Diverse Fantasy in the Real World
Middle grade fantasy set in the real world can be a great escape for young readers, but just as importantly, it can offer new ways of seeing what is “real,” bringing attention to critical issues and making visible histories that maybe aren’t part of the standard curriculum. And of course it’s important that we have books with diverse protagonists to reflect the diversity of the real world; every kid should have the chance at magic! As well as addressing diversity gaps in fantasy, and how to fill them, this panel considers what makes good real world fantasy—how much magic do kids want? What stories resonate, and with whom? And how do gatekeepers know when the fantastical elements in a story warrant putting the little unicorn sticker on the spine, or when the magical realism of a particular culture falls on the side of realistic fiction?
Born in Canada, Zetta Elliott moved to the US in 1994 to pursue her PhD in American Studies at NYU. Her essays have appeared in The Huffington Post, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. She is the author of thirty books for young readers, including the award-winning picture books Bird and Melena’s Jubilee. Her own imprint, Rosetta Press, generates culturally relevant stories that center children who have been marginalized, misrepresented, and/or rendered invisible in traditional children’s literature. Elliott is an advocate for greater diversity and equity in publishing.
Anna Meriano (the Love Sugar Magic series—A Dash of Trouble, 2018 and A Sprinkle of Spirits, 2019)
Anna Meriano grew up in Houston with an older brother, a younger brother, and a large network of aunts, uncles, and cousins spreading across the state of Texas. She graduated from Rice University with a degree in English, and earned her MFA in creative writing from the New School in New York. Anna has taught creative writing and high school English and currently works as a tutor for students of all ages across Houston. In her free time she loves knitting, playing full-contact quidditch, and singing along to songs in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language.
Rajani LaRocca (Midsummer’s Mayhem, 2019)
Rajani LaRocca was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now lives eastern Massachusetts with her wonderful husband, two brilliant kids, and an impossibly cute dog. After receiving both a BA and an MD from Harvard, she now practices medicine and writes middle grade novels and picture books. Her debut middle grade, MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM, is a foodie Indian-American story inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the hours she’s spent watching TV baking competitions.
S.R. Toliver (moderator)
S.R. Toliver is pursuing a Ph.D. in Language and Literacy Education at The University of Georgia with an emphasis in reading education, literature, and language arts (6-12). Her current research is based in the critical tradition, analyzing young adult speculative fiction in an effort to promote social justice and equity in the English classroom. Within this research area, she focuses on representations of and responses to people of color in speculative fiction texts to discuss the implications of erasing youth of color from futuristic and imaginative contexts. Toliver’s research interests include speculative fiction, narrative analysis, Afrofuturism, and Black girl literacies.
Join us March 22-23 for KidLitCon 2019!