Welcome to the Tea Party: My Fantasy Guest List

A while back, michellecole at the Tipsy Geekette wrote about her ultimate tea party invite list; that is, if she could invite any person to a tea party, who would it be?

It got me thinking about who I would invite to such a party. My list is a bit more modest than hers—I make no claims to “the most amazing tea party in the history of tea parties”—but I think that it could at least be a good time for all involved. So here is who I would invite to a time-travelling tea party that includes folks from the last 200 years:

The first person to pop into my head was the lovely and talented Audrey Hepburn.

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A dancer during World War II, she smuggled intelligence across Nazi lines for the French Resistance, and then went on to have an impressive career in film. She could sing, dance, and act, and she was an amazing humanitarian; I’m pretty sure she could keep the conversation going.

 

Then I thought I’d love to sit down to tea with Jane Austen.

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She was the author of some of my favourite books (I adore Persuasion), and her wit and cutting remarks would surely liven things up!

 

Next on my list is James Baldwin.
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I recently finished reading Go Tell It on the Mountain, and loved it!

 

I would absolutely love the chance to spend some time with Janelle Monae; her music inspires me. And have you seen the music video for Electric Lady? I couldn’t stop watching it when it dropped! ♥

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With a loving heart and quirky sense of humour, she would get along with the other attendees and bring her own special spin to things.

 

One of my favourite authors growing up was Tamora Pierce. I loved her complex female heroes, her casual inclusion of LGBTQ characters, and the rich, varied fantasy settings.

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 I’m sure she would bring compelling conversation and a welcoming, supportive air to the party.

 

My other favourite childhood author was Sir Terry Pratchett. Upon graduating to the grown-up books, I picked out his The Light Fantastic based on cover art alone, and I’ve never regretted it.

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With his quirky, fun sense of humour, Sir Terry would surely keep us all laughing, and his casual badassery would be a great conversation starter. (How many other authors—or knights, for that matter—have crafted themselves a sword out of a meteorite?)

 

And, last but certainly not least, I would love to invite President Barack Obama.

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I feel like he would be a great, down-to-earth addition, who could talk politics and also kick back and discuss literature and family.

 

Bonus: here‘s the video for Electric Lady; watch it. Seriously, do it.

If you could invite anyone to a tea party, who would it be?

Malinda Lo’s List of LGBTQ2-Inclusive YA for 2013

It’s often been hard to find YA science fiction and fantasy with LGBT characters, but this year there’s been something of an explosion of SF/F with LGBT characters. By “explosion” I mean I’ve found 10 novels of SF/F with LGBT main characters published by mainstream publishers. I haven’t been keeping track of SF/F LGBT YA over the years, but it seems to me that this is definitely an increase.

— Malinda Lo
“LGBT Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy in 2013”

Among them is her own recent release, Inheritance, and it looks great!

You can find her full post here: go there for the list and links to the authors. I’m gonna check out these reads, and I encourage you to do the same; let the publishers know we’d like to see more of the same!

Review: The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano

Last year, a friend of mine won two passes to go to the Pacific NW Bookseller’s Association Fall Tradeshow and decided to take me along. We got to attend many great panels, and got to go to the author’s dinner, where we got to ask questions of published authors and take away autographed copies of one of their books.

One of the best parts, though, was the tradeshow itself. My friend and I both collected large bags of recently published and soon-to-be published books, and I am just now getting around to working through them.

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One of the books I got was The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano.

Wow.

This book tells the story of a young woman, Rosa Maria Evelyn del Carmen Serrano, living in a Puerto Rican neighbourhood in New York. She makes everyone call her Evelyn because it is the Whitest-sounding of her names. The story is about learning to love her family and growing in her understanding of the world as the Young Lords tried to improve the neighbourhood in 1969.

A really amazing thing about the book is the history that it tells. The Young Lords were a gang in Chicago that turned into a Puerto Rican rights organisation in the late 1960s. They fought gentrification in Chicago, sought social uplift for poor Puerto Ricans living in the US, and advocated for an independent Puerto Rico. The media has largely re-imagined them — like the Black Panther Party before them — into a dangerous group of hoodlums, but they wanted to create change and bring justice to their communities.

Though they are an important piece of the book, Revolution isn’t really about the Young Lords; it’s mostly the tale of Evelyn, her mother, and her grandmother learning to be a family as the neighbourhood changes around them.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The Spanish sprinkled throughout the text lends realism to the conversations and characters. There is humour aplenty, but it also is sombre in some parts. Most of all, it is real in the way that some things are: though I did not grow up a poor young woman in a Puerto Rican neighbourhood in the 1960s, I have lived in poverty. I have heard poetry that seemed to be about me, and told me something true about the world and how I move in it. I have been in moments of social justice community where everything seems to be on the verge of change, and you’re riding high on the shared feeling of possibility around you.

This is a fictionalised version of events, but that doesn’t stop it being true in the most important ways.

Diversity in YA Science Fiction and Fantasy

My parents took great pains to instil in me a love of reading from an early age. By the 3rd grade I was picking out books for myself, and I went straight for the fantasy section. I read a lot of the classics: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, The Black Cauldron, and more.

I soon found my way into the adult section, devouring Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Mercedes Lackey, and Robert Jordan. Still, I continued to read young adult fantasy; something about characters my age going through pimples and dating and dragon-slaying spoke to me. There was a sense of connection, but even then I was aware of something that’s still true to this day: none of the protagonists were like me.

My favourite young adult author to this day is Tamora Pierce. I have faithfully read every book she has published since I stumbled across the Song of the Lioness quartet at age 10. I love each new one, and I have both physical and ebook versions of all of her books.

Despite my great love for her, I noticed on a re-read of all of her books (not kidding—I’m a huge fan) that her early works contained very few characters of colour—and those that were there were simplistic, and often stereotypical. There’s a whole book that deals with a very idealistic and well-intentioned critique of an analogue for Arabic tribal cultures, and it comes off as imperialistic and judgemental.

Her portrayal of characters of colour has improved leaps and bounds since that first series, but her main protagonists are still primarily straight White girls. They have red hair, wavy or straight. They have pale skin and freckles. They have light coloured eyes. I have none of these things. (Well, maybe the freckles, if you look very closely.) Her protagonists don’t look at all like me.

Of all of the books she’s put out—28 novels in two worlds, plus a collection of short stories—I have counted perhaps 4 LGBTQ2 characters. Only one has been a main protagonist.

There are young adult books that feature protagonists of colour, and LGBTQ2 protagonists, but most of them haven’t been in the science fiction and fantasy genre(s); not until pretty recently has there been a surge in fantasy that features people of colour as the main characters, and there still isn’t much in the way of gender and sexual minorities in young adult sci-fi and fantasy. The problem with this is that a message, however unintentional, gets sent to young adults and children—there is no place for them in the imaginary worlds of fantasy lands, and there is especially no place for them in the future worlds of science fiction.

This seems silly to me—in a world where there are goblins and dragons and spidrens, how can you tell me there are no black or brown people, no gay people, no trans people? When we exclude these people from our imaginary worlds, what we are really saying is that the perfect worlds we imagine—the future worlds, the fantastic past worlds—can only exist through the absence of brownness and queerness.

However, including LGBTQ2 characters and characters of colour says something quite different. Inclusion of these characters is part of how we realise those better worlds. We are currently living in a world that excludes, but inclusion teaches us that every human being has worth, and that we can—and should—work together to achieve what we imagine.

We’ve come a ways, but we still have a ways to go yet. I write YA fantasy fiction with diverse characters because these young people are more vulnerable, and they need someone to tell them, Yes, you belong here, too.