My real interest in dystopia came via Octavia Butler's novels and Star Trek fantasies (next Gen, of course!). My YA obsession began, predictably, with the Hunger Games. Before I was a third of the way through I ordered the next two books because I didn't want to have any interruption in my reading experience. I read straight through. And I had to find more. I worried I would never find another reading experience like HG. While I read plenty of books that did not fall into this "narrow" category, some related and some not, I read books like the Birthmarked trilogy and the Chemical Garden trilogy and my less favorite works that focus more on boys: the Maze Runner Trilogy and the Ender's Game series. But there is so much more!
When I began to find monotony in the plot and characters/characteristics of the protagonists, I was floored when my friend forwarded me a link to a blog via Bitch Magazine. This was exactly what I had been looking for, hoping for, longing for--books that had protagonists who were girls of color. Visions of the future that consider how race, ethnicity, and identity are factors in the future. This discovery is what sparked my interest in looking at YA Dystopia as more than just an obsessive fan. There is way too much to explore (and that's exciting!).
In the spring of 2015 I will be teaching an online topics course called "Girls on Fire: Gender, Culture, and Justice in YA Dystopia." When I proposed this course one of my colleagues suggested I spell out what "YA" is. Half joking, I told him that anyone who doesn't know what YA is, I don't want them in this course! There are so many other readers out there who are interested in this genre and read just as--or almost as--voraciously as I do. I know this class will be in demand.
This interdisciplinary course is cross-listed between American studies, English, and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality studies and will consider the topics in the title as well as race, community, power, sexuality, technology, the environment, politics, etc. I am excited about the projects that we will engage with to explore this rich body of work. I'll be teaching online and developing resources related to the genre, including a guide to the best books.
Inevitably I'll be working on a book project related to this work as well. In many ways it mirrors the body of work that I explored in my first book, Pictures of Girlhood: Modern Female Adolescence on Film. YA Dystopia has many of the same themes--coming of age, absent parents, violence, limited representations, etc.--but it also has the context of the future and the bigger picture of the fate of the world (or at least a little piece of that world). These "girls on fire" give us hope in the present for the future.