Tag Archives: Diversity

SE-RART Diversity in Fantasy Discussion – June 7, 2017

For the final meeting of the 2016-17 year, the Southeastern Mass. Reader’s Advisory Roundtable (SE-RART) met Wednesday, June 7, at the SAILS Library Network to discuss the Fantasy genre, with a focus on titles by authors selected with an awareness of diversity.

The benchmark title was The Grace of Kings, first in the Dandelion Dynasty trilogy, by Ken Liu. Ken Liu is a Massachusetts author! The Grace of Kings, his first novel, won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and was a finalist for the Nebula Award.

First we talked about hallmarks and appeal factors of the Fantasy genre, in general, such as:

  • Detailed settings, “world-building”, length not a problem!
  • Magic of some sort plays a role in the story
  • Familiar characters and continuing series are major appeal factors
  • Good is expected to triumph over evil by the end, usually at a cost
  • Escapist, but can reflect real societal issues at a remove

To get a general overview, we checked out The Complete Guide to the Fantasy Genre at Best Fantasy Books. We also referred to Expanding the SF/Fantasy Universe by Meg Rosol in Library Journal, May 1, 2017, and the Carte Blanche column by Michael Cart in the August 2016 issue of Booklist, Speculative Fiction and LGBTQ Literature.

Other supplemental readings we used were:

Our benchmark title, The Grace of Kings was an excellent example of historical fantasy, and at over 600 pages, certainly filled the bill for length! The note on pronunciation and the long list of characters with hard-to-pronounce names had a daunting effect right off the bat for some of the group, but we thought fantasy readers looking for detailed world-building loosely based on an historic frame would immediately feel right at home seeing these at the beginning, along with the maps.

Ken Liu was born in China and immigrated to the U.S. at age 11 with his family. In addition to being a full-time computer programmer, he has written numerous short stories in the S/F and Fantasy genres and has translated several Chinese science fiction novels into English, most notably The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, which won a Hugo award.

We discussed the following quote from Ken Liu in interviews:

The Grace of Kings draws on Western traditions as much as it does on Chinese traditions, though the bones of the story are drawn from the Chu-Han Contention period before the Han Dynasty.”

With its historical underpinnings, extensive political intrigue, detailed descriptions of battles, and discussions of strategy, The Grace of Kings could be suggested to readers of historical fantasy by authors such as Guy Gavriel Kay (Maggie recommends Tigana) and Lian Hearn (Tales of the Otori Trilogy), or fans of G.R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. The mood is ultimately hopeful, though dark and sombre at times, lightened by humor and the god’s-eye perspective. Readers who like medieval folk stories, the ancient epics, and sagas may also find The Grace of Kings appealing.

Please submit your second title if you have one, even if you weren’t able to attend the meeting! Second titles will be posted soon.

Missed the meeting? View the agenda which also lists additional RA resources we talked about. Be sure and check out the Fantasy Genre Overview webinar on the MLS Web site, done by our very own Miki Wolfe!

Thanks to the SAILS Library Network for hosting!

Sign welcoming Roundtable group

Please sign up for email notifications when this blog is updated, if you would like to receive an email when there is a new blog post here (usually about three posts every two months). We will be announcing our plans for next year sometime over the summer!


Diversity in Mystery Discussion – Apr. 19

The_Long_FallThe Southeastern Mass. Reader’s Advisory Roundtable (SE-RART) met Wednesday, April 19, at the Attleboro Public Library to discuss the Mystery genre with a focus on titles by authors selected with an awareness of diversity. The benchmark title was The Long Fall, first in the Leonid McGill series, by Walter Mosley. The group will be holding one more meeting, on June 7, to discuss the Fantasy genre before the summer break. New members are welcome to jump in any time; please register on the MLS Workshop Calendar.

We talked about characteristics of the Mystery genre, in general, a bit first, for members of the group who weren’t with us in Year One, such as that a crime has usually been committed; the story has a clear beginning, middle and end; and that mysteries are often written as a series. (Thank you to Leane of the NE-RART for her “It’s A Mystery” handout our first year!) We also talked about reader’s advisory interactions with patrons and the advantages/disadvantages of using NoveList, GoodReads, and just going into the stacks with patrons.

The supplemental readings we talked about were:

In the 2015 Library Journal genre spotlight article, Not Your Usual, by Kristi Chadwick, we read about a push for more diversity in the Mystery genre:

“In recent years, spearheaded by such projects as We Need Diverse Books, an increasing number of nontraditional literary voices (from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, for example) are claiming more attention from critics and readers. Likewise, the mystery genre is undergoing a similar transformation.”

Some publishers and imprints mentioned in the supplemental readings to look to for diversity include Akashic, Kensington (Dafina), Tor/Forge, St. Martin’s (Minotaur), Soho Crime, and Cinco Punto. It’s still hard to find humorous or cozy mysteries that are written by underrepresented authors, but Barbara Neely’s cozies were mentioned.

“Says Minotaur’s [Keith] Kahla, ‘One of the great aspects about crime fiction is that, over the years and decades, it’s been used in so many interesting ways by talented writers to illuminate, explicate, and comment upon their lives, their cultures, their concerns, and their times.'” – LJ, Not Your Usual, 4/15/15

The Long Fall by Walter Mosley was chosen as the benchmark title because Walter Mosley has been writing crime fiction for years, and is especially known for the long-running Easy Rawlins series set in Los Angeles. He has also written in other genres, including erotica and science fiction.

The group was intrigued by the private investigator Leonid McGill in The Long Fall and was drawn into the story by the characters more than the plot. The tone was described as  “hard-boiled”, “gritty” and “noir-ish”. The frame (contemporary, urban, the culturally and class-diverse New York City of the not-rich-and-famous) was important to the story, with readers describing the book as “very visual” and “would make a good movie”. Race is “there” but was not a theme of the book. It was described as a good example of representation, as characters of diverse race/ethnicity were all developed (not caricatures). Skin tones were noticed and mentioned, but “everyone’s” were; there was no automatic assumption that a character was white until described otherwise.

Second titles have been posted; it’s OK to submit yours still, if you haven’t! Second titles in the Mystery genre that we read and talked about in terms of reader’s advisory appeal factors – frame, tone, pacing, plot/storyline, characters – included the following:

The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan

The Agency (YA) by Y.S. Lee

The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall

Apparition Alley by Katherine V. Forrest

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Ghost Month by Ed Lin

Missed the meeting? View the agenda which also lists additional RA resources we talked about.

Please register for the Wed., June 7th meeting, 10am-12pm, at the SAILS Library Network Offices in Lakeville to talk about diversity in the Fantasy genre!