When I was in elementary school, I devoured fantasy books. Really, I devoured all books, and that is no different than how I am today. After all, look at this:
But also, it was different, because my absolute favorite kind of book was anything having to do with magic, especially if it took place in the modern day. This was because I felt like all other fantasy books took place in made up worlds that were essentially Europe, and the characters were all blonde and spoke English and the worlds they lived in were either based on or actually took place in lands that people like me are not from, and their background was nothing at all like mine. Books about kids who went to elementary school and happened to have magic powers were still generally about kids who didn’t look anything like me, but at least our slightly lifestyles and experiences made it easier to imagine myself into the story. Then I grew up, and I realized that there weren’t really any books of any kind about people exactly like me, and I would have to settle for tokenism or stereotyping or “African American fiction” or “Chicano fiction,” and that was the closest I was going to get. But all of that, at the very least, meant straight fiction, not fantasy or sci-fi.
But lately it seems like YA is having some kind of fantasy Renaissance, and it’s awesome first of all because the books are mostly well written and fun to read, but also because they’re often based on worlds that aren’t Europe! Who even knew it was possible that magic could happen in Asia or Africa or totally made up worlds where tan isn’t the darkest your skin can get? Who knew that dragons didn’t have to look like St. George’s dragon? And who knew all of this could happen in a way that is still not cultural appropriation or tokenism? It’s sweet. So I am so enjoying my reading, and I can’t wait to get my hands on more, hence my excitement for Cindy Pon’s giveaway this week. Last week I went to Boston to visit Simmons, and in the locked children’s literature office, I saw an ARC of her new book, Fury of the Phoenix, sitting on a table. I really, really wanted to break the door down. And I cannot wait until it’s my job in school to read books like this and enjoy them and also analyze them as the literature, not just “books,” that they are.
edit: I’ve also been very into dystopia lately, because I always liked it and now it’s another very popular thing to do, and also that’s kind of what my novel is. As someone who wishes Jessica Darling and Marcus Flutie could be her friends, I’m very excited to see what Megan McCafferty does with dystopia.