What's it all about?
In each post, I will take a piece of fantasy and/or young adult literature and look at it through a critical lens. Literature scholars often overlook these genres, either because they're too new or not considered important enough, but I think they're pivotal to the way we understand the world. I grew up reading these genres, and I know first-hand how much these books can influence your beliefs and attitudes. That's why I want to look specifically at some of the themes that have influenced me the most because of my own identity: gender and sexuality, mental illness, and Latinx issues.
You might think that young adult literature and/or fantasy might not deal seriously with these issues because they're "fluffy" genres. I have two counterpoints.
First, a piece of literature doesn't have to deal primarily—or even intentionally—with a topic in order for us to examine how it portrays that topic. In fact, the deeper under the surface a theme is, the more important it is to discuss it, because it might not be evident to everyone, but it can still color readers' perspectives of the world. For example, Twilight might not be a book about race and class or even one that's interested in the topics, but it still manages to send the message that girls should choose rich white boys over poor brown boys.
Second, as the world of publishing (slowly) becomes more diverse, more authors are choosing to tackle real-world issues, even in genres that traditionally provided escapism. Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone, for example, features an all-black cast and deals with colorism, class, sexism, and state-sponsored brutality—and it's a young adult fantasy novel.
These kinds of books do influence us, especially when we're younger. When I was an early teen, a young adult fantasy novel showed me the first positive representation I had ever seen of gay main characters (Corny and Louis in Ironside by Holly Black), which helped normalize queerness for me. Conversely, the piles and piles of books who treat "craziness" as a cheap motivation for their villains, joke or make light of mental illness, show mentally ill characters as tragic victims or violent monsters, and other delightful stereotypes guaranteed that, when I myself developed a mental illness, I spent years feeling too ashamed to ask for help.
I think it's important to look critically at the books we consume and might not think that much about. We should know what messages we're getting, as well as the people around us. Besides, I think it's fun: taking a story apart connects me more deeply with it. It makes my reading experience richer and fuller. And it teaches me to be more intentional in my writing, because I want to write young adult fantasy to empower and inspire young people, not to saddle them with more baggage. Whether you're a reader, a writer, or both, and you love young adult and/or fantasy, you'll find something to get you thinking here. I hope you share your thoughts with me, too.
What will be the format of the posts?
My posts won't be formatted or written like a traditional scholarly article—I don't want to put anyone to sleep—but I aspire to be thoughtful and critical. I will bring in other sources if necessary, whether they're scholarly or popular. If things ever get dull, I'll throw in a gif.
When will there be new posts?
Every Monday. Announcement posts like this one will go up on other days of the week so they don't interrupt the schedule. Please follow my blog if you want to get notified when I upload!