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#SJYALit: Teens Taking Action in YA Fiction, a guest post by Robin Talley

sjyalitA lot of the teens I know are more passionate about social justice than the adults in their lives.

Which isn’t surprising. Teens are in the process of forming their identities and opinions, and in many cases, they’re learning about social justice issues or deepening their understanding of them for the first time. In the U.S., with our new terrifying-on-all-levels presidential administration and a congressional majority that’s actively trying to harm many of the very people who voted them into office, plenty of people of all ages are more tuned in to politics than ever before ― and more and more are turning their engagement into hands-on activism.

For teens eager to read about political activism in their fiction, too, here are a few of my favorite recent YAs (and one MG) that showcase teens cutting their activist teeth for the first time.

(Note: Since many of these stories focus on the characters’ arcs toward activism, there may be some mild spoilers in the descriptions below.)

hate-uThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017).

One of the biggest (and certainly one of the best) YA novels of this year, this Black Lives Matter-inspired story focuses on a teenage girl who witnesses a friend’s murder and struggles through grief and complicated community dynamics to speak out about police brutality.

 

 

 

 

 

symptomsSymptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin (2016).

Riley, the genderfluid teen narrator, becomes an accidental activist thanks to their posts on a Tumblr-like social network and is forced to decide whether to abandon their online anonymity by taking a stand in person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

this side of homeThis Side of Home by Renée Watson (2015).

High school senior Maya and her twin sister Nikki disagree about the effects of gentrification on their Portland neighborhood. As student council president, Maya embraces her role as a community leader but isn’t sure how to reconcile her feelings about the changes happening around her with her longstanding ambitions.

 

 

 

 

 

all americanAll-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (2015).

In alternating chapters, this collaborative novel examines the aftermath of a police officer’s assault on an unarmed teenager from the perspectives of the black victim and a white classmate who witnesses the attack, climaxing in a Black Lives Matter-inspired demonstration.

 

 

 

 

 

the summer princeThe Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson (2013).

In this alternate-history sci-fi story, protagonist June Costa starts out as an attention-seeking young artist and slowly finds herself using her art to make a statement greater than herself as she joins a team fighting back against the unethical leadership of her isolated, matriarchal community.

 

 

 

 

 

two boysTwo Boys Kissing by David Levithan (2013).

One of the most-challenged books of last year according to ALA, this novel features several loosely connected stories centered on gay characters, including two teenage boys who try to set the record for the world’s longest kiss as a statement in protest of a hate crime committed against a friend.

 

 

 

 

 

differenceThe Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George (2012).

Two girls engaged in a passionate secret romance ― one closeted, one not ― wind up on opposite sides of a community-wide argument about the influence of a Wal-Mart-like corporation on their town, leading one of the girls to initiate a major protest at their school prom.

 

 

 

 

 

onecrazysummerOne Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (2010).

This middle-grade historical novel follows 11-year-old Delphine as she shepherds her two younger sisters through a tense summer living with their estranged mother in Oakland, Calif., where they attend a summer camp led by the Black Panthers and ultimately play a key role in a rally against injustice.

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Robin Talley

Robin Talley - Low ResRobin Talley is the New York Times bestselling author of four novels for teen readers: Our Own Private Universe, As I Descended, What We Left Behind and Lies We Tell Ourselves, all of which focus on LGBTQ characters. Robin lives in Washington, D.C. with her wife and daughter, and she enjoys reading about queer characters, analyzing Disney movies, and chocolate. You can find her at www.robintalley.com.

 

 

 

#SJYALit: Government Dystopia Booklist

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The day after Independence Day seems like a good day to share a list of titles that focuses on government dystopias. Democracy is an active process that all must participate in and work to preserve. Here are some books that look at what happens when governments go bad and we fail to hold our elected representatives to the highest standards.

Agell, Charlotte. Shift. Henry Holt and Co., 2008.

In fifteen-year-old Adrian Havoc’s world, HomeState rules every aspect of society and religious education is enforced but Adrian, refusing to believe that the Apocalypse is at hand, goes north through the Deadlands and joins a group of insurgents.

Anastasiu, Heather. Glitch. St. Martin’s Press Griffin, 2012.

In the Community, where implanted computer chips have erased human emotions and thoughts are replaced by a feed from the Link network, Zoe starts to malfunction, or glitch, and begins having her own thoughts, feelings, identity–and telekinetic powers.

Angler, Evan. Swipe. Tommy Nelson, 2011.

In a world where everyone must be Marked in order to gain citizenship and participate in society, a group of youngsters who questions the system struggles to identify the true enemy–while pursuing a group of Markless teenagers.

Aveyard, Victoria. Red Queen. HarperTeen, 2015.

In a world divided by blood–those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Seventeen-year-old Mare, a Red, discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. But Mare risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard, a growing Red rebellion.

Bao, Karen. Dove Arising. Viking, 2015.

On a lunar colony, fifteen-year-old Phaet Theta does the unthinkable and joins the Militia when her mother is imprisoned by the Moon’s oppressive government.

Dos Santos, Steven. The Culling. Flux, 2013.

In a futuristic world ruled by a totalitarian government called the Establishment, Lucian “Lucky” Spark and four other teenagers are recruited for the Trials. They must compete not only for survival but to save the lives of their Incentives, family members whose lives depend on how well they play the game.

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Fama, Elizabeth. Plus One. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2014.

In an alternate United States where Day and Night populations are forced to lead separate–but not equal–lives, a desperate Night girl falls for a seemingly privileged Day boy and places them both in danger as she gets caught up in the beginnings of a resistance movement.

Freitas, Donna. Unplugged. HarperTeen, 2016.

Skye joined the App World for the promise of a better, virtual life. She’s looking forward to her seventeenth birthday, when she gets to unplug, see her family, and decide which world she belongs in. Without warning, the border between worlds suddenly closes. When Skye unplugs, she discovers that the reasons for the border closing are much bigger than anyone in the App World knows, and that she somehow has a part to play, a part that will turn friends into traitors and strangers into followers. And the only person she can trust, in either world, is herself.

Graceffa, Joey. Children of Eden. Keyword Press, 2016.

Rowan is a second child in a world where population control measures make her an outlaw, marked for death. She can never go to school, make friends, or get the eye implants that will mark her as a true member of Eden. Outside of Eden, Earth is poisoned and dead. Long ago, the brilliant scientist Aaron Al-Baz saved a pocket of civilization by designing the EcoPanopticon. Humans will wait for thousands of years in Eden until the EcoPan heals the world.

