Ebony Elizabeth Thomas is an associate professor of Literacy, Culture, and International Education Division, and author of the book The Dark Fantastic.
Katniss Everdeen is the protagonist in “The Hunger Games” who must save the world with her bow and arrow. Young Rue is an innocent murder victim in the story. And even if you haven’t read the books, you can probably guess which character is white and which is Black. University of Pennsylvania associate professor Ebony Elizabeth Thomas joins host Krys Boyd to talk about how the lack of diversity in children’s books reflects a lack of imagination. Her book “The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games” is newly out in paperback.
Ebony Elizabeth Thomas has written a beautiful, captivating, and thoughtful book about the idea of our imaginations, especially our cultural imaginations, and the images and concepts that we all consume, especially as young readers and audience members. The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games (NYU Press, 2019) dives into the question of, as Thomas explains, “why magical stories are written for some people and not for others.” Thomas explores the narratives of magical and fantastical stories, especially ones that currently dominate our Anglo-American cultural landscape, and discerns a kind of “imagination gap” in so many of these literary and visual artifacts. The Dark Fantastic provides a framework to consider this imagination gap, by braiding together scholarship from across a variety of disciplines to think about this space within literature and visual popular culture. Thomas theorizes a tool to examine many of these narratives, the cycle through which to contextualize the Dark Other within these fantastical narratives, noting that the Dark Other is the “engine that drives the fantastic.”The Dark Fantastic spends time analyzing and interrogating a variety of televisual and cinematic artifacts, noting how the Dark Other cycle operates in each of these narratives. In exploring these narratives, and considering who the protagonist is in so many cultural artifacts, the imagination gap becomes not only obvious but quite distinct. Thomas is concerned about this gap, because of the implication it has for readers and for film and television viewers—not only in regard to representation, but also in terms of learning how to imagine, how to dream, how to think conceptually, and how to center one’s self within these fictional spaces and created worlds.Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-editor of the award winning book, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012), as well as co-editor of Mad Men and Politics: Nostalgia and the Remaking of Modern America (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015).  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Today's guest is Dr. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas (@ebonyteach) author of the new book The Dark Fantastic: Race and The Imagination From Harry Potter To The Hunger Games (@NYUpress).   The Dark Fantastic is an engaging and provocative exploration of race in popular youth and young adult speculative fiction. Grounded in her experiences as YA novelist, fanfiction writer, and scholar of education, Thomas considers four black girl protagonists from some of the most popular stories of the early 21st century: Bonnie Bennett from the CW’s The Vampire Diaries, Rue from Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, Gwen from the BBC’s Merlin, and Angelina Johnson from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Analyzing their narratives and audience reactions to them reveals how these characters mirror the violence against black and brown people in our own world.   During our conversation, we discuss current Black fantasy authors, the need for more representation by Black authors in fantasy and science fiction, the inspiration for the book and much more. This episode is a crossover episode with my other podcast, Talking About Books For Kids. Listen to both podcasts on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Google Play. Author bio: Ebony Elizabeth Thomas is Associate Professor in the Literacy, Culture, and International Educational Division at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. A former Detroit Public Schools teacher and National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, she is an expert on diversity in children’s literature, youth media, and fan studies. Books & Authors discussed during this episode: Children of Blood and Bone by Toni Adeyemi Dread Nation by Justina Ireland A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson Tristan Strong Punches A Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James Other references: Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw : Discussion about intersectionality and race: Dr. Debbie Reese: American Indians in Children's Literature To learn more about the books and authors discussed in this podcast, please check out your local library or bookstore. Links mentioned in the episode Talking About Books For Kids Check out Talking About Books For Kids! Subscribe, rate and review! Twitter: @talkingaboutbo1
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