Samantha Francine, YA Fantasy, Oppressed & Oppressor

As I write this, I wonder how I–a YA fantasy reader and writer who is white–can possibly have anything worth saying at a time when my country’s streets are filled with Black Lives Matter protesters being fired upon with teargas and flash bombs, thrown down, choked, clubbed. Well, you’ve seen the news. You know.

But today I will share three things with you: two of my favorite YA fantasy books and an image from the Black Lives Matter movement that I can’t get out of my head.

Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes and Marie Lu’s Legend are (in my humble opinion) perfect YA fantasy books with noble characters and tight, compelling plots. Like so many YA fantasy books, protagonists fight against a powerful oppressor. Both books also feature main characters from opposing forces: one is from the oppressed class, the other from the oppressor.

Laia from An Ember in the Ashes works with the Resistance and will do anything to save her brother, even work as a slave for an evil commander. Elias is a member of the elite. As a “Mask” for the Martial Empire, Elias is an assassin trained at the highest level. Despite Laia’s misgivings, she and Elias form a relationship, and we learn that Elias never wanted to be a Mask. He is a good person who uses his privileged status to help Laia—though even he must be careful to avoid severe punishment.

In Marie Lu’s Legend, June is the brilliant, logical military cadet from an elite family. While seeking her brother’s murderer–whom she is told is a member of the oppressed class–June encounters Day, the Republic’s most wanted criminal. Cocky and compassionate Day is about as different from June as can be. The two characters begin the story at cross purposes but, like Elias in Ember, June has compassion. She is not inherently a bad person, just indoctrinated by the oppressor.

As the pairs of opposing characters in each novel build a personal connection, characters from the privileged class (Elias and June) open their eyes to who the oppressed really are as people. June learns that Day is not the person the Republic portrayed him to be. Elias learns that his training as a Mask can make him a great help to the Resistance.

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.”Maya Angelou

This brings us to the powerful image I mentioned earlier. During this time of Black Lives Matter protests there are many moving and disturbing images, but today I will write about this one.

On the right is Samantha Francine, an African American woman faced with an angry white man in Whitefish, Montana. Samantha Francine stood with her sign near town hall with sixty other protesters when this burly white man, well over six feet tall, stormed the group, yelling epithets and knocking signs from protesters’ hands. He got into the protesters’ faces, one after another, clearly looking for a fight. When he got to Samantha Francine, she planted her feet, pulled her glasses up, and looked the man square in the eye.

Samantha Francine said she was not afraid. Her single white dad had taught her and her siblings that life would be different for them because of the color of their skin. She said he constantly reminded them that “No matter the threat, always look them in the eye so they have to acknowledge you’re human.”

Samantha Francine remembered.

Judging by the man’s threatening posture and actions, he was full of anger and hate. When he looked into Samantha Francine’s wide open eyes, did he really see her? Might there come a day when the man feels remorse for evoking such fear in peaceful people?

In fictional worlds, members of the oppressive class are able to find redemption to the point where they decide to work to end oppression.

I pray this is possible in the real world too.

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”James Baldwin

XOXO

eve messenger

Top Time Slip Movies – Ranked Best to Worst

Redemption, magic, nostalgia, revelation, danger – what’s not to love about time travel movies? If you’re a time travel movie buff like me, you’ll probably enjoy this list of 40+ time travel movies and maybe agree or strongly disagree with their rankings. Most of these films feature characters who slip through time on some sort of cosmic magic (rather than building their own Wellesian time machines), so a more accurate term for them would be “time slip” or “time loop” movie. Enjoy! And please let me know if there are any other great time travel movies I should add to the list. 

1. Groundhog Day – A masterpiece. Harold Ramis and Bill Murray achieve the perfect balance of comedy and drama.

2. 12 Monkeys – The concept, look, and acting are brilliant. In true Terry Gilliam fashion, this is a one-of-a-kind film. Also made into a 2015 Syfy series.

3. Terminator 1 – Sarah Conner and Kyle Reese might just have my vote for all-time favorite movie romance.

4. Donnie Darko – A masterfully dark film with brilliant acting. Real-life siblings Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal play siblings in the film.

5. 13 Going on 30 – Pure fun. Love the ‘80s references and the magic.

6. Somewhere in Time – Heartbreakingly lovely film score and perfect location: the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Before she got into selling heart necklaces, Jane Seymour was a stunning and talented actress, at her most exquisite in this film. I would have gone back in time for Elise McKenna, too.

