A Children's author and Her Son Share Their Favorite Middle Grade Fantasy Fiction that Features Children of Color
My oldest is a voracious reader and consumer of content, so if it looks vaguely interesting, she reads it from cover to cover no matter how many pages are in between. My youngest is a different story. He was a much more reluctant reader, but just like his phase of eating only blueberries and soy milk (yes, that was a thing) now that he has realized how much he likes fantasy adventures, he won’t read anything but. With a few highly notable exceptions, fantasy has been overwhelmingly focused on white characters. That is slowly beginning to change in the young adult market with the success of books like Shadow Shaper, Akata Witch, The Belles, Children of Blood and Bone, and more, but my son is still very much against the YA aspects of those stories, so the middle-grade market is where we focus our searches.
The following is a list of modern titles that both my son and I have enjoyed. It is not an exhaustive list, but it is a good place to start if you like fantasy adventures and want to make sure that the main characters in those stories reflect the diversity of the world we live in. Note: Titles with an asterisk (*) are almost, but not quite YA.
Fantasy fiction has always been about more than cool abilities and alternate universes. Whether the heroes are seemingly regular kids, mermaids, cyborgs, witches or what-have-you, the stories are often propelled by issues of power and justice, and they often empower readers to expect and imagine possibilities that upend conventions. But why then does a genre known for upending conventions still insist on making the vast majority of its heroes and main characters white? Whether we’re talking Harry Potter or Frozen, the lack of inclusion (and not just racial) in a form often structured as a challenge to a fictionalized status quo is striking.
Watch the conversation Andrew and Melissa of EmbraceRace have with Marti Dumas and Zetta Elliott, two fantastic children’s book authors, about how inclusive fantasy fiction empowers all young readers. They argue that magic is ultimately about power, that ALL children need to know that they can make--and unmake--worlds, both real and imagined. Marti and Zetta also read from their books, suggest inclusive fantasy fiction titles for the kids in your life, and take EmbraceRace community questions. Watch the video or read on for a lightly edited transcript.