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:
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.
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!
Spring Break is just around the corner! Next week, the Stone Center Library will be operating on a reduced schedule, so please be sure to plan accordingly:
**Spring Break Schedule: March 5 – March 9, 2012**
|Monday – Friday
||8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Working on midterms and projects? Thinking ahead to final papers? Don’t forget to make use of not only the Library, but our blog archives, for inspiration as well as fun reads. Not sure where to start? Here are a few suggestions:
We will be open regular hours this week and encourage those of you on campus to make use of our group study rooms, lovely carrels, and well-lit study area. Can’t make it to the library? Our chat buddy name is StoneCenterRef or contact Stone Center Librarian Shauna Collier at email@example.com for an in-person consultation.
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!
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!
Happy Friday, faithful readers! We hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s Banned Books series featuring highlights from our collection. Today’s selection is Zora Neale Hurston‘s 1937 novel Their eyes were watching God:
“Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person — no mean feat for a black woman in the ’30s. Janie’s quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots.” (Source: Syndetic Solutions)
“Challenged for sexual explicitness, but retained on the Stonewall Jackson High School’s academically advanced reading list in Brentsville, VA (1997). A parent objected to the novel’s language and sexual explicitness.” (Source: ALA website)
Interested in learning more about African American literature? Curious to know more about Zora Neale Hurston? Don’t forget to make use of our Guide to the Web‘s Literature section, which features online resources on the Harlem Renaissance and Literature. Websites listed include the Zora Neale Hurston Digital Archive, the Zora Neale Hurston Plays, and Drop Me Off in Harlem, a multimedia collection on the culture and history of the era.
And of course, today’s SCL Pick, like the rest of our Banned Books selections, is available here at the Library. Come by and check it out!
So many banned books, so little time… Today’s SCL Picks are:
“‘Mountain,’ Baldwin said, ‘is the book I had to write if I was ever going to write anything else.’ Go Tell It On The Mountain, first published in 1953, is Baldwin’s first major work, a novel that has established itself as an American classic. With lyrical precision, psychological directness, resonating symbolic power, and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy’s discovery of the terms of his identity as the stepson of the minister of a storefront Pentecostal church in Harlem one Saturday in March of 1935. Baldwin’s rendering of his protagonist’s spiritual, sexual, and moral struggle of self-invention opened new possibilities in the American language and in the way Americans understand themselves.” (Summary by Syndetic Solutions)
“Challenged as required reading in the Hudson Falls, NY schools (1994) because the book has recurring themes of rape, masturbation, violence, and degrading treatment of women. Challenged as a ninth-grade summer reading option in Prince William County, VA (1988) because the book is ‘rife with profanity and explicit sex.’” (Source: ALA website)
“Invisible Man is a milestone in American literature, a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952. A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of ‘the Brotherhood,’ and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be. The book is a passionate and witty tour de force of style, strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land , Joyce, and Dostoevsky.” (Summary by Syndetic Solutions)
“Excerpts banned in Butler, PA (1975). Removed from the high school English reading list in St. Francis, WI (1975). Retained in the Yakima, WA schools (1994) after a five-month dispute over what advanced high school students should read in the classroom. Two parents raised concerns about profanity and images of violence and sexuality in the book and requested that it be removed from the reading list.” (Source: ALA website)
Curious to see what else has been banned over the years? Check out ALA‘s comprehensive lists of banned and frequently challenged books, which includes documentation of both how and why these works have drawn the ire of vocal individuals and groups.
Did any of your favorites make the list? Have you been taking part in any activities for Banned Books Week? Let us know – we’d love to hear from you!