2014 Overview: Diversity in Speculative Fiction for the Year
Posted by Stephanie Whelan
Diverse books in kidlit is a hot topic lately, but it’s still tough to find in the speculative fiction genres. Fortunately that’s beginning to change. There are some good titles out this year and am hopeful to see it continue to increase and branch out. There’s so much room in these genres for exploration and new horizons! These are the ones I can think of from personal experience from this year. (I’ve tried not to miss any, but no promises!)
Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin (Razorbill, February 2014)
This spin on Andersen’s fairy tale is by turns heart-wrenching and uplifting. It’s a contemporary tale of magic, betrayal and redemption played out in one small town. Interestingly the race of the characters is never specifically identified, but the cover has an absolutely stunning image of the girl we can only guess to be Gayle. What delighted me so much about this is it’s rare enough to have a cover with an African American girl front and center–rarer still for fantasy.
Space Case by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster, September 2014)
If anything, science fiction is a tougher genre to find diversity in than fantasy. Glad to say some writers are making the attempt here. Gibbs’ protagonist in this near future mystery SF story is Dashiell, a bi-racial tween living on the moon. I dare you to find me another SF middle grade story with a bi-racial protagonist. I’d love to find there was more than this one out there. Dash is busy investigating the murder of a beloved professor while pretending everything’s cool living on the moon.
Ambassador by William Alexander (Margaret K. McElderry, September 2014)
How many Hispanic protagonists have you seen in middle grade science fiction? This may be the only one I’ve come across. Gabe Fuentes has just become the new ambassador for Earth to the universe at large. But while dealing with intergalactic communication, he’s also dealing with the very earth-bound threat of his parents being deported! I really wanted to love this book, but the author only has about half a book here–Gabe’s entire story cuts off rather abruptly and I’m hoping a sequel is forthcoming soon!
Boys of Blur by N. D. Wilson (Random House, April 2014)
Zombies, football, Beowulf . . . and a diverse cast of characters. N. D. Wilson’s amazing small-town fantasy novel is among my favorite surprises of the year. Charlie Mack’s part of a mixed family in more ways than one. It’s a novel of strength, love, mistakes and redemption all rolled up in delicious writing, shivery adventure and a satisfying ending.
Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier by Ying Chang Compestine and Vinston Compestine (Abrams, January 2014)
Hard enough to find fantasy with Asian characters. Harder still to find books where the story is set in the East. Well-nigh unicorn level to have a historical fiction fantasy set in Maoist China. But here we go. Ming struggles to survive with his father during the oppressive Maoist times in China where scholars are under suspicion and degraded at every turn. When villagers bring an old Terra-Cotta soldier they unearthed to Ming and his father, the boy never expects that the soldier will come to life! This is an amazing partnership between Ying Chang Compestine and her son, Vinson.
Ripple Effect by Timothy J. Bradley(Argosy Press, March 2014)
The Sci-Hi series continues it’s adventures with Syd and his friends–including Hari, who’s from India. While Syd is more the main character, I felt this worth including because there really aren’t a lot of notable diverse characters that make it to the best friends group in speculative fiction stories–and I’m having a hard time remembering any Indian characters in science fiction stories at all. Time Jump (November, 2014) was also released this year. Both books continue our Sci-Hi student adventures dealing with futuristic tech and danger!
Centaur Rising by Jane Yolen (Henry Holt & Co., October 2014)
Added to the list for a different sort of diversity, this one deals with a ranch where two children witness their pony giving birth to a centaur, and then must raise the young boy/colt and keep him secret from the world at large with the help of their farm family. Robbie, the younger brother of the family, is a thalidomide baby in this historical fantasy. His hands are fused together and grow from his elbows. Despite his severe physical deformity, he is smart and perceptive and finds a bond with the young centaur that speaks of love beyond appearance. And that brothers can come in many forms.
Please continue this list with 2014 titles you’ve read that fit our diverse spec fic! Would love to hear of more!
About Stephanie WhelanI'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.
Posted on December 29, 2014, in General Posts, Lists and tagged Authors, Books, Children's Books, Children's Literature, Diversity, fantasy, Historical Fantasy, kidlit, Lists, literature, MG Books, Middle-Grade Fiction, Reading, reviews, Science Fiction, SF. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.