By Julia Rios
What do a disabled superhero, a time-traveling Chinese-American figure skater, and a transgender animal shifter have in common? They’re all stars of Kaleidoscope stories! Kaleidoscope collects fun, edgy, meditative, and hopeful YA science fiction and fantasy with diverse leads. These twenty original stories tell of scary futures, magical adventures, and the joys and heartbreaks of teenage life.
Featuring New York Times bestselling and award winning authors along with newer voices: Garth Nix, Sofia Samatar, William Alexander, Karen Healey, E.C. Myers, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Ken Liu, Vylar Kaftan, Sean Williams, Amal El-Mohtar, Jim C. Hines, Faith Mudge, John Chu, Alena McNamara, Tim Susman, Gabriela Lee, Dirk Flinthart, Holly Kench, Sean Eads, and Shveta Thakrar.
- Edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios
- Releases 5 August 2014 (1 October 2014 in Australia)
Alisa and I have both been extremely interested in the work Malinda Lo has done to bring statistics about diversity in publishing out into the open. In fact, this project was actually conceived after I was on a panel that Malinda moderated at WisCon in 2012. The panel was about heteronormativity in dystopian YA novels, and I recorded it for the Outer Alliance Podcast. Alisa, who lives in Australia, was not able to attend WisCon, but she listened to the recording of the panel and then emailed me to ask about a possible collaboration.
At first Alisa thought of us co-editing an anthology of dystopian YA stories with QUILTBAG protagonists, but as we talked more about what we both longed for in stories, the idea grew and changed until in the end, we settled on a far less limited anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories with diverse protagonists. Kaleidoscope has several QUILTBAG characters, but it also has characters of color, disabled characters, mentally ill characters, non-neurotypical characters, and intersectional characters (whose identities are complex and not just one thing or another—like real people in the real world).
As a bisexual Mexican-American woman, I didn’t see myself reflected very often in books I read as a child or teen. To be honest, I still rarely see characters who are just like me. As a teen, especially, I really longed for some kind of affirmation that my being attracted to other girls was okay. I didn’t believe it was. I was so far in the closet that I faked crushes on (white male) movie stars and (always carefully selected so as to be unattainable) boys at school. Once I even made out with a boy I didn’t like in an attempt to prove to myself that I was totally only attracted to boys (this was not actually effective at proving anything to myself or anyone else). In secret, I listened to Melissa Etheridge, who was openly gay, and I felt ashamed. Now I see more role models for people like me, and more acceptance of QUILTBAG identified people, but I still think there’s a lot of room for growth. I want to pave the way for others to come along this road and build bigger and better communities for those who are underrepresented in fiction.
Working on Kaleidoscope has been more wonderful than I could have imagined. Not only did I get to read a bunch of amazing stories, but I also feel more connected to the community of people who are, like me, striving for more visibility. There are a lot of us, and together we can do so much more than any one of us can do alone. I couldn’t have imagined all the perspectives that are represented in Kaleidoscope because so many of them are completely outside of my experience. Each story that shows me a new perspective feels like a special gift from the author, who has shared something secret and personal. Together they glitter and shine, showing that the world we live in is so much more dazzling and beautiful than any fictional world where only one type of perspective exists.
Julia Rios is a Hugo nominated fiction editor at the online magazine, Strange Horizons. She’s also the co-editor with Alisa Krasnostein of Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, and with Saira Ali of In Other Words, an anthology of poems and flash fiction by writers of color. When not editing, she writes, podcasts, and occasionally narrates audio stories and poems. She’s half-Mexican, but her (fairly dreadful) French is better than her Spanish.
… because it’s August! And August means it’s time to chill out and enjoy the long hot days of summer (unless you live in San Francisco like Malinda, in which case it means it’s time to make winter stews and shiver in the fog, but you’ll enjoy it because you live in San Francisco!), so Diversity in YA is going on vacation, too.
What this means is that we are going on a much lighter posting schedule. We’ll still post new releases every week, and we have a couple of posts already scheduled in the queue, but we will be much less present online this month.
Never fear, though, we will be back in September! Have a great August, everyone!
Malinda and Cindy
Please tell us about the most recent diverse book you published.
I recently published Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott. This novel is about Sam, a Mexican American teen who’s in a depressed state due to the breakdown of his family. He’s pretty much getting by in life by being a slacker, always remaining under the radar so he can fade into the background. But then he’s paired in English class with the much feared Carlos, a Latino who is said to be in a hardcore gang. Together the two team up in a poetry slam contest and emerge, after much introspection and hard work, as very capable, talented students. It’s a book about breaking boundaries and stereotypes, as well as friendship, tragedy, and the power of words.
What is one factor holding you back from publishing more diverse books?
Nothing is holding me back from publishing diverse books — it’s very much something that I feel passionate about doing. I don’t feel I see enough submissions about diverse characters just living in the world and experiencing life through strong storytelling. In other words, submissions where the story is the story and the characters just happen to be Latino or African American rather than their diversity driving the storyline. I tend to see more agenda-oriented books on the topic and these can be harder to position and market, and are often less appealing to young readers.
Bolded for emphasis. Amazing and informative interview! But…
What does ‘diversity driving the storyline’ really mean? The traits that fall under the ‘diversity’ umbrella are things that always influence and drive people’s real life storylines, in both subtle and less subtle ways…
Reblogging for the important commentary from Rich in Color.
Collins also makes the grave mistake of stating from Katniss’ point of view that Rue reminds her of her younger sister, Prim. Prim is a much more familiar figure in children’s literature — the guileless, golden girl child often is the counterweight that balances the evil that the protagonist must overcome, and The Hunger Games is no exception. What is different is that while trapped in the Game, Rue becomes Katniss’ Prim, a younger companion who shares in the existential threat until she is overcome by it.
This was too much for some readers to take.
Catch up on all of July’s diversity news at the link!