by Kai Heslop, Student Assistant
Andrea Hairston, Nnedi Okorafor and Tananarive Due are all writers who have greatly contributed to the world of black science fiction and fantasy (SFF). However, the first author ever to win the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Novel three years in a row has proven to be a champion for representation within the genre. N.K. Jemisin’s groundbreaking works in the Broken Earth series have attracted attention and acclaim among writers and editors alike in the genre.
Many view SFF as a forward thinking and progressive genre by default due to the futuristic topics and themes of challenging norms often included. This, however, does not make it exempt from the widespread phenomenon in the world of literature and entertainment of preferring characters of certain races over others. This same standard extends to the writers who create these characters and bring them to life. Being that SFF as a genre has historically been dominated by white creatives, recent efforts to diversify the genre have been met with varying levels of acceptance.
In 2009, a yearlong discussion series called Racefail was launched to facilitate conversation around the dominant role that white colonialism played and continues to play in SFF narratives. The conclusion of this series led to a broader understanding of why marginalized voices, especially those of women and people of color, need to be given a platform. Jemisin even directly credited Racefail for the role it played in making the SFF community a safer space for minority writers like herself.
Despite this, when Jemisin first won the Hugo Award back in 2016, making her the first African American author to receive this prestigious award for a novel, right-wing voters were in a state of disbelief. They attributed her win to identity politics, saying that Jemisin won solely because she was a black woman. The use of this rhetoric was essentially an attempt to prevent Jemisin from recognition as the deserving, talented writer that she is. In 2013, Theodore Beale, another SFF author, referred to Jemisin as a “half-savage” in posts online.
Jemisin hasn’t allow the words of naysayers to prevent her from following her dreams and, most importantly, from doing what she loves: writing. As she said in her acceptance speech at the 2018 Hugo Awards, Jemisin’s first book, The Killing Moon, was rejected based on the presumption that only black people would want to read a book by a black author. Comparing the reception of her first book to the reception of her Broken Earth series is a testament to just how resilient Jemisin has been in her fight for representation in spaces where black voices have been challenged and silenced for years.
You can find Jemisin’s award-winning novels, along with many of her earlier works, at the Undergraduate Library:
And check out some of the other African American SFF books available in the Stone Center Library:
There’s a new exhibit on display at the Stone Center Library!
Our current exhibit highlights Black superheroes in comics and media, addressing how important race representation is in media.
In 2016, only 29.2% of speaking roles in movies were roles for people of color – even though people of color make up almost 40% of the population of the United States. Black characters represented only 13.6% of speaking roles, while Asian and Hispanic characters made up 5.7 and 3.1% of speaking roles, respectively. Only 7% of films had a cast that accurately reflected the racial and ethnic diversity of the United States; one study found that over 20% of films had no Black characters with dialogue.
Seeing characters who look like them has been shown to promote the development of a healthy racial identity in children and young adults. When young adults see people of color in fiction who are successful, intelligent, and happy, it teaches them that they, too, can be all of those things and more.
“This is how representation works: you see someone (real or fictional) and you feel inspired to do what they do. It may not necessarily be the exact same thing, but you feel bold enough to take a leap of faith: “If they can do it, so can I.”” – Jamie Broadnax, Vox
Interested? Curious to learn more? Check out some of these resources on race and representation, available right here in the Stone Center Library! And don’t forget to come see the full exhibit in person!
- Brown, Jeffrey A. Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics, and Their Fans. University Press of Mississippi, 2001.
- Call Number PN6725 .B76 2001
- Entman, Robert M., and Andrew Rojecki. The Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in America. University of Chicago Press, 2001.
- Call Number P94.5.A372 U55 2001
- George, Nelson. Blackface: Reflections on African-Americans and the Movies. Cooper Square Press, 2002.
- Call Number PN1995.9.N4 G46 2002
- Gray, Herman. Cultural Moves: African Americans and the Politics of Representation. University of California Press, 2005.
- Call Number PN1992.8.A34 G68 2005
- Guerrero, Ed. Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film. Temple University Press, 1993.
- Call Number PN1995.9.N4 G84 1993
- Howard, Sheena C., and Ronald L. Jackson. Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation. Bloomsbury, 2013.
- Call Number PN6725 .B56 2013
- Keim, Curtis A. Mistaking Africa: Curiosities and Inventions of the American Mind. Westview Press, 2014.