7. Source Code – Exciting, surprising, with first-rate acting.

8. 9 Times – I’ll admit I cheated with this one since 9 Times is actually a Korean miniseries, but I love it so much I had to include it.

9. Butterfly Effect – Dark, intriguing, underrated. 113 minutes of screen time with Ashton Kutcher is never a bad thing.

10. Fetching Cody – Indie, quirky, loved it.

11. The Family Man – A lot of heart, excellent redemption movie.

12. Back to the Future – Classic fun.

13. About Time – Sweet, romantic, totally worth watching. Domhall Gleeson is the perfect everyman.

13. Everything, Everywhere, All at Once – This action-packed, absurdist 2022 film starring Michelle Yeoh and amazing newcomer Stephanie Hsu, is outrageously creative. Surprise: it’s not based on a book. The film’s somewhat low-budget look and instances of bathroom humor are its only detractions.

Ambitious, Outrageous 'Everything Everywhere All at Once' Is All That and  More | Vanity Fair

14. Idiocracy – Great commentary on reality TV society.

15. Looper – Big budget, compelling.  Some sci-fi purists are put off by how this movie breaks time travel rules, but I was happy to suspend disbelief, especially since I’m a big fan of Emily Blunt’s. Incidentally, three movies on this list star Emily Blunt — maybe she likes time travel movies, too.

16. The Time Traveler’s Wife – Well shot and romantic, but couldn’t live up to the beautiful book by Audrey Niffenegger.

17. The Edge of Tomorrow – An exciting film that would have been much better with a different actor in the lead role.

18. Peggy Sue Got Married – Cute, worth watching

19. It’s a Wonderful Life – A classic and the only black and white movie on this list.

20. Hot Tub Time Machine – I’m not too proud to admit I like silly movies, especially those involving time travel–like this one.

21. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure – A classic romp and actually kind of educational.

22. Deja Vu. Denzel Washington is always great. The plot is a little weak, but the movie has a good time slip concept. Best of all, it stars the always great Denzel Washington, buff James Caviezel, and a great ensemble of actors playing the science/tech crew.

21a. Happy Accidents. Marissa Tomei.

22b. The Adjustment Bureau – Creative concept. Would be better if Matt Damon and Emily Blunt actually had on-screen chemistry.

23. Safety Not Guaranteed – Totally indie, mostly in a good way. Aubrey Plaza is hilarious in every role she plays.

24. Sliding Doors –Interesting ideas. The alternate realities were edited together well.

24a. Sound of My Voice – Compelling docu-style indie flick. Rough around the edges with something troublingly beautiful at its heart.

24b. Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel is another film on this list tied for 24th place. FAQATT stars Chris O’Dowd, who’s always fun to watch. The film has an overall goofy feel, but there are dark and shocking moments as well. Anna Faris was a refreshing surprise.

25. Twice Upon a Yesterday – Has an uneven tone but is worth watching. Recognize the brunette on the right? Yep, that’s Lena Headey (AKA Circe).

26. Millenium – Great concept based on a John Varley short story, but the 1989 movie looks out of date. This is a movie that must be remade.

27. Minority Report – Slick. Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick.

28. Time Bandits – Not my cup of tea, but some people love it.
29. Heaven Can Wait – A classic that might feel slow-paced for modern moviegoers.

30. Shuffle – Indie, troubling in a good way, a little disjointed, but that happens sometimes in time travel movies.

31. The Philadelphia Experiment – Typical ‘80s dick flick. Some conspiracy theorists claim this film is based on a true story, as in an entire naval ship really did disappear.

32. Frequency – Some people really like this movie, but it didn’t really do it for me.

33. The Lake House – Interesting concept but didn’t have much life.

34. Heart and Souls – Unique and sustained my interest, but like many of early Robert Downey, Jr. movies there was something a bit off about it.

35. Primer – Indie, good concept, realistic, but maybe a little too much testosterone and technical stuff for me because I kept falling asleep.

36. Touchback – Sweet if not a little too simplistic.

37. From Time to Time – Good cast but slow.

38. A Kid in King Arthur’s Court – Cute.

39. Bedtime Stories – Adam Sandler is in it and there’s magic; that’s about it.

40. I’ll Follow You Down – I had high hopes for this one, especially since Gillian Anderson is in it (“Fall,” anyone?). The movie looks good, but it really disappointed in the time travel department.

More Time Travel Movies  to See:

Me Myself I with Rachel Griffiths

Erased, based on the Japanese manga