Diversity Among The Alien Stars -
Science Fiction & Fantasy for Teens and Young Adults
Sharing the fantastic world of Science Fiction and Fantasy with our teens isn't always easy.
I caught my son perusing my bookshelves one day and asked if he needed something. "Yeah, I need something to read in my English class and I don't want any of those weird books you like."
I hesitated, because Sci-Fi and Fantasy are my FAVORITES! He wasn't enthusiastic about any of my suggestions. Western? No. Mystery? No. Non-fiction? No, that book is too old. (I have a lot of vintage books). Finally I suggested Tunnel in the Sky by Robert Heinlein. He made a face, but then I told him that the main character, Rod, was Black.
"Yes. But it never really says it, you have to figure it out for yourself."
We looked at a few more books on the shelves. Then, with a heavy sigh, he decided that he'd try "that book with the Black guy". I looked calm on the outside as I handed him the book. On the inside, I was doing cartwheels. I'd found something that made him want to read one of my books! In fact, something that just might make him want to read something, anything. He's an action kinda guy and reading is just too passive for him. He does NOT like to read.
To be honest, I didn't realize at the time just how hard it is to find good teen and young adult Science Fiction with non-White protagonists. I started looking for more books and my eyes were opened to a whole universe -- of little and nothing. Fantasy is slightly better, since the main characters aren't always human, there's more opportunity for a Teen of Color to relate to the protagonist.
I didn't find a lot of appropriate books for my teen. Then, I made the mistake of asking for book referrals on a writing forum.
You'd think I was getting ready to boil a baby in oil and asked for a recipe!
There were many supportive posts. Unfortunately, there were also a lot of posts from people who simply could not understand why a kid might want a book that featured a character that looked like him. To paraphrase: "There's no such thing as race," "Race shouldn't make a difference," and "I don't see color," (the innuendo -- so nobody else does either).
Sadly, while well-meaning people were deeply offended by a simple request for protagonists of Color, some went so far as to claim that I was discriminating against White main characters and in fact, didn't want any Whites in the books at all! The thread was closed, the antagonistic responses were veering off-topic into a huge discussion of race and racism.
I was having trouble getting through to my fellow writers: It's not about excluding White main characters -- it's about bringing People of Color into the Sci-Fi and Fantasy universe that I love. Surely the future will be diverse. Surely the leaders won't all be White -- right?
After that "simple question" debacle, I realized that we need a place where we, as parents, caregivers, teachers and homeschoolers, can research Science Fiction and Fantasy books that our teens might be interested in reading. I gathered my own lists, added in the referrals provided by other writers, started doing some deep research on the Internet, and got busy with it.
To simplify your search, I've sorted the main characters into ethnic/racial categories, and then by author within the categories. I'm working on adding a tiny synopsis, book review or the publisher description of each book or series but it's a huge job and will take time to add to the pages. There is and will continue to be some overlap, as many authors can't be stuffed into a convenient little box with a label indicating a particular color, race, ethnicity or even a human or Earth-based species. Science Fiction and Fantasy authors' imaginations soar far beyond the mundane of Earth's arbritrary classifictions. Yet another reason why I love the genre!
Now, I must mention that while I read many of the classic Science Fiction and Fantasy novels as a teen, you may not consider some of them as Teen or Young Adult material. I think most of them are easy reads, but that's just me. I realize that not all parents are as liberal as mine were when it comes to reading materials, so I've tried to indicate the books that are probably not appropriate for a young teen.
This website is a work in progress, so if you have any great suggestions, please feel free to send them to me. These pages will continue to evolve, adding more books, reviews and author information as I locate more great Science Fiction and Fantasy appropriate to Teens of Color.
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