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What is CliFi? An Earth Day Primer

So I’m flipping through my February 2014 issue of VOYA Magazine and I see a head-shot of author Mindy McGinnis – what is she doing there I wonder? Her book, Not a Drop to Drink (I’m a fan), is mentioned as being an example of CliFi. Wait – what is this CliFi thing?

You know how we’re always making those displays of climate change induced dystopian fiction for Earth Day? Yeah that, it turns out, is CliFi. Climate Fiction.

According to the VOYA article written by Rebecca Hill, the term CliFi was popularized by Dan Bloom. CliFi is fiction that deals with climate change.

I had never heard this term, but it is perfect.

Last year, Christie put together THIS list of climate change dystopias. Turns out, they are CliFi.

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.

And here are 5 2014 CliFi books out now or later this year:

Endangerd and Threatened by Eliot Schrefer

Publisher’s Description: “As he did in his acclaimed novel Endangered, a finalist for the National Book Award, Eliot Schrefer takes us somewhere fiction rarely goes, introducing us to characters we rarely get to meet. The unforgettable result is the story of a boy fleeing his present, a man fleeing his past, and a trio of chimpanzees who are struggling not to flee at all.” See entire description at Goodreads. Published February 25, 2014 by Scholastic Press. ISBN: 9780545551434.

I have read Endangered and it was really very good. 

Sunrise, the final book in the Ashfall series by Mike Mullin

Publisher’s Description: “This epic finale has the heart of Ashfall, the action of Ashen Winter, and a depth all its own, examining questions of responsibility and bravery, civilization and society, illuminated by the story of an unshakable love that transcends a post-apocalyptic world and even life itself.” See entire description at Goodreads. Coming April 15, 2014 from Tanglewood Press. ISBN: 9781939100016.

 This is a really good series and I am looking forward to reading the conclusion.

Pills and Starships by Lydia Millet

Publisher’s Description: “In this richly imagined dystopic future brought by global warming, seventeen-year-old Nat and her hacker brother Sam have come by ship to the Big Island of Hawaii for their parents’ Final Week. The few Americans who still live well also live long—so long that older adults bow out not by natural means but by buying death contracts from the corporates who now run the disintegrating society by keeping the people happy through a constant diet of “pharma.” See entire description at Goodreads Coming June 2014 from Black Sheep. ISBN: 9781617752766.

Survival ColonyNine by Joshua David Bellin

Publisher’s Description: “In a future world of dust and ruin, fourteen-year-old Querry Genn struggles to recover the lost memory that might save the human race.

Querry is a member of Survival Colony Nine, one of the small, roving groups of people who outlived the wars and environmental catastrophes that destroyed the old world. The commander of Survival Colony Nine is his father, Laman Genn, who runs the camp with an iron will. He has to–because heat, dust, and starvation aren’t the only threats in this ruined world.” See the entire description at Goodreads. Coming in September 2014 from Margaret K. McElderry Books. ISBN: 9781481403542.

Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis
In a world where water is scarce, what would you do to protect what little water you have?

Publisher’s Description: “In this companion to Not a Drop to Drink, Mindy McGinnis thrillingly combines the heart-swelling hope of a journey, the challenges of establishing your own place in the world, and the gripping physical danger of nature in a futuristic frontier.” See entire description at Goodreads. Coming in September from Katherine Tegen Books. ISBN: 9780062198532.

Be sure to check out the VOYA Magazine article for further discussion of this emerging genre, some additional titles, and some nonfiction titles that may also be of interest. Hill, Rebecca. “Weathering the Change: CliFi Settles in for the Duration”. VOYA Magazine, February 2014, pages 44 and 45.

Dan Bloom, who coined the term CliFi, can be found on Twitter @polarcityman. There is also a CliFi hashtag (#CliFi). You can also follow @CliFiBooks, though these are not specifically YA books or visit their webpage at www.clifibooks.com. Cli-Fi Books explores climate change themes found in novels, prose, short stories, and other fiction. Earth Day is April 22, 2014.
Please share your favorite CliFi books with us in the comments.