Johnson, Alaya Dawn. The Summer Prince. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2013.

In a Brazil of the distant future, June Costa falls in love with Enki, a fellow artist and rebel against the strict limits of the legendary pyramid city of Palmares Três’ matriarchal government, knowing that, like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.

Kacvinsky, Katie. Awaken. Graphia, 2011.

In the year 2060, when people hardly ever leave the security of their houses and instead do everything online, Madeline Freeman, the seventeen-year-old daughter of the man who created the national digital school attended by all citizens, is wooed by a group of radicals who are trying to get people to “unplug.”

Lu, Marie. Legend*. Speak, 2011.

In a dark future, when North America has split into two warring nations, fifteen-year-olds Day, a famous criminal, and prodigy June, the brilliant soldier hired to capture him, discover that they have a common enemy.

Mafi, Tahereh. Shatter Me*. HarperTeen, 2011.

Ostracized or incarcerated her whole life, seventeen-year-old Juliette is freed on the condition that she use her horrific abilities in support of The Reestablishment, a post-apocalyptic dictatorship, but Adam, the only person ever to show her affection, offers hope of a better future.

Oliver, Lauren. Delirium*. HarperCollins, 2011

Lena looks forward to receiving the government-mandated cure that prevents the delirium of love and leads to a safe, predictable, and happy life, until ninety-five days before her eighteenth birthday and her treatment, when she falls in love.

Pass, Emma. ACID. Delacorte Press, 2014.

In the year 2113, seventeen-year-old Jenna Strong is helped to escape from Mileway Maximum Security Prison outside London in order to help destroy ACID, the most brutal and controlling police force in history.

Simmons, Kristen. Article 5. Tor, 2012.

Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller has perfected the art of keeping a low profile in a future society in which Moral Statutes have replaced the Bill of Rights and offenses carry stiff penalties, but when Chase, the only boy she has ever loved, arrests her rebellious mother, Ember must take action.

Stasse, Lisa M. The Forsaken. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012.

As an obedient orphan of the U.N.A. (the super-country that was once Mexico, the U.S., and Canada), Alenna learned at an early age to blend in and be quiet—having your parents taken by the police will do that to a girl. But Alenna can’t help but stand out when she fails a test that all sixteen-year-olds have to take: The test says she has a high capacity for brutal violence, and so she is sent to The Wheel, an island where all would-be criminals end up.

Swain, H.A. Hungry. Feiwel and Friends, 2014.

In Thalia’s world there is no more food and no need for food, as everyone takes medication to ward off hunger. But when she meets a boy who is part of an underground movement to bring food back, she realizes that the meds are not working.

Trevayne, Emma. Coda. RP/Teens, 2013.

Anthem, playing with an illegal underground rock band, is sought after by the Corporation, who plan to turn his songs into addictive, mind-altering music tracks, and soon Anthem learns defying them comes at a deadly price.

Wendig, Chuck. Under the Empyrean Sky. Skyscape, 2013.

Cael McAvoy, living in the corn-overrun Heartland below extravagant sky flotillas, grows tired of scavenging and living in the Empyrean Empire’s shadow and vows to do something to change his lot in life.

 

This list is compiled by guest contributor Natalie Korsavidis

#SJYALit: The X-Men and the social justice of diverse brains (Or, Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not a hero), a guest post by Rachel Gold

sjyalitWhen I was twelve and in my fifth year of getting bullied at school, I discovered a place where people could go to learn to use their powers for good, to band together against prejudice, and to save the world: Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

I had to spend part of my days in a world that increasingly hated me for being impulsive, smart, unruly, genderfluid and queer. But the rest of the time I had superpowered allies who struggled like I did and still managed to save the world.

In Marvel’s universe, many superpowers come from mutations in the human genome. And humanity is not sure how it feels about mutants — there’s a lot of envy, fear, and hatred.

Kitty Pryde’s acceptance to the School for Gifted Youngster’s wasn’t the easiest, but she learned early on that mutants have to help each other out! From Uncanny X-Men #129, published in Jan. 1980.

Kitty Pryde’s acceptance to the School for Gifted Youngster’s wasn’t the easiest, but she learned early on that mutants have to help each other out! From Uncanny X-Men #129, published in Jan. 1980.

The mutant superhero mindset remains one of the best I’ve found for talking about neurodiverse brains, queerness and gender diversity. The concept of neurodiversity comes from the movement to see brains on the autism spectrum (ASD) as a diverse way of thinking rather than a disorder. In addition to ASD, neurodiversity has been applied to ADD/ADHD and other diverse brain styles.

Too often the conversations around ADHD and ASD seem to be about brokenness and to push people to focus on what they can’t do. Sadly this is also still the case about queer/trans kids in too many parts of the world.

About twenty years ago, I learned that I have an ADHD brain and suddenly a lot of my early years made much more sense. I’ve been lucky to spend a lot more time in the superhero mindset than the broken/disorder mindset. My brain is more creative than 99% of the brains around me. And yes, maxing a brain for that kind of creativity has downsides too. Just like superpowers.

A powerful mindset

In the broken/disorder model, I spend way too much time trying to fix my weaknesses. I push myself to do things I’m bad at. But in the superhero model, I find allies to help with my weak spots and I train hard at what I’m best at. The world doesn’t need me to become adequate at doing paperwork — the world needs me to write books and solve problems is new ways.

The same is true of you. You don’t need to be good at 95% of the things you currently suck at. (As an adult, I have never needed to know how to make a bed. How to make appropriate eye contact, yes, that’s useful.) But the world needs you to excel with your particular gifts.

The superhero mindset doesn’t make life easy, but it makes it hopeful and gives us a clear path to success. It gives us the courage and impetus to keep going. It shows us that some powers are hard to control and we have work to do. In the X-Men, Cyclops can shoot lasers out of his eyes, but he can’t stop doing this and has to wear a special visor that controls his powers. Rogue can steal powers and memories with a touch and has to keep most of her skin covered all the time. The younger team, the New Mutants, all struggled with learning to control their powers.

Our mindset about our differences can empower us or cut us down. One of the key elements of social justice is human dignity. It’s much easier to connect to your dignity, and demand others treat you with dignity, if you see yourself as heroic rather than broken.

