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The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games

(Postmillenial Pop)

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  1,075 ratings  ·  264 reviews
Reveals the diversity crisis in children's and young adult media as not only a lack of representation, but a lack of imagination

Stories provide portals into other worlds, both real and imagined. The promise of escape draws people from all backgrounds to speculative fiction, but when people of color seek passageways into the fantastic, the doors are often barred. This prob
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 21st 2019 by New York University Press
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Average rating 4.22  · 
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 ·  1,075 ratings  ·  264 reviews

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S.R. Toliver
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’m going to write a longer review for Research on Diversity in Youth Literature, but I want to put a shorter one here since I just finished it about 30 minutes ago.

As a Black girl nerd, I was beyond excited when I heard that this book was going to be a thing. I truly felt seen, like someone was going to finally present some of the conversations that me and my friends have been having in private or in closed social media groups. I want to say that I was NOT ready for this awesomeness.

First, the
Meagan ✊🏼 Blacklivesmatter ✊🏼Blacktranslivesmatter
#2 out 12 for my non fiction goal for the year

This was brilliant. I will definitely have to reread this and try to apply some of the concepts to adult media as this focused on the YA genre exclusively. The only downside was the emphasis on fanfic. I wasn't expecting it and while it was interesting and added depth, I wish the focus wasn't so narrow.

My favorite chapter was the one on Bonnie Bennett from the Vampire Diaries. At the time of watching the show I didn't have the words or knowledge to
Julie Bozza
I came to this book for two reasons. One is that I’m a fan of BBC "Merlin", and I was happy to see the show finally being considered in an academic work. The other is that I’m a writer, and a White person, who is interested in writing non-White characters and mixed-race relationships – and the more I learn, the more I realise I still need to learn.

Back in 2008 when "Merlin" first screened, I was delighted by the ways in which the showrunners mixed things up. Arthur wasn’t a noble and just king,
Monica **can't read fast enough**
3 1/2 stars

THE DARK FANTASTIC points out the shortcomings, failures, and the too slow expansion of diversity and authors of color getting much needed exposure and support. This did read much like a timely academic study with a few personal anecdotes added. If you are a fan of literary criticism and/or looking for an academic exploration of the impact of race and racism on fan art and fan fiction this is one that I would recommend, it's readable literary criticism for anyone.

Where you can find m
Richard Derus
Dec 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Many thanks to Edelweiss+ and NYU Press for my DRC of this book

This past November 1st, Author Ebony Elizabeth Thomas won the 2020 World Fantasy Special Award for Professionals in recognition of this title's outsized importance in its field. Any in-depth review of the book will simply be retyping it; the author is adept at stating home truths in trenchant, relatable ways: "Maybe it’s not that kids and teens of color and other marginalized and minoritized young people don’t like to read. Maybe the
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
I have mixed responses to this book. On the one hand, it's a very important study of how race is used, viewed, and created in children's and YA literature. Thomas discusses various authors' approaches to race in their works and in the adaptations and fan creations made of them, with studies on Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Merlin, and The Vampire Diaries. This discussion can be nuanced and thoughtful, but at times it is repetitive and superficial, relying on single statements by fans that are ...more
4.5 stars.
A fascinating and necessary analysis of stories across different media and time periods. The author deconstructs four narratives: The Hunger Games, BBC’s Merlin, The Vampire Diaries and Harry Potter. Each of these narratives is analysed with respect to their few nonwhite characters and these characters’ stories within the larger narratives, as well as the range of options, behaviours and relationships these characters are allowed to have, how closely violence and fear dog their traject
Seema Rao
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Exceptional ~ Thought-provoking ~ Important
tl; dr: Forget you! Read this.

Ebony Elizabeth Thomas is a well-known scholar, so I am not surprised her book is fantastic. She does what the best of academics should do--reframe what we think we know. The book is ostensibly about literature. But, really, it is about our society, and the ways literature reaffirms social norms, many of which are pernicious and racist. Her book is powerful and truthful. My favorite part of this book is how she subverts su
This book has been on my radar for almost an year but I just kept putting it on the back burner for whatever reasons. But I recently came across it being talked about on Twitter and as we are always talking about the importance of good representation in media, I decided to pick it up and it’s really such an informative work.

