November 30, 2014

Slice of PIE: Is Dystopia Finally Dead? – Followed By a Completely Unexpected Turn in Thought Flow…

“If you see yourself as a left-leaning progressive parent, you might want to exercise some of that oppressive parental control and limit your kids exposure to the "freedom" expressed in YA dystopian fiction. But let's not worry about it too much, the good thing about laissez-faire capitalism is that things come in waves and pass out of fashion quickly, and already people are saying that YA dystopia is dead…”

“Obviously dystopian is not dead. It’s just on hiatus. Watch 2015 for its return, except disguised as other genres.”

“Book industry experts [Agent Barry Goldblatt] say dystopian literature, previously represented by bestselling series like 'The Hunger Games' and 'Allegiant,' is done as a trend.”

“Why do I think the genre will endure? Because teens…and even adults…love to see overcomers in dire circumstances. The way we portray life today as on the precipice of destruction, the youth like to read that if the destruction succeeds, mankind can also triumph above those circumstances.”

“Dystopia can be bleak, which may make its popularity seem odd (even Cormac McCarthy probably reached for a comedy to read after Mockingjay). But the genre holds a certain allure. A typical tale involves a future society with an oppressive government that demands conformity. Sometimes this is in the wake of a disaster that has befallen humanity. Sometimes the oppressive government exists just because its rules are convenient to the plot…Stakes are high. Resilience is tested. If you can look past the occasionally goofy names of characters and places, it's material that makes for compelling drama.”

OK – fine. And there you go. The family and I will probably see MOCKINGJAY Parts 1 and 2; probably pick up MAZE RUNNER when it hits Redbox.

While all this is cool, I was just wondering: what are poor black, white, Hispanic, Asian, and other underrepresented youth reading? Especially UR youth with lower socioeconomic status?

Is there any data? Because it seems to ME that they won’t much care to read the dystopian teen lit because they’re already living a dystopian teen life.

I googled it – there IS no data that I can find under “favorite black teen novels”. I get all  kinds of things that black teens SHOULD read; lots of sites bemoaning the fate of black teens who don’t read. But no simple list.

I DID stumble across the New York Public Library’s Summer 2014 Reading Challenge. Twenty-two percent of the population of NYC is under 18. Twenty-six percent are black alone; 44% are white alone, the rest of the 100% is comprised of racial/ethnic groups plus some “more than one” groups. With a population of 8.4 million 2013, that means that there are nearly two million “kids” in NYC.

On the Reading Challenge list, I did not see even one dystopian book. THE HUNGER GAMES are absent.


No DIVERGENT series.

Nothing of the “the future will be crap” books.

Don’t you find that interesting?

I most CERTAINLY do, and while I started this essay out as a riff off of the waning of the teen dystopian book, it led me to a reflection on what is it, exactly that non-white kids are being made afraid of by the plethora of almost exclusively white dystopian authors? Oh, that’s right, maybe it was the reaction of HG “fans” to the casting of Amandla Stenberg as Rue that may have “slightly” offended black readers…

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