I spent a lot of time these days answering variations of the question, “Am I broken?” with: “No, you’re a superhero.” And seeing how many other people will real-life roleplay being superheroes with me. Not only do lots of them say yes, but they tend to get joyful about it. So, what are your superpowers?

Welcome to the School for Gifted Youngsters (and Adults). Here’s your homework:

  • Find stories that make you feel powerful.
  • Make and tell stories.
  • Find one person who gets your story.
  • Play SuperBetter, an online game that you play as the hero of your own life (www.superbetter.com).
  • If you’re new to comics, consider starting with: Ms. Marvel and Young Avengers.
  • Think about heroes, what makes a person heroic, how you are heroic.
  • Remember that heroes need downtime, rest and many allies.

About Rachel Gold

Rachel Gold_author photo_vert_mediumRachel Gold is the award-winning author of multiple queer and trans young adult novels—including Being Emily, the first young adult novel to tell the story of a trans girl from her perspective. Her latest novel, Nico & Tucker, is about love, nonbinary lives, healing and knowing who you really are. Rachel has an MFA in Writing and a day job in marketing, but is better known as an all around geek and avid gamer. For more information visit: www.rachelgold.com.

#SJYALit Booklist: Environmental Dystopia, aka Cli-Fi

Cli-Fi is fiction that deals with the topic of climate change. Climate change is an important political and social justice issue as it affects everything from health to food and water resources See, for example, this discussion: The Next Frontier of Climate Change: Climate & Social Justice. Natalie Korsavidis joins us today to share this book list of environmental dystopians as part of the #SJYALit Discussion. You can find out more about the #SJYALIt Discussion here.

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Augarde, Steve. X Isle. David Fickling, 2010.

Baz and Ray, survivors of an apocalyptic flood, win places on X-Isle, an island where life is rumored to be better than on the devastated mainland, but they find the island to be a violent place ruled by religious fanatic Preacher John, and they decide they must come up with a weapon to protect themselves from impending danger.

Bacigalupi, Paolo. Ship Breaker. Little, Brown, 2010.

In a futuristic world, teenaged Nailer scavenges copper wiring from grounded oil tankers for a living, but when he finds a beached clipper ship with a girl in the wreckage, he has to decide if he should strip the ship for its wealth or rescue the girl.

Bell, Hilari. Trickster’s Girl. Houghton Mifflin, 2011.

In the year 2098, America isn’t so different from the USA of today. The night Kelsa buries her father, a boy appears. He claims magic is responsible for the health of Earth, but human damage disrupts its flow. The planet is dying. Kelsa has the power to reverse the damage, but first she must accept that magic exists and see beyond her own pain in order to heal the planet.

Bertagna, Julie. Exodus. Macmillan, 2008.

In the year 2100, as the island of Wing is about to be covered by water, fifteen-year-old Mara discovers the existence of New World sky cities that are safe from the storms and rising waters, and convinces her people to travel to one of these cities in order to save themselves.

Crossan, Sarah. Breathe. Greenwillow Books, 2012.

In a barren land, a shimmering glass dome houses the survivors of the Switch, the period when oxygen levels plunged and the green world withered. A state lottery meant a lucky few won safety, while the rest suffocated in the thin air. And now Alina, Quinn, and Bea–an unlikely trio, each with their own agendas, their own longings and fears–walk straight into the heart of danger. With two days’ worth of oxygen in their tanks, they leave the dome. What will happen on the third day?

De la Cruz, Melissa. Frozen*. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2013.

More than a century after a catastrophic disaster wiped out most of humanity and covered much of the earth with ice, fifteen-year-old Cass yields to the voice in her head urging her to embark on a dangerous journey across a poisoned sea to the mythical land, Blue.

Emerson, Kevin. The Lost Code*. Katherine Tegen Books, 2012.

In a world ravaged by global warming, teenage Owen Parker discovers that he may be the descendant of a highly advanced, ancient race, with whose knowledge he may be able to save the earth from self-destruction.

Falkner, Brian. The Tomorrow Code. Random House, 2008.

Two New Zealand teenagers receive a desperate SOS from their future selves and set out on a quest to stop an impending ecological disaster that could mean the end of humanity.

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Friesen, Jonathan. Aquifer. Blink, 2013.

In 2250, water is scarce and controlled by tyrants, but when sixteen-year-old Luca descends to the domain of the Water Rats, he meets one who captures his heart and leads him to secrets about a vast conspiracy, and about himself.

Grant, Sara. Dark Parties. Little, Brown, 2011.

Sixteen-year-old Neva, born and raised under the electrified Protectosphere that was built when civilization collapsed in violent warfare, puts her friends, family, and life at risk when she tries to find out if their world is built on a complex series of lies and deceptions.

Helvig, Kristi. Burn Out. EgmonstUSA, 2014.

In the future, when the Earth is no longer easily habitable, seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds, a girl in hiding, struggles to protect weapons developed by her father that could lead to disaster should they fall into the wrong hands.

Howard, Chris. Rootless. Scholastic, 2012.

Seventeen-year-old Banyan is a tree builder. Using scrap metal and salvaged junk, he creates forests for rich patrons who seek a reprieve from the desolate landscape. Although Banyan’s never seen a real tree, his father used to tell him stories about the Old World. But that was before his father was taken. Everything changes when Banyan meets a woman with a strange tattoo; a clue to the whereabouts of the last living trees on earth, and he sets off across a wasteland from which few return.

Lloyd. Saci. The Carbon Diaries 2015*. Holiday House, 2009.

In 2015, when England becomes the first nation to introduce carbon dioxide rationing in a drastic bid to combat climate change, sixteen-year-old Laura documents the first year of rationing as her family spirals out of control.

Lyga, Barry. After the Red Rain. Little, Brown, 2015.

In the far-off future, humankind has so ravaged the planet that plants and other life forms are nearly extinct. While a corrupt government exercises control over its remaining citizens, a strange boy named Rose turns up in 16-year-old Deedra’s home territory and inspires a quiet uprising that has her questioning everything, from the machines she builds at her factory job to the news provided via “wikinet” feed.

McGann, Oisin. Daylight Runner. Eos, 2008.

Outside the huge domed city, an Ice Age has transformed Earth into an Arctic desert. But inside, the Machine, protected by the Clockworkers—a fearsome police organization—has become the source of the city’s energy and a way for industrial leaders to wield enormous power. When a rogue organization begins posting messages warning of the Machine’s impending failure, civil unrest grows.