I have to say that I didn’t always completely understand the terminology being used in the book because it’s definitely more of an academic/research work and not just for ca
Jan 06, 2022 rated it really liked it
This was freaking phenomenal. I will definitely be rereading this in the future. Thomas talks about so much in the intro that I'm itching to annotate a physical copy and I almost never do that. I'd also be really interested to see this book expanded and updated.

The Dark Fantastic brings Critical Race Theory to YA Fantasy. This book uses the various lenses of CRT to look at how fictional BIPOC are treated in both the books and movies. It also analyzes colorism and misogynoir. I found this so inc
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-releases
|| Reveals the diversity crisis
|| Explores race in popular youth fiction
|| Black feminism and Afrofuturism

This was really, really good! A collection of thoughts to put together an academic work that explores the creation and development of Black characters in young adult literature is authentic and definitely sparks a discussion for the progressive set of readers, as well as act as a realization of how such literature is being consumed. From Rue in Hunger Games to Hermione in Harry Potter,
Irene (Read.Rewind)
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you like SFF I highly recommend.
It’s a critical look into beloved works such as Harry Potter etc...
there’s also a breakdown of TVD’s Bonnie Bennett (the show did Kat Graham so wrong).
Review to come on IG
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I was totally drawn to this title by the beautiful cover, and by the fact that I to fangirled hard over Harry Potter and the Hunger Girls. The other fandoms covered here (Vampire Diairies and Arthur) I honestly have not been able (or interested) in watching more than the pilots which I thought were cheezy and lame. Though I didn't care for the last two fandoms Thomas' writing on the subjects was strong
Never Without a Book
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dare I say it? The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games by Ebony Thomas is my second favorite nonfiction of the year! First off, this cover is stunning! Now that I’m done drooling over this cover let’s get to this review.

Thomas is straightforward in her research and observation in the adventure to dystopian futures. She highlights the race cycle that appears throughout each chapter in The Hunger Games (Rue), Merlin (Gwen), The Vampire Diaries (Bonnie Be
Shannon (That's So Poe)
Mar 18, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021-books
This book does an excellent job at picking apart the portrayals of Black girls in fantasy and how it often falls into an incredibly unhealthy cycle of framing those girls as the dark "other." I really loved all the theory in this, although it was incredibly academic in tone and rather hard to get through. I wouldn't recommend this as light reading, but if you're a fan of the SFF, I think it's still very much worth reading to learn how to recognize the cycle of othering that happens so frequently ...more
Debbie Gascoyne
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Both engaging and scholarly, this is a passionate, urgent, and extremely timely study of the depiction of race in young adult fantasy. One aspect that I find particularly useful for adoption in a college curriculum is the fact that Thomas does not limit herself to the written word; she investigates fandoms and both television and film in popular culture. She is an avowed fan, but she is a literature scholar, as familiar with theoretical terminology as she is with social media. This book cannot h ...more
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Essential reading on the relationship between race, identity, and the imagination, through the lens of children's and YA fantastic fiction, Black fandom, and the cultural history of whiteness. ...more
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: earc, 2019, research
I read this book courtesy of NetGalley, in exchange for a review.

I am not entirely sure that I found each example used by Thomas to advance her argument equally persuasive: for instance, is Gwen the best choice for who/what haunts Merlin (and if not, just acknowledge it and make your point regardless)? In addition, I didn't really enjoy the chapter on Harry Potter, which felt incomplete and cut short while still containing what seemed to me to be a too long and somewhat misleading preamble conce
Dec 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a gorgeously designed and well-written study in critical race, reader-response, and feminist theory. It is a wee-bit jargonistic in the intro, and I wish there were full definitions of how Thomas is using reader-response theory. With deep roots in literary criticism, fan culture, digital responses to film and literature, transmedia criticism, and education, Thomas offers a new way of thinking about the black experience both in the text and within the reading community. I honestly am stil ...more
Areeb Ahmad (Bankrupt_Bookworm)
This was the first book in my Deep Dive Series on Bookstagram where I explore the themes and ideas of one book per month in-depth so there is not any proper review as such. You can check out those posts instead though.

