Episode 40: Exploring the Dark Fantastic with Ebony Thomas

This week we welcome Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, author of the new book The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games. She counters the deficit-framed language describing an achievement gap among youth of color by asserting that there is a corresponding, long-standing imagination gap – that lack of representation in children’s literature and media has left them unable to imagine themselves as the center of the story, in fantasy or in life. Progress is being made in media diversity and inclusion, yet Thomas argues, we’re not keeping pace in terms of priming the audience to accept these shifts. The internet is allowing children to connect with like-minded readers outside of their immediate community “bubbles,” participate in fan fiction and expand their interpretation of what they read. But do they have the resources they need to be able to read the world differently? What are the negative effects of such limited representations? Where will alternative fantasies come from? Thomas discussed here the debates that have sprung up around Black Panther and recent projects to bring alternative perspectives to historical narratives, concluding that it’s still imperative to create a dream space with and for minority youth

Here are some of the things mentioned in this episode, for those who want to dig a little deeper:

Pew internet surveys of teens’ digital behavior

Debbie Reese and American Indians in Children’s Literature

Ebony’s essay, “The pleasures of dreaming: How Lucy Maud Montgomery shaped my lifeworlds.” can be found in A Narrative Compass: Stories That Guide Women’s Lives

Follow Ebony on Twitter

Fan Fiction resources:
Harry Potter for Grown Ups Yahoo group
Harry Potter on Adult-FanFiction.org
Join the Kindred Spirits listserv

YA and Fantasy Reading List:
Tomi Adeyemi: Children of Blood and Bone
Octavia Butler: Kindred, Xenogenesis Series (now published as Lilith’s Brood), Parable of the Sower/Parable of the Talents
N.K. Jemisin
Virginia Hamilton: The House of Dies Drear, The People Could Fly
Alaya Dawn Johnson: The Summer Prince

And for a realist contrast, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Henry’s pick – the graphic novel Bayou by Jeremy Love (vols. 1 & 2)

For more on Afrofuturism, listen to our Black Panther episodes

For a different discussion of developing a “white lens,” listen to our conversation with NPR’s Eric Deggans

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