Book Review: Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

The Congo is a dangerous place, even for those that are trying to do good.

I learned about Endangered by Eliot Schrefer on Saturday at the Austin Teen Book Festival (it’s good, you should go).  He was part of a panel of authors talking about thrillers, which Endangered definitely is.  But it is also a story with tremendous heart.

Sophie visits her mother every summer at the Bonoba sanctuary.  Here, her mother’s dedicated her life to rescuing Bonobos, a type of monkey/ape that is remarkably similar to humans in its DNA.  When Sophie sees a street peddler trying to sell a clearly abused Bonobo, she knows that she must rescue it.  She soon finds herself playing surrogate mother to Otto.  The first part of Endangered tells the story of how Sophie and Otto bond as she slowly nurtures him from the brink of death.  However, soon the barely surviving country of Congo breaks out into a full blown revolution and everyone’s life is at risk as the quest to survive becomes full throttle.

There are several main characters in this book, but one of the most interesting is the Congo itself.  Part of the power and glory of well written literature is that it can help those of us who never step outside of US borders examine life in other countries:

” . . . I began to hate the Democratic Republic of Congo.  For starters, it majorly failed to live up to is name.  It was, in fact, the least democratic place on Earth.  For fifty years the country had been headed by dictators and warlords, guys who led the country into civil wars and then barricaded themselves into their estates while they waited for dinner to be flown in from Europe” (p. 28).

Life in the Congo, the absolute danger and uncertainty of it, is depicted with a stark and chilling realism: Schefer stresses time and time again that wherever you are when the sun goes down, you find a place to go inside and lock the doors until the sun goes up.

“I had to cancel my eighth birthday party because of le pillage, and spent it on the floor of my bedroom with Mom and Dad, our lights out so as not to attract attention, singing ‘Happy Birthday” in hushed voices, the birthday candles the only illumination in the room.  Not that I’m complaining about a ruined birthday party – I was lucky to be fed and alive.  The ruling forces of Congo had been fighting wars for years.” – p. 29

In contrast, we see this beautiful relationship emerging between Sophie and Otto; they lay in the grass and feel the warmth of the sun on their skin, they play their own version of Scrabble, they truly bond.

“I had no idea where to go next, and had equally no idea whether anyone had managed to follow me.  I spent the afternoon in the same spot, alert to every noise, every possible threat.  Staying still felt as exhausting as moving.” – p. 91

Sophie herself is an interesting character.  She grew up for parts of her life in the Congo, but since her parents divorce she lives with her obviously loving and nurturing father and visits her sometimes distracted but dedicated mother in the Congo.  Sophie literally lives with her feet in two different worlds and there area variety of intense emotions and keen insight that come from this life.  In the chapters that follow, fleeing and trying to survive, Sophie demonstrates a strength and resolve that is laudable.

“Avoid everyone” – p. 178

Endangered is intense but grounded in a very stark reality.  The truth is, there are people living lives like this in this very moment and Schrefer gives a thrilling, realistic but compassionate look into a world all too real.  Our teens will probably never have to survive the Hunger Games, but there are teens trying to survive country revolutions right this very moment.  The power of great fiction is too teach us things and make us think while simultaneously entertaining us and without a doubt, Endangered has its edge of your seat thriller moments.  But like I said, it also has heart.

“Revolution.  A momentous new word for all of this.” – p. 140

Endangered is a must read, informative (politics, Bonobo facts, life outside the U.S), thrilling and full of characters you care about.  Pair it with The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (another look at primate life) for a great animal unit with insight into love, family, and the value of life.  4 out of 5 stars (I sometimes found the sentence structure and voice stilting, but not enough to diminish the impact of the story.)  This is a good, old fashioned adventure story.  There will be tears people.  There will be nailbiting.  There will be gasps.

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer is released October 2nd, 2012 by Scholastic. ISBN: 978-0-545-16576-1.  BBC Bonobo facts. The World Factbook information on the Democratic Replubic of Congo.