- Call Number DT38.7 .K45 2014
- Lee, A. Designs of Blackness: Mappings in the Literature and Culture of Afro-America. Pluto Press, 1998.
- Call Number PS366.A35 L44 1998
- Nama, Adilifu. Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes. University of Texas Press, 2011.
- Call Number PN6725 .N32 2011
- Rocchio, Vincent F. Reel Racism: Confronting Hollywood’s Construction of Afro-American Culture. Westview Press, 2000.
- Call Number PN1995.9.N4 R59 2000
- Smith, Valerie. Representing Blackness: Issues in Film and Video. Rutgers University Press, 1997.
- Call Number PN1995.9.N4 R47 1997
Have you been by the Stone Center Library lately? If so, you may have noticed our latest display, which features selections in honor of women’s history month, hand-picked by Stone Center Librarian Shauna Collier.
Here are some of the highlights:
Azaransky, Sarah. The Dream Is Freedom : Pauli Murray and American Democratic Faith. Oxford ;: Oxford UP, c2011.
Blair, Cynthia M. I’ve Got to Make My Livin’ : Black Women’s Sex Work in Turn-of-the-century Chicago. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2010.
Haynes, Rosetta Renae. Radical Spiritual Motherhood : Autobiography and Empowerment in Nineteenth-century African American Women. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, c2011.
Johnson, M. Mikell. Heroines of African American Golf : The Past, the Present and the Future. [Bloomington, Ind.]: Trafford Pub., c2010.
Lau, Kimberly J. Body Language : Sisters in Shape, Black Women’s Fitness, and Feminist Identity Politics. Philadelphia, Pa.: Temple UP, 2011.
Musser, Judith. “Girl, Colored” and Other Stories : A Complete Short Fiction Anthology of African American Women Writers in the Crisis Magazine, 1910-2010. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., c2011.
Nevergold, Barbara Seals., and Peggy Brooks-Bertram. Go, Tell Michelle : African American Women Write to the New First Lady. Albany, N.Y.: Excelsior Editions/State U of New York P, c2009.
Perkins-Valdez, Dolen. Wench : A Novel. New York: Amistad, c2010.
Shields, John C., and Eric D. Lamore. New Essays on Phillis Wheatley. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, c2011.
Winn, Maisha T. Girl Time : Literacy, Justice, and the School-to-prison Pipeline. New York: Teachers College P, c2011.
Like what you see? Come on by for these titles and more! The Stone Center Library is open 8am-8pm Monday-Thursday and Fridays 8am-5pm. The Library is on the third floor of the Stone Center on South Rd., near the Belltower.
Posted in Biography, Education, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Women's history
Tagged Available @the SCL, Biography, Education, Fiction, Non-fiction, Pauli Murray, SCL Picks, short stories, Slavery, Women's history
Last week, in recognition of Black History Month, UNC’s own Rare Book Collection blogged about two of their recent acquisitions:
Christina Moody’s Tiny Spark: “Imagine a sixteen-year old African-American girl publishing a book of poetry in 1910: some of it in dialect, some of it provocatively proud of her race, grappling with serious issues – like how a Negro can pledge allegiance to the American flag – as well as the problems of ‘Chillun and Men.'”
Claude McKay’s Long Way From Home: “The volume is the autobiography of the Jamaica-born writer McKay in the first edition, published in New York in 1937. Its original cloth cover with foil label is quite worn, but open up, and there’s a surprise, a wonderful page of inscriptions, one from the author to Naomi Davis, the alias of Frances Daniels.”
For more on these great finds, be sure to click on the links above for the full blog posts!
The 84th annual Academy Awards will take place this Sunday and among this year’s contenders is The Help, which has been nominated for four awards, including nods for Viola Davis (Best Actress) and Octavia Spencer (Best Supporting Actress). This film takes place in 1960s Mississippi and chronicles the intersecting lives of white women and their African-American maids against the backdrop of major social upheaval nationwide. Of course, before it was an Oscar-nominated film, The Help was a best-selling book, as reviewed by Stone Center Librarian Shauna Collier in a previous SCL blog post, and available here at the Library.
Interested in learning more about African Americans and the film industry? Here, in no particular order, are ten titles to get you started:
The books listed above are but a sampling of related items available here at the Stone Center Library. Come by and check us out!