McGinnes, Mindy. Not a Drop to Drink. Katherine Tegen Books, 2013.

In the not-too-distant future, water has become scarce. Lynn and her mother are good shots, picking off stray travelers who are tempted by their pond. After her mother is killed by coyotes, Lynn tries to be self-reliant, but she knows that in time the men from a nearby settlement will attempt to seize her land. When her taciturn neighbor Stebbs offers help, she slowly opens herself to his friendship, and her lifelong solitude is further fractured when she meets a family that is trying to survive on the banks of a nearby stream.

McNaughton, Janet. The Secret Under My Skin. Eos, 2005.

In the year 2368, humans exist under dire environmental conditions and one young woman, rescued from a workcamp and chosen for a special duty, uses her love of learning to discover the truth about the planet’s future and her own dark past.

Moyer, Jenny. Flashfall. Henry Holt and Company, 2016.

In a world shattered by radiation fallout, teenaged Orion and her climbing partner Dram, in exchange for freedom, mine terrifying tunnels for a precious element that keeps humans safe from radiation poisoning, but disturbing revelations force Orion to question everything she knows.

Mullin, Mike. Ashfall. Tanglewood, 2011.

After the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano destroys his city and its surroundings, fifteen-year-old Alex must journey from Cedar Falls, Iowa, to Illinois to find his parents and sister, trying to survive in a transformed landscape and a new society in which all the old rules of living have vanished.

Pfeffer, Susan Beth. Life as We Knew It*. Harcourt, 2006.

Through journal entries sixteen-year-old Miranda describes her family’s struggle to survive after a meteor hits the moon, causing worldwide tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.

Weyn, Suzanne. Empty. Scholastic Press, 2010.

When, just ten years in the future, oil supplies run out and global warming leads to devastating storms, senior high school classmates Tom, Niki, Gwen, Hector, and Brock realize that the world as they know it is ending and lead the way to a more environmentally-friendly society.

If you have titles you would like to add to our list, please add them in the comments.

Additional Information:

Christie Gibrich previously put together THIS list of climate change dystopias.

What is CliFi? An Earth Day Primer

And I put together THIS collection of Earth Day activities, inspired in part by 47 Things You Can Do for the Environment published by Zest Books. Earth Day is coming, a great time to introduce your patrons to CliFi.

Social Justice and Climate Change

Meet Natalie Korsavidis

natalieNatalie Korsavidis is the Head of Young Adult at the Farmingdale Public Library. She received her MLS at CW Post University. She is currently President of the Young Adult Services Division of the Nassau County Library Association. She has spoken at New York Comic Con and the Long Island Pop Culture Convention.

 

Introducing Asexuality, a guest post by Laura Perenic

sjyalitSometimes being Asexual feels like something I’m not instead something I am.  I am not heterosexual.  I am not homosexual.  I am not gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual.  I am the A at the end of LGBTQIA that many interpret to mean ally; the A for Asexual that sometimes gets left off. It is confusing and frustrating to be just 1% of the population.  I don’t know anyone beyond the internet who is Asexual. I’ve joined online groups and  read anything I can find.  Pages like AVEN – The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network gave me a lot of great information. But I still don’t feel connected to the community.  I do not speak for fellow Aces, our identifier of choice. Being Ace feels a bit anticlimactic.  I’ve never seen an Ace pride parade.  I didn’t have a big coming out.  When I reveal my status to people they tell me on some level they always knew.  If I was being so obvious it’s interesting that it took me so long to realize it for myself.

A great resource is The Asexuality Archive. They establish a definition of Asexual as “Asexuality is a sexual orientation, like heterosexuality or homosexuality, etc., but instead of being sexually attracted to men or women, asexual people are sexually attracted to no one.  This doesn’t mean we all hate sex or avoid it, it just means we don’t find people sexually attractive.”  The challenge of this definition is while encompassing the basics it still doesn’t include all the facets of being Ace.  Sexuality has a spectrum often represented with the terms in LGBTA.  Ace has its own spectrum and includes Grey-sexual and Demi-sexual.

Grey-sexual: An umbrella term for a person who falls between sexual and asexual on the spectrum. A demisexual person only rarely experiences sexual attraction or only under specific circumstances.

Demisexual: A person who only experiences sexual attraction to someone once they have formed a strong emotional bond to that person.

In school to say that I had no interest in dating would be an understatement.  Not only did I not want to date but I couldn’t understand people who did. The entire process seemed confusing and also something I wanted no part of.  Sure I dabbled, went to prom and played spin the bottle but the results were the same.  Or the lack of results. It can be difficult to click with people without sexual chemistry. Even if you don’t desire someone, you have a connection with people who date or marry because its something you yourself have done.  Unless you haven’t and things start to feel like a game where everyone else knows the rules.  Many years into being an adult I still had a lot of questions about why my interaction with people were so different.   I don’t know where I first learned the term Asexual. It felt more correct than anything I used to label myself.  When I began to reveal to people that I was Ace I was mostly happy with the response.  Many people told me that could tell that I was different but never really could explain it; choosing Ace seemed accurate to them as well.  Interestingly a lot of people still don’t know I am Ace.  This article will be a bit of an unmasking of for me. While I haven’t experienced a lot of overtly negative responses to being Ace the hardest part as with many things is just the lack of understanding.  I find that talking about it with people seems to make them profoundly uncomfortable.  They will change the conversation to nearly anything else rather than hear about my orientation.

I remember being at a Teen Think Tank training.  It’s a twice yearly conference in Ohio with lots of libraries who serve teens.  A speaker was reviewing new books to appeal to LGBTQIA teens.  When she got to A, when she actually shared books about being asexual I never felt so simultaneously visible and hidden.  I was thrilled that she found books with characters like myself. But I was still uncomfortable sharing that I was Ace.  I couldn’t bring myself to state my identity because then and now I still have this fear.  I still think of myself as what I am not.  How in this sex saturated society do I explain that I don’t want to have sex?  That I don’t feel sexually attracted to anyone regardless of gender? That I see beauty in a great variety of people.  That I don’t have a type.  I fear being called prude or frigid. I fear people trying to convert me.  I don’t always understand me but not being understood by others feels achingly daunting.

