Why Do I Do What I Do?
I have loved speculative fiction my entire reading life, but science fiction (SF) has always been my favorite subgenre. There was something freeing about envisioning a future wrought with undiscovered possibilities; understanding a universe beyond the immediate realm of my real-life experience; and imagining innovations that could impact how the current world shifts and changes. However, even though I loved reading and writing SF, I kept my love for the subgenre secret in middle and high school because, according to most of the people I knew, SF was not written or created for Black girls.
At the time, the idea that I was not allowed to enjoy SF because I was Black and because I was a girl baffled me. I did not understand why people wanted to put my reading options into a box. However, I soon discovered why so many people were in disbelief: there weren’t that many SF books written by Black authors and published through traditional publishing houses, and there weren’t that many SF books with Black protagonists, female or male. In fact, the only stories I saw were those in which Black characters consistently dealt with suicide, poverty, family death, and sexual assault. Black people were hardly even mentioned as existing in the future. Therefore, how could SF be written for Black girls if we weren’t writing them and we weren’t included in them? Instead of attempting to answer this question as a young girl, I read whatever SF books I could find and kept my preferences to myself. This is where this site comes in.
I’m not a speculative fiction expert by any means, but I love the genre, and I’ve studied it, specifically in relation to the ways that Black people, generally, and Black girls, specifically, are portrayed. My love for sci-fi began in elementary school when I read books in the Animorphs and The Secret World of Alex Mack. I never thought about diversity in SFF, though, until I read The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. The book is diverse because the main character is a young woman, but the most interesting aspect of diversity, to me, was the fact that many secondary and tertiary characters had dark skin and dark hair, something that I had never seen before in a fantasy book. It piqued my interest as a child, and I’ve been reading SF (Black-centered or not) ever since.
You can see my academic work in several journals, including Journal of Literacy Research, Research in the Teaching of English, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, and Equity, Excellence, & Education. You can find my public scholarship on LitHub, Huffpost, Medium, and the Horn Book.
Awards, Fellowships, & Grants
- Outstanding Dissertation Award, Arts-Based Educational Research Special Interest Group, American Educational Research Association
- Hugh Agee Award for Excellence in Research Focused on the Teaching of Literature. University of Georgia
- Carol J. Fisher Award for Excellence in Research, University of Georgia
- Cultivating New Voices among Scholars of Color, National Council of Teachers of English.
- National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship. National Academy of Education and Spencer Foundation
- Innovative and Interdisciplinary Research Grant, University of Georgia
- American Library Association Diversity Research Grant. Black Girls Dreaming: Black Girls Analyzing and Evaluating Speculative Fiction by Black Authors, Literacy, and Outreach Services