Fantastic worlds : Black feminist aesthetics in young adult fiction




Taylor, Charlotte Terese

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This project examines how the young adult (YA) fantasy genre is used by Black female authors as both a response to the current sociopolitical climate and as a way to (re)imagine power and survival for Black girls. It looks toward three YA fantasy novels– L.L. McKinney’s A Blade So Black, Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation, and Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone–all written by Black women and published in 2018 in order to examine how the protagonists of each mobilize resources as a way to gain power and survive. Each of the young Black female protagonists utilize resources that center undervalued sources of knowledge such as emotion, magic, myth, and the body. I refer to these sources as “Black feminist aesthetics.” This project examines how Black feminist aesthetics are integral to the protagonists attainment of power and their survival. It also examines how Black feminist aesthetics allow the protagonists to embrace alternative identities, roles, and relations than those typically offered young Black girls. A purpose of this project is to highlight that the stakes for Black girls seeing themselves in the literature they read are much higher than just representation. For young Black girls living in a world in which their bodies are vulnerable, and their lives are devalued, how Black girls show up in literature becomes important for how Black girls are treated in the world. Moreover, the existence of Black female characters who make and take power in imaginative ways while living within worlds that are violent toward them, offers readers the freedom to also imagine alternative, creative, and subversive ways to live within their own worlds. Afrofuturism and Black feminism provide the framework for such imaginings. The confluence of the two, Afrofuturist feminism, demonstrates how essential it is to center Black feminist thought in the imagining of transgressive, prosperous, and equitable Black futures.


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