I admit when I read teen fiction I struggle to understand the motivations of the hormonally driven characters.  While teens at work are a constant source of puzzlement, the teens in books I read are even more of a conundrum.  For me books with Ace characters make such a strong impression. I recently read Haters by Jesse Andrews.  As Ash recounts that she neither likes boys or girls I really focused in on her character.  I thought to myself “yes, she is ace,” and I instantly understood her so much more.  With so few Aces to connect with in real life I am always alert for Asexual characters in Teen Fiction.  There are more options in Adult Fiction and even in film or on tv.  I was delighted to learn, as a lover of anime and manga, that many characters from Hayao Miyazaki’s films are thought to be Asexual. Most notably Nausicaä, from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind’s lead, Nausicaä. (Asexuality in Fiction). Check out the YALSA book list on Asexuality in Young Adult Fiction for more titles to explore. Another good source for general information is the Asexual Awareness Week site. 

ace flagAces identify each other with the black, white and purple Ace flag or similarly striped triangle.  The color scheme is common for clothing as well as our websites. Since asexual people prefer the term Ace you will see the use of the Ace symbol found on playing cards.  Within the Ace community we have some jewelry aspects we considering telling and some common references that help identity us within the group.  (I’m conflicted about saying more because I don’t want to out others as Ace. I think signs are for other Asexuals to find each other).

In media, social media and in my own life I would love to see more representations of the Asexual orientation.  It is far too easy to find references, comics and other content that treat my sexuality as of more a biological conundrum than a facet of humanity.  Being Asexual doesn’t make us all virgins, single or religiously pious.  I don’t want to speak for the whole Ace community.  There is a lot of variety in our 1% that includes Asexuals who do have sex, marry and have children.  I want Asexuality to be a legitimate part of the spectrum.

lauraMeet Laura Perenic

Laura Perenic lives in Ohio where she works as a youth services librarian. She enjoys spoiling her dog and getting up very early in the morning to run.

 

#SJYALit: Talking About the Right to Die with Dignity, a guest post by author Kelley York

Today as part of the #SJYALit Discussion, we are honored to present to you author Kelley York discussing the topic of euthanasia, or death with dignity.

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Around the beginning of the year 2000, I got stuck taking a speech and debate class in high school. Taking an anxiety-prone, self-conscious teenager and telling them to stand in front of a class and give a speech? Recipe for disaster. Except I found when it was a topic I was passionate about, I could forget the nervousness and really get into it. The debates, especially. One of the first debates we held was about human euthanasia.

With how much it’s been in the news, I imagine most people know what it is. But for those that don’t: in 1997, the Death with Dignity Act passed in Oregon state. This act said that a terminally-ill person had the right to choose to end their own life with the use of a lethal dose of physician-prescribed medications. A similar act passed in California not all that long ago.

Kelley York's newest release

Kelley York’s newest release

Discussing this topic is hard. It’s emotional. Death itself is something many Americans have a difficult time discussing. We don’t acknowledge that there’s an epidemic of doctors who are so desperate to “do no harm” that they’ll seek more and more treatments long after treatment simply isn’t conducive to a happy life. They don’t know how to tell their patients, “I’m sorry, but at this point, there’s nothing we can do.” So much focus is put on terminal patients surviving that we aren’t stopping to think about whether they’re living. Quality of life is disregarded. Suffering is seen as a better option to suicide.

In my years since that speech and debate class, I’ve found myself arguing this topic with many people, in person and online. I’ve yet to see any argument against euthanasia that even begins to sway my opinion.

This should be a thing everywhere, accessible to everyone.

A number of years ago, my Grandpa was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s with dementia. I always thought that part of why he and my Grandma chose to live in Oregon was so they had that option of the DwDA should they need it, but a number of years ago, they moved back to California to be closer to their kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. We had many great years with him that I’m thankful for; not many people my age got to have such close bonds with their grandparents. It was common knowledge that Grandpa was terrified of falling ill. Or more accurately, of becoming a burden on those he loved, of having to wear diapers and be taken care of.

Watching Grandpa, who had always been the strong patriarch of the family, lose himself and forget who we were was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. He often thought I was an employee at his business. He packed up his things and set them on the curb. He helped decorate the house around his last Christmas, only to then no longer recognize the house as his and kept trying to leave. He grew agitated whenever my Grandma was absent, because even when he couldn’t remember who she was, he still knew he wanted her there, even at the very end. We watched him wither away into this shell of a man, and all I could think was, “Grandpa was terrified of this.”

My Grandpa passed away in April of 2016.

California’s End of Life Option Act didn’t go into effect until June of 2016.

So close and yet so far. I wonder if he would have taken the option, if it’d been presented to him. I wonder if it would have spared him whatever horrors a person with Alzheimer’s goes through in those months and years where they’re trapped in their own minds. Unfortunately, I’ll never know and neither will he.

Much is stripped from a person as they die: their energy, their dignity, strength, and time. And sometimes it’s for nothing more than a few extra months of being sick in bed. One of the kindest things anyone can do for a dying loved one is to truly listen to what they want and not just what they’re doing for the sake of their family. More importantly than that, to respect those decisions. To let them know when they’re tired, and when one more treatment that might buy them some time is presented, they don’t have to feel obligated to take it. It’s okay to hold their hand and say, “Whatever you want to do, I’m here for you.” If a person has tied up their lose ends and wants to have control of one last thing in their life, shouldn’t we grant them that choice?

Long story short: terminally ill people only have one outcome, but multiple roads to get there. We should respect them as loved ones, as human beings, to choose which road to take.

Meet Our Guest Blogger
kelleyyork
Kelley York and Rowan Altwood are a wife and wife writing team living in central California with their daughter and way too many cats. Kelley is the author of HushedMade of Stars, and Modern Monsters, and Other Breakable Things is Rowan’s debut.

About OTHER BREAKABLE THINGS

According to Japanese legend, folding a thousand paper cranes will grant you healing.

Evelyn Abel will fold two thousand if it will bring Luc back to her.

Luc Argent has always been intimately acquainted with death. After a car crash got him a second chance at life—via someone else’s transplanted heart—he tried to embrace it. He truly did. But he always knew death could be right around the corner again.

And now it is.

Sick of hospitals and tired of transplants, Luc is ready to let his failing heart give out, ready to give up. A road trip to Oregon—where death with dignity is legal—is his answer. But along for the ride is his best friend, Evelyn.

And she’s not giving up so easily.

A thousand miles, a handful of roadside attractions, and one life-altering kiss later, Evelyn’s fallen, and Luc’s heart is full. But is it enough to save him? Evelyn’s betting her heart, her life, that it can be.

