2009/07/22/why-my-protags-arent-white/ ...the comments are interesting.
And you could add "How to ditch your fairy" by Justine Larbalestier.
Also: your list has a smaller doppelganger... http://www.stacylwhitman.com/2009/07/21/book-lists-multicultural-sff-for-mg-and-ya/

Janni Lee Simnerjanni on July 24th, 2009 03:32 pm (UTC)
Technically more middle grade than YA, but Anne Ursu's Cronus Chronicles.