Posted in Biography, Diaspora, Fiction, New Titles, Non-Fiction, Politics
Tagged Available @the SCL, Biography, Black History Month, Caribbean, Diaspora, Fiction, New @the SCL, Non-fiction, Race & Ethnicity
First performed publicly in February of 1900, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” was composed by brothers James Weldon (text) and J. Rosamand Johnson (music). Originally conceived as a poem to commemorate Lincoln’s birthday, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” as a musical work has become a powerful symbol of the U.S. Civil Rights movement. Termed “the Black National Anthem” by some, this song also inspired a short-lived sculpture (“The Harp”) commissioned for the 1939 New York World’s Fair and created by Augusta Savage Jefferson. Given its cultural significance, and in honor of Black History Month, here at the Library we thought we would briefly spotlight the poet, educator, and activist behind the poem: James Weldon Johnson.
James Weldon Johnson (1831-1938) was born in Jacksonville, FL and went on to attend Atlanta University. The son of a schoolteacher, he returned to his alma mater Stanton Elementary School as principal. Concurrently, he purused legal studies and became the first African-American to pass the bar exam in the state of Florida. In addition to his significant contribution to the fields of education and law, Johnson was a prolific writer of poems, song texts, and fiction such as The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. Active in the political arena as well, in 1920 he was appointed executive secretary of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), which ultimately adopted “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as its official song.
For a sampling James Weldon Johnson’s poetry available here at the Library, we recommend checking out:
For more on the artwork inspired by “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” consider this book, also available here at the Library:
And for a full list of books authored by James Weldon Johnson and available here at the SCL, check out the following list in the online catalog. Happy reading!
Posted in Biography, Civil Rights, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Politics
Tagged Available @the SCL, Biography, Black History Month, Civil Rights, Poetry, SCL Picks
Today marks the anniversary of the start of the Greensboro sit-ins in 1960 (and we encourage you to take a look at last year’s blog post about the history of the movement here).
Today also marks the start of Black History Month 2012, which was founded by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). This year’s theme is “Black Women in American Culture and History” and the ASALH has kindly prepared a summary of this topic which is available here.
Here at the Stone Center Library, we thought we’d jump-start this month with a little-known gem in our collection:
The Curse of Caste,or, the Slave Bride: a rediscovered African American novel, by Julia C. Collins
Considered “the first novel by an African American woman,” it takes place in antebellum Louisiana and Connecticut “and focuses on the lives of a beautiful mixed-race mother and daughter whose opportunities for fulfillment through love and marriage are threatened by slavery and caste prejudice.”
Take a look at the full summary here, or come by the library and check it out!
As of today, author Walter Dean Myers is officially the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Established in 2008, “The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature raises national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.”
Last week, several newspapers published interviews with Myers, whose slogan for this two-year appointment is “Reading Is Not Optional.” Here are a few excerpts from the New York Times article by Julie Bosman:
“As an African-American man who dropped out of high school but built a successful writing career — largely because of his lifelong devotion to books — Mr. Myers said his message would be etched by his own experiences.”
“The choice of Mr. Myers represents a departure from his predecessors and is likely to be seen as a bold statement. His books chronicle the lives of many urban teenagers, especially young, poor African-Americans. While his body of work includes poetry, nonfiction and the occasional cheerful picture book for children, its standout books offer themes aimed at young-adult readers: stories of teenagers in violent gangs, soldiers headed to Iraq and juvenile offenders imprisoned for their crimes.”
“While many young-adult authors shy away from such risky subject material, Mr. Myers has used his books to confront the darkness and despair that fill so many children’s lives.”
(Source: NYT: “Children’s Book Envoy Defines His Mission”)
Have you been by the Stone Center Library lately? If so, you’ve hopefully noticed our new display:
Our latest selection of recently acquired books features titles related to African Americans in American culture, in keeping with our recent event with UNC history professor “Fitz” Brundage:
All titles are available here at the library and we encourage you to come by and check them out. Happy reading, and have a great weekend!
Posted in Biography, Business, Civil Rights, Fiction, Film, New Titles, Non-Fiction, Politics, Theater
Tagged Available @the SCL, Civil Rights, entertainment, Fiction, Film, New @the SCL, Non-fiction