Right down to the thousandth paper crane. (Entangled Teen, April 2017)

Social Justice and Mental Health: Accessibility to Treatment in YA Literature, a guest post by Alyssa Chrisman

Today we are honored to present to you a Mental Health in YA Literature guest post that looks at the accessibility to treatment in YA literature. You can read all the #MHYALit posts here or by clicking on the tag below.

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When I was 12-years-old, I went to therapy for the first time. Seventh grade is a notoriously tumultuous year, and although I hardly remember the sessions now, I believe they were helpful in a way I didn’t quite understand then. As I have aged, I have weaved in and out of multiple types of mental health treatment as needed. Even in moments where it seemed like recovery was not possible, books like Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story inspired me to speak up and ask for help. Now that I am an adult studying YAL, I have immense gratitude for the positive impact books like that had on my life and am an advocate for diverse YA books featuring mental health topics. As Teen Librarian Toolbox’s 2016 #MHYAL (Mental Health in Young Adult Literature) project illustrates, issues of mental health are prevalent in YAL, especially in recent publications. Most mental illnesses are represented somewhere within this body of texts, but one important aspect is often overlooked: teenage accessibility to affordable and quality care. I was, and am, lucky to have access to mental health treatment through affordable medication and quality therapists, yet that is not the case for many Americans. By considering the intersectionality of mental health and social justice in quality YAL texts, practitioners can help teens think critically about issues affecting their worlds.

Recently, I completed a thesis on representations of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in YAL. I found that most of the protagonists in these texts are privileged in some way. They often have supportive families (at least by the end of the novel) and appear to be in the middle-upper class. Because of these privileges, the protagonists of most of these novels are able to receive the medical care they need in the form of therapy, medication, and even hospitalization. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, the protagonists in these texts are also racially privileged through their whiteness. While mental illness affects people across all genders, races, ages, and class levels equally, a recent study showed that “young people in general aren’t likely to see mental health specialists. But the numbers fell further when racial and ethnic backgrounds were factored in. About 5.7 percent of white children and young adults were likely to see a mental health specialist in a given year, compared with about 2.3 percent for black or Hispanic young people” (Luthra). Young adults of oppressed racial and class backgrounds have multiple factors working against them when trying to receive adequate psychological care. They have issues that affect all minors, such as getting parental or adult support, but they also have to overcome systemic problems more likely to negatively affect them, such as a lack of quality health insurance coverage and a high cost of care. By only featuring characters who are white, are economically advantaged, and have a fair amount of parental support, YAL as a whole is not providing literature that accurately represents many teenagers’ lives and is missing out on a significant opportunity.

I believe that mental health representation in YAL is critical, and practitioners who work with young readers should make these texts accessible. However, I argue that practitioners, especially librarians and teachers, also have a responsibility to recognize aspects of privilege within the texts they suggest and to identify what may be lacking. Mental health representation is important, but a person is never just their mental illness. Intersectionality is realistic, and the protagonist’s race, sexuality, and class can affect them just as much as their mental illness or other disability. By looking at what types of identities are lacking in this YAL, we can construct our conversations with teenagers in more meaningful ways. Recognizing a lack of class issues in these novels can help teenagers understand social justice in the context of mental health. I recommend pairing two novels, both featuring protagonists with OCD, together to open up discussion of these issues: Matt de la Peña’s Ball Don’t Lie (2005) and Tamara Ireland Stone’s Every Last Word (2015). Warning: plot spoilers ahead!

balldontlieBall Don’t Lie is written in third-person and tells the story of Sticky, a white teenager in the foster system, who spends his days at school, playing basketball at the local community center, and with his girlfriend, An-thu. A diagnosis of OCD (nor a suspicion of its existence) is not mentioned at all in the novel itself. However, readers familiar with OCD can assume that Sticky’s repetitive actions, such as unplugging and replugging his headphones until it feels just right, would be interpreted as compulsions by a medical professional (de la Peña 231). Most importantly, “obsessive-compulsive disorder” is the second tag for the book, alleviating readers from the inappropriate job of having to diagnose Sticky by doing it for us. At the climax of the novel, Sticky’s compulsions result in him getting shot in the hand. He wants to get An-thu a piece of jewelry for her birthday, but he cannot afford it. Although he initially intends to steal it from the store, he decides to steal money from a person on the street instead. When he starts compulsively counting the four hundred dollars over and over, “he freezes. He can’t move. He hasn’t counted right. He hasn’t stacked the bills right. He hasn’t done anything the way it needs to be done, and his body won’t let him move on to the next step” (258).  He continues to count, and the person he robbed catches up to him and shoots him in the hand. He is hospitalized for his injury, but his compulsions go unnoticed and untreated. The reason for this is not explicitly stated, but an assumption could be made that Sticky’s lack of adequate adult support, as well as his lack of class privilege and impoverished community, contribute. Sticky has a happy ending when he physically recovers from the injury, but it is difficult not to imagine these compulsions continuing to affect him as he transitions to playing basketball for a university.

everylastwordSam, the protagonist of Every Last Word, tells her story in first person and has been diagnosed with OCD prior to the start of the novel. She takes medication and has a therapist, a prominent character in the book. From the beginning, it is evident that she also has support from her mother. In the prologue, Sam is cutting flowers with her friends when she starts to worry that she may cut one of her friends with the scissors, a type of obsession that is manifested in some people with OCD. She escapes to the kitchen where her mother helps her work through the obsession, all while keeping what is happening private from Sam’s friends. Once Sam has calmed down, her mom assures her that she loves her and says, “Whatever you’re thinking, it’s okay. It doesn’t mean anything about you. Got it? Now tell me.” Sam thinks, “The two of us have been here before. It hasn’t happened in a long time, not like this, but Mom slips right into her assigned role as if it’s second nature. She’s well trained” (7). Sam’s mom then leads Sam through exposure therapy by having her hold a pair of scissors. In the author’s note, Stone reveals: “While there are hints in the text itself, it is important to me that readers understand that prior to this scene, (1) Sue [Sam’s therapist] has led Sam through exposure therapy sessions in her office, (2) Sue has formally trained Sam’s mother, so she can provide the 24/7 support Sam might require, and (3) Sue and Sam’s mother operate as a team and are in constant communication about managing Sam’s disorder” (357). Interestingly, Sam’s family appears very little throughout the rest of the novel (although her therapist plays a larger role). However, this interaction between Sam and her mom in the prologue, as well as the additional information provided in the author’s note, shows that Sam’s mom is positioned as a character who loves Sam and gives her the tools and experiences she needs to recover safely. This type of support system between parent and therapist is ideal for a young adult working through the struggles of OCD. Sam is privileged in that she has accessibility to quality care in multiple aspects of her life, which greatly contributes to her recovery.

