chapter  8
14 Pages

The Future Is Pale: Race in Contemporary Young Adult Dystopian Novels

ByMARY J. COUZELIS

As Jack Zipes mentions in the foreword to Utopian and Dystopian Writing for Children and Young Adults (2003), young adult novels need to depict utopias and dystopias because they allow readers to critique their contemporary society in the hope of social change.1 Surprisingly, racial tensions-a significant and continuing cultural concern that faces our world-are often not addressed in futuristic novels. Authors of science fi ction who seek to highlight contemporary fears, especially in young adult dystopian novels, do not always realize that ideologies about race are present in the narratives. Frequently, these novels reinscribe current social and racial hierarchies through their character depictions, and these portrayals often privilege the dominant race. Novels that ignore race or present a monochromatic future imply that other ethnicities do not survive in the future or that their participation in the future is not important. Even narratives where authors pretend racial tensions have been eliminated in the future risk trivializing contemporary encounters teens have with prejudice.