Spotlight science fiction and fantasy titles where people of color are the leads, works by people of color in these genres or discuss your thoughts about race in these genres. Do you notice the absence of color? In what ways is race portrayed in fantasy and science fiction beyond using traditional racial terms like black and white? If the book cover prominently features people of color, does it affect your perception? Are we more comfortable with imaginary characters versus different race in these works?With time ticking down (the next question will be posted here on Worducopia on Friday and I have to figure out what it is, first), I turned to my kids. "Can we have a conversation about race in Science Fiction and Fantasy books?" My 12-year old is so agreeable: "Sure, Mom, just as soon as America's Funniest Home Videos is over."
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Q: Can you think of a Science Fiction or Fantasy book you've read where the main character wasn't white?
A: I can't really think of one off the top of my head. But it seems like there must be one.
Q: How about just any character who isn't white? Like, in Harry Potter, there's like Dean Thomas and Cho Chang, but they're pretty minor characters.
A: I'm sure there are some, but I can't think of any.
Q: Do you notice the absence of color in the characters?
A: I sort of haven't really thought about it. Because I'm white, I guess.
Q: Do you think you'd think about it if you were a person of color?
A: It seems like I would, because if you think about it the other way around, if it seemed like every book you read most of the people were dark skinned—that would be not good.
Q: Why not?
A: It would make it seem like people who looked like you don't make interesting characters for a book.
(Evan looks up from reading Erin Hunter's Seekers: But if it's about bears, then that's okay. You can't have a dark-skinned bear.)
Q: If the book covers prominently feature people of color, does it affect your perception? Would you be more or less likely to read it?
A: I don't think it would affect it that much. It really depends what the book is about.
Q: In what ways is race portrayed in fantasy and science fiction beyond using traditional racial terms like black and white? Like, green-skinned people vs. purple, or lizards vs. cats, or--
A: Well, there's the wizards vs. muggles, in Harry Potter.
Q: Ooh, good answer! Go on.
A: Some wizards—like the Death Eaters, and Malfoy—hated muggles. And people that weren't wizards were called Mudbloods and considered not as good. (Mudbloods is a derogitory slang, the first time Malfoy says it to Hermione's face the other wizard kids are shocked) In the 4th book the Death Eaters were blasting muggles and making them hang in the air and stuff.
This is a great example, because the attitude towards non-wizards wasn't based on how they looked, and it wasn't whether they could do magic, either--Hermione was a really good wizard, but the "racist" pureblood wizards were against her because she was Muggle-born. Nothing she could do would ever change her status in their eyes.
They probably wouldn't be interested in buying books written by muggle authors, or featuring muggles as main characters, either.