These two protagonists lead very different lives. Sam has the support of her mother, while Sticky has lived in several foster homes and currently lives with a family who sees him simply as a means of gaining income. Throughout the novel, Sam’s therapist supports her, but Sticky does not receive help—in fact, he is never even diagnosed with OCD. This lack of care is particularly frustrating for readers who hope that he will get help when he is hospitalized for his injuries, but his mental illness is overlooked, potentially a result of his class status. Very few YA novels about mental health discuss issues of class, and even fewer include protagonists from diverse races. As a person who has personally benefited from multiple types of treatment at various stages of my life—and as a person who simply cares about the well being of teenagers— I believe that all people suffering from mental illness should have such an opportunity for recovery. Looking at Ball Don’t Lie and Every Last Word together can help teenagers better understand how social justice issues impact teenagers with mental illness and hopefully even inspire youth-led campaigns and activism for the cause.

What do you think? Are there any other books you would recommend pairing together? Is there an exemplar YA novel that illustrates how class, race, etc. can affect mental health treatment? Leave a comment below!

Works Cited

De la Peña, Matt. Ball Don’t Lie. Ember, 2005.

Luthra, Shefali. “Race, Ethnicity Affect Kids’ Access to Mental Health Care, Study Finds.” Kaiser Health News, 12 Aug. 2016, http://khn.org/news/race-ethnicity-affect- kids-access-to-mental-health-care-study/

Stone, Tamara Ireland. Every Last Word. Hyperion, 2015.

Meet Our Guest Blogger

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Alyssa Chrisman is a 26-year-old living in Columbus, OH. A former secondary English teacher in Memphis, she just received a M.A. in Teaching and Learning from the Ohio State University and is about to start their Ph.D. program in Literature for Children and Young Adults. When she is not doing schoolwork, she is probably spending time with her fiancé and three dogs. Sometimes she updates her Twitter and blog: @radwarriorgirl/(http://www.radwarriorgirl.com).

About the Books

Ball Don’t Lie by Matt da le Pena

Newbery Award-winning author Matt de la Pena’s Ball Don’t Lie about basketball “is a must-read.” [The Bulletin]

Sticky is a beat-around-the-head foster kid with nowhere to call home but the street, and an outer shell so tough that no one will take him in. He started out life so far behind the pack that the finish line seems nearly unreachable. He’s a white boy living and playing in a world where he doesn’t seem to belong.
But Sticky can ball. And basketball might just be his ticket out . . . if he can only realize that he doesn’t have to be the person everyone else expects him to be.
Matt de la Peña’s breakout urban masterpiece, Ball Don’t Lie takes place where the street and the court meet and where a boy can be anything if he puts his mind to it.

[STAR] “[An] inspiring story. Sticky is a true original, and de la Peña has skillfully brought him to life.”-School Library Journal, Starred

Riveting…Teens will be strongly affected by the unforgettable, distinctly male voice; the thrilling, unusually detailed basketball action; and the questions about race, love, self-worth, and what it means to build a life without advantages.”-Booklist

Stunningly realistic, this book will hook older readers, especially urban teen males.”-VOYA

“The characters live and breath…This is a must-read.“-The Bulletin

“De la Peña does an excellent job of combining the streets with the sport. Gritty and mesmerizing.“-Kirkus Reviews

“I have never before seen blacktop ball depicted so well. In this novel, you will find its flash, its power, and its elegance without chains. This is powerful stuff.”-Antawn Jamison, forward for the Los Angeles Clippers

From the very first sentence, this book grabbed me and didn’t let go. The deeper I got into it, the more I felt like Sticky’s story was my story. His heart, his handle, the guys in the gym, his potential pitfalls, his dreams. All of it. In a weird sense, this is my life.”-Grayson Boucher (“The Professor”) of tha AND 1 Mix Tape Tour

“Truly authentic in its examination of both the game I love and the invariable missteps toward manhood. You cannot fail to be moved by the eloquence and truth of this story.“-Rick Fox, former forward for the Los Angeles Lakers

An ALA Best Book for Young Adults

An ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers

(Ember, 2005)

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

If you could read my mind, you wouldn’t be smiling.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off.

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear. (Disney Hyperion, 2015)

#SJYALit: Author Victoria Scott Talks About Social Justice and YA Lit

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Today author Victoria Scott joins us to talk about social justice and YA literature, sharing some of her favorite titles. Her newest YA book, Violet Grenade, was released out into the world yesterday.

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Google defines social justice as “Justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.” Social justice, or a lack thereof, is exactly what lands my main character, Domino, in a precarious situation. She comes from a broken home in the worst sense, and is forced to live on the streets in order to avoid further abuse. So when Madam Karina comes along, offering a shady opportunity, she is left with little choice but to accept.

In my last young adult novel, Titans, I explored class structure within a society, and with Violet Grenade, I’m delving into the dynamic of a dysfunctional home life, and how it affects a young mind. In order to write this story, I’ve pulled great inspiration from several books that tackle social justice beautifully. Among them, these are my favorites:

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Tyrell by Coe Booth

Booth captures this raw, heartfelt story with an expert hand. One of the most phenomenal reads available to young adults (and the not-so-young adults)!

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The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

I read this in middle school, and was extraordinarily impacted by the courage, humanity, and horror, found in this story.

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The most memorable, well-written nonfiction novel I’ve ever read. If there were a theme song for social justice in the form of a book, this would be it.

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

I’m re-reading this one now! It’s such a powerful story surrounding sexism. They’ve made this into a show on Hulu, and I’m dying to start watching it as soon as I finish the book.

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House of Purple Cedar by Tim Tingle

This is an incredible novel about the Choctaw people of pre-statehood Oklahoma. If you haven’t read any of Tim Tingle’s work, this is the place to start. I get chills just thinking about this book.

Meet Author Victoria Scott

Victoria Scott is the acclaimed author of eight books for young adults. Her novels are sold in fourteen different countries, and she loves receiving fan mail from across the world. Victoria loves high fashion, big cities, and pink cotton candy. You can find her online at VictoriaScott.com.

