Writing to a Non-Existing Audience

Originally published at Thagomizer

Recently I was having a conversation with a couple of friends and acquaintances regarding the release of my novel, Hollowstone. As I explained the premise behind the book, they expressed it was a novel they would be very interested in reading.

They then expressed that they don’t read books. As the conversation continued, they explained it was in large part to their horrors in school. Horror stories I was all too familiar with. The others elaborated that they hated being forced to read classic literature which usually translated works written by old dead white men and ergo deemed as the only type of “literature” worth reading.

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Fantastic Beasts is Not So Fantastic with Diversity

Update 11/25/16: The original version of this post stated that Tina was simply white. I have since realized that Tina’s full name is Porpentina Goldstein, and that she and her sister Queenie are likely of Jewish descent (and thus both have only conditional whiteness). I have updated the post with this information in mind. 

The Harry Potter universe is a world that’s followed most of us since we were kids. While in many respects it’s aged along with us — we see Harry grow up and have kids, and the film Fantastic Beasts is certainly aimed at an older audience — in other aspects it has remained disappointingly behind the times. In particular, Fantastic Beasts is yet another example in the Potterverse of how marginalized folks, particularly queer people and/or people of color, continue to be exactly that: marginalized.

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10 Things to Consider If You Haven’t Read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Yet

The script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the eighth and probably final story about Harry Potter, was finally released yesterday. Written exclusively for the stage by Jack Thorne, JK Rowling, and John Tiffany, the London play is nearly all sold out through December 2017, and Potterheads everywhere celebrated the midnight release with costume parties. Fanfare aside, the big question is, is it worth the read? Here’s ten things to consider (without plot spoilers!):

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Harry Potter and the Fact That Hermione is Black

Hermione Granger means so much to so many girls, myself included. She’s smart and brave — the smartest witch of her age — and saved the world. She’s someone who prefers books to people (except a select few) and can be brass and bold at times when girls are usually told not to be. She’s a role model and a mirror. And because her race is never specified in the Harry Potter series, many girls around the world can picture someone who looks like them as her character. She was of course, cast as white in the Hollywood adaptations of the books — because Hollywood gonna Hollywood — but that doesn’t mean that she has to be white in all adaptations of the series. Buzzfeed already showed us the mounds of Hermione-as-black fanart that exists in the world. And now that dream that so many of us had is coming true.

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“Eventually” Isn’t Enough: The Lack of Diversity in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

[Ed. note: Since EW.com just revealed an exclusive first look at next year’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we’re reposting this piece that originally appeared on The Mary Sue in September.]

All Potterheads were excited when it was announced that a new movie was coming out (even if we were sad it wasn’t a Marauders prequel). And some fans were excited because with a new cast, it meant an opportunity for people of color to become main characters in a series whose fans span the globe.

J.K. Rowling herself spurred many of the theories that Fantastic Beasts could feature a more diverse cast than the Harry Potter franchise. (The film series as a whole only features 0.47% of lines spoken by people of color, according to the Every Single Word video series.) Over on Pottermore, she described Newt Scamander’s (author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) grandson Rolf as “swarthy,” a word which means “dark-skinned.” Many fans figured this could mean that Newt himself could be black.

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An Open Letter to J.K. Rowling about the American Wizarding School in Fantastic Beasts

by Dr. Adrienne Keene | Originally posted at Native Appropriations

Dear J.K. Rowling,

I am unabashedly a huge Harry Potter fan. I first encountered Harry when I was in Junior High, volunteering at the public library (nerd status, I know). The children’s librarian handed me book one, and I was hooked. I even used to frequent Harry Potter message boards back in the day with my friend Kathleen (we were “Parvati” and “Lavender” cause we also shared an interest in divination, ha). Anyway, all this is to say, Harry holds a sacred spot in my heart. But I’m not one of those fans who can recite things verbatim, or remember every tiny detail, so if I’m missing something, I hope one of those fans will help me out.

I’ve been interestedly following the news that there is a new Harry Potter prequel-of-sorts in the works, for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, following “magizoologist” Newt Scamander. I hadn’t been following it closely, but a few days ago, I saw your exchanges on Twitter about the name/location of the American Wizarding School — and I started to get a bit concerned.

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Comics are for Children

ContagionI don’t remember the wonder anymore.

As a child, I did not collect comics weekly. At ten, I lacked the funds and access to a friendly neighborhood comic book shop. Travel to the closest store required leaving Black suburban safety, crossing highways and railroad tracks, and strolling through an alien White community three miles away to feed a Cable and Nightwing habit. No. Besides, graphic novels offered complete story arcs, so to read new comics I would cajole my mother into forking over twenty dollars American (not including sales tax) each time I wished to depart Waldenbooks in Chesapeake Square Mall with the Spider-Man Clone Saga, or Batman: Contagion.

I loved those comics. Time-travel maxiseries like 1991’s Time and Time Again hurled Superman though linear time, stretching the limits of invulnerability and relativity, while Elseworlds like Superman: Speeding Bullets questioned our familiarity with the World’s Finest origins by neatly merging their narratives. (That’s right: the Waynes find the rocket from Krypton, but Joe Chill still finds them. What’s not to like?) I’d spend long hours on a unrolled forest green foam mat in my backyard, broiling under unrepentant sun, inhaling freshly cut grass, reading voraciously. Dogs barked, mosquitoes feasted, friends and foes alike traded concussions on manicured gridirons, and a stack of dog-eared and comfortable trade paperbacks proved my only companions.

I retain those memories, but lost the passion. Details, not desire. I don’t read superheroes that way anymore. When you follow characters as a child, immaturity confers humanity. Reality and fiction did not blur in my mind; no manner of computer-aided pencils and India ink could make Wally West outrace Carl Lewis. But there was an innocence when I was young! Back then, comic characters shouted and ran and jumped and fought, they foiled the dastardly and protected the innocent, they managed corporations and wrote opinion columns and discovered unknown elements – they stole the texture of life, if not it’s flavor. They did things! Childhood aches – we constantly reach for increased freedom as children, without the patience to care about dangers we can’t fathom. For superheroes, danger is not relevant. Save the day, win the girl, defeat Darkseid – that matters.

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Talking Back to White Creators: Rachel Rostad’s “To J.K. Rowling, From Cho Chang”

The flip side of the discussion of opening up the speculative fiction genres to more writers of color telling stories about characters of color is the phenomenon of white writers employing characters of color. Such works are not automatically or inherently problematic when done sensitively and skillfully; indeed, the diversification of the worlds of white creators to reflect the real diversity of our own is necessary. Speculative fiction abounds with examples both bad, like the racial allegories of Tolkien‘s Middle Earth, and good, like Le Guin’s Earthsea series, Stephenson’s Snow Crash, or Gaiman’s Anansi Boys.

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