Part 1 - Introduction and The Dark Fantastic

Part 2 - The Hunger Games

Part 3 - Merlin and The Vampire Diaries

Part 4 - Harry Potter and Conclusion
Dec 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Essential reading, especially for any fan of speculative fiction. My only challenge was that the book is, at points, heavily reliant on literary terms that were new to me. These terms, though likely self-explanatory to some - especially the main audience for which this book was written - slowed me down at times. That said, the main points that the author made are clear enough.
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
I definitely feel like I learned something. But it was written for people within the field, so it felt more dense to me than it might actually be.

Wish there was more to the Harry Potter chapter. But going thru the dark fantastic cycle with the other fandoms was helpful!
Anna Tan
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Dark Fantastic is a fascinating read for anyone who is interested in how race affects the character development of people of colour in fantasy, as well as their reception by readers/viewers regardless of race.

Thomas analyses Black characters in four fantasy narratives (books & shows) [Rue in The Hunger Games; Gwen in BBC's Merlin; Bonnie Bennett in The Vampire Diaries; Hermione & Angelina Johnson in Harry Potter] and unpacks the impact of these depictions in society. I have to admit I don't
Oct 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I've been looking forward to this book's release since I heard a podcast interview with the author all the way back in 2015! The author examines the roles of black female characters in several of the biggest fantasy franchises of the past decade: Rue from The Hunger Games, Gwen from the BBC show Merlin, Bonnie Bennett from The Vampire Diaries and Angelina Johnson from Harry Potter. The author is incredible well researched and draws on a wide variety of sources and quotes, both in the academic re ...more
I've been wanting to read this for quite some time and have a curriculum guide that someone created to go along with it that I'm going to take a peak at now.

The research and depth that Thomas goes in to got me far, especially with the Merlin and Buffy chapters because I have not watched either of them, but she gives enough examples that I understand where she's going and obviously the overall message about how society views people of color especially when in fictional settings such as Harry Pot
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for any writer/reader of fantasy.
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There's a big chance this is the most important book I've read all year, and one that will inform me as a writer / reader for years to come. ...more
A big thank you to NYU Press for allowing me to read a review copy of this marvellous book. It took me longer than expected to get to it but once I started, I devoured this with only some breaks in between because of important stuff.

I could rave for hours. This book is an experience. From start to finish, it's an absolute blast. I knew from the start that I was in good hands because Thomas writes beautifully, her prose engaging, smart and easy to understand.

In The Dark Fantastic, Thomas analyses
[read for my senior undergrad thesis in media studies, 2021]

The traditional fantastic has historically assumed a White audience, and, in turn, those who are endarkened and Othered have had to read those stories to understand the cartographies of the imagination.

excellent book on how non-white characters become marginalised in speculative imaginations, illustrated by the exploration of fictional black girls in contemporary sff media, including: rue from the hunger games, guinevere in bbc's me
Dec 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
my first "scholarly" read in a while - I really enjoyed this fascinating look at the treatment of 3 Black girl characters in popular culture and the way they were cyclically mistreated, even when authors and showrunners patted themselves on the back for providing positive and even "radical" representation. I say 3, because I think the final chapter on Hermione and Angelina Johnson was more about the author's experience in the Harry Potter fandom - but this isn't a bad thing at all! I enjoyed the ...more
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UTA WFSN Book Club: WFSN Spring 2021 Book Club: The Dark Fantastic 3 5 Mar 05, 2021 12:22PM  
Sistah SciFi: Treatment of Black characters. 1 29 Jun 22, 2020 02:32PM  

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Ebony Elizabeth Thomas is Associate Professor in the Literacy, Culture, and International Educational Division at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. A former Detroit Public Schools teacher and National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, she is an expert on diversity in children’s literature, youth media, and fan studies.

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Magic shows take a different form in Janella Angeles’ debut young adult novel,  Where Dreams Descend , the first book in the planned Kingdom of...
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“Maybe it’s not that kids and teens of color and other marginalized and minoritized young people don’t like to read. Maybe the real issue is that many adults haven’t thought very much about the radicalized mirrors, windows, and doors that are in the books we offer them to read, in the television and movies we invite them to view, and in the fan communities we entice them to play in.” 1 likes
“Words matter, and the fantastic has multiple resonant connotations. The fantastic captures the wonder of stepping into a world-that-never-was, and immersing yourself in it in a way that speculative fiction does not.” 1 likes
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