About VIOLET GRENADE

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DOMINO: A runaway with blood on her hands.

CAIN: A silent boy about to explode.

MADAM KARINA: A woman who demands obedience.

WILSON: The one who will destroy them all.

When Madam Karina discovers Domino in an alleyway, she offers her a position inside her home for entertainers in secluded West Texas. Left with few alternatives and an agenda of her own, Domino accepts. It isn’t long before she is fighting her way up the ranks to gain the madam’s approval. But after suffering weeks of bullying and unearthing the madam’s secrets, Domino decides to leave. It’ll be harder than she thinks, though, because the madam doesn’t like to lose inventory. But then, Madam Karina doesn’t know about the person living inside Domino’s mind.

Madam Karina doesn’t know about Wilson. (Entangled Teen, May 2017)

Resources: #SVYALit and #MHYALit – Teens and Suicide, Teens and Sexual Violence Brochures

Due in part to the discussions I have been having surrounding the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, I made an informational brochure on the topics of suicide and sexual violence for the teens at my library. I am posting them here for you and you can use them if you would like. A few notes though.

One, these contain titles that I currently have in my library on the subjects. I have been working on my next book order and I am working to make sure to include highly recommended titles and titles that feature diverse MC or are Own Voices on these subjects in my next book order.

Two, I think you can easily make corrections or additions by downloading book covers you have in your collection and overlaying them in a graphics program if you wish.

Three, we checked multiple times because I’m me for typos, so I hope there aren’t any.

I am also working on one to address the current drug/opioid crisis that we are witnessing nationwide and in the county that I serve, but that one is taking a little more time. I could quickly pull information off of TLT to make these two given some of our past projects, but I am just mow starting to really dive into the facts and figures of the opioid crisis.

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real talk sexual violence brochure page 2

real talk sucide brochure page 1

real talk suicide brochure page 2

 

#SJYALit: The Lunar Chronicles as a Reflection of Current U.S. Political Climate, a guest post by Emily Keyes

Today as part of our Social Justice in YA Lit series, Emily Keyes discusses authoritarianism, othering, and The Lunar Chronicles.

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When I first started brainstorming this blog post, I planned to recommend a number of dystopian Young Adult novels whose plots exhibited the issues of authoritarian governments, racism, sexism, and other-ing in believable ways, in order to help teens better understand the current political climate and stay motivated to resist. I started what I thought would be a month-long reading binge of different series, from Divergent to Pretties to Unwound, but upon finishing each book, I kept coming back to what I feel is, to date, the best dystopian series, YA or otherwise, that I have ever read: Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles.

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Precisely what makes Meyer’s series so fantastic is that at the current moment, none of the things in her books seem remotely unbelievable. Both Lunar Chronicles’ world has: an authoritarian government, racism, sexism, classism, and economic crisis, all issues we are currently dealing with in the US.

When I began reading Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, it was right when the US election was in full swing, and the characters, plot, and general state of the world built by Meyer’s imagination so closely mirrored my own that at times, it was a little spooky. What follows is a brief summary of the ways that Meyers represents authoritarian governments, racism, and other-ing, and how these representations can inform and inspire readers to fight against these injustices.

The character of Queen Levana Blackburn, the villain of the series, and, in my opinion, one of the most vividly crafted authoritarian leaders I’ve ever read, helped me better understand the motivations behind many of the political actions Donald Trump has made before and since entering the presidential office. Both Levana and Donald Trump have two main motivations: power and adoration.

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Trump and Levana have a deep-seated need to be loved by their people, and are unwilling to admit that anyone would be unhappy under their rule. When faced with evidence of citizens’ discontent, however, they are both so shocked that they either deny it or let the distress of such a realisation begin to crumble their composure. Just look at how upset Trump was after the Women’s March. If we can continue to show our discontent through marches, protests, calls to legislature, we can affect distress such that our very own American Queen Levana starts to falter, and perhaps America’s Linh Cinder can step in.

The issues of racism and other-ing Meyers builds into the Lunar Chronicles world also mirror those same issues in the US. Earthen society differentiates between humans, androids and cyborgs. Only the former is considered normal and worthy of anything approaching respectful treatment and rights.

Androids are programed to be ‘useful’ above all else, making them naturally subservient to humans such that they often spend their lives as servants, prostitutes, or escorts. The main android in the series, Iko, has a glitch in her programming that gives her a vivacious personality and a kind heart, but she is still often treated, by both her friends and outsiders, as though she were somehow separate, made only to serve those around her.

Like androids, cyborgs in Earth’s Eastern Commonwealth also have no free will and are owned like property The series’ main character, Linh Cinder, experiences substantial prejudice because she is a cyborg. She is at risk of being drafted for plague cure testing, at the end of which she would be killed, her foot is taken away by her owner, and both doctors and friends handle her control panel without her permission. The treatment of both Iko and Cinder’s characters at various points in the series reminded me of the way women are often treated in society, as though we are objects undeserving of rights and capable of being owned or touched without our permission.

Lunars, those from the moon colony but residing on Earth, are perhaps the group receiving the most prejudice and injustice. Lunars cannot reveal their origin on Earth lest they risk being arrested and sent back to their colony to face no end of unimaginable punishments at the hands of Queen Levana. This reminded me of the current battle many immigrants, especially those from Latin America, face with US immigration forces attempting to deport innocent residents without cause.

The Lunar Chronicles’ depiction of the unequal treatment of beings resulting from differences in their gender, genetic makeup and origin perfectly mirrors the continuing issues with sexism, racism and other-ing in the US. Though there is no Happily Ever After at the end of the series, and no clean and tidy resolution of the issues relating to Iko and Cinder’s rights, the series’ end reminded me, and I hope it will remind other YA readers, that sexism, racism and other-ing cannot be defeated in day, but instead requires working together and making a continuous commitment to reversing the opinions, legislature and societal structure that supports inequality and the subjugation of certain groups of people.

Meet Our Guest Blogger

Emily Keyes is an avid reader of YA fiction finishing her Masters of Science in Digital Library Management at the University of Sheffield in Sheffield, England. Originally from Maryland, she hopes to work as a Special Collections Librarian for part of her career, using her previous degree in Medieval Studies to preserve and organise medieval manuscripts. She then hopes to work as a School Media Specialist in international schools. As an early-career librarian, she’s always looking for advice and recommendations about jobs, publications, and good books, and you can find her on Twitter @eckeyes.