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

Seasons of Book Blogging, a Book for Every Month #amreading

“THE SEASONS OF BOOK BLOGGING” TAG

RULES:
Thank the creator and the person who tagged you.
Begin with the month in which you were tagged and move forward from there!
State the best gift you’ve ever been given after you answer the question for your birthday month.
Tag whomever you like when you’re finished… or else you’ll be ‘it’ forever.
Have fun, of course!
The Seasons of Book Blogging Tag was created by Jordyn @ J. Bookish. I really enjoyed this book tag and would like to thank the one and only Beth @ betwixt-these-pages for tagging me. If you’re looking for edgy, well-written, off-the-beaten-path books to read, be sure to check out her blog.

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December is a time when friends and families come together and celebrate. Name one book you would give as a gift.

Lightning by Dean Koontz. I love this story so much. I mean, seriously, just check out this blurb:

In the midst of a raging blizzard, lightning struck on the night Laura Shane was born. And a mysterious blond-haired stranger showed up just in time to save her from dying.

Years later, in the wake of another storm, Laura will be saved again. For someone is watching over her. But just as lightning illuminates, darkness always follows close behind.

lightning by dean koontz

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January begins a new year. Name a resolution you made this year and if you’ve kept it or not!

My resolution this year was to write more novels and to read more books. I did both. 😀

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February is the month for relationships. Name your favorite book relationship: romantic, platonic, or familial, your choice!

Charms for the Easy Life by Kaye Gibbons is so “charmingly” written. I loved the relationships between the three generations of “passionate, willful Southern women.”

Birthday Bonus: The best gift I’ve ever been given was. . . This is a little embarrassing but when I was a little girl I really liked baby dolls. One Christmas I got exactly the one I’d been wishing for and toted her all around with me after that.

baby doll

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March is the month for luck and new beginnings. Name a book or series that you would like to re-experience as if you’d never read it.

 You know how sometimes a book–or, in this case, a series of books– comes along when you’re in exactly the right frame of mind for it? That’s how Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was for me. Those books brought me so much joy that, after reading them, I went on to listen to the BBC radio broadcast, and that was really entertaining, too (definitely better than the movie).

Hitchhiker's Guide.jpg

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April is a spectacularly ordinary month. Name a book that was so over-hyped that it just could not live up to your expectations.
Well, I had high hopes for 17 & Gone, but I’m sorry to say it didn’t live up to my expectations.

17 & gone copy.jpg

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May is the month when the flowers start to bloom. Name a book that was a pleasant surprise to you.

I’ve never really jumped at stories about dragons, but Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina presented dragons in such an interesting, unique way that by the end I thought they were pretty glorious. It didn’t hurt that the story was really well written with an element of music running through it.

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June is the time to take a break. Name a book or genre that you like to read when you just need to check out.

I’ll just say right now that I am not a re-reader. However, a book that completely transported me to a different world was Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go.

Knife of Never Letting Go copy.jpg

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July is the time to celebrate your independence! Name a book that made you see fireworks. (Figuratively. Please don’t light books on fire.)

In concept and execution, Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall is the perfect book for me. If Before I Fall were a person, I would marry it.

bookcover_home_before_i_fall

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August is the hottest month of the year. Pick an up-and-coming author that you think will be the next hottest thing.

I have a lot more 2015 debut YA authors’ books to read before I can decide who’s the hottest up-and-comer, but for now my guess is the talented and gorgeous Sabaa Tahir.

sabaa tahir copy.jpg

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September is time for students to go back to school! Pick a book you read for school that you actually enjoyed.

I found something to love about pretty much every book I read for school, but if I have to pick a favorite I’ll say Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (which has, in my humble opinion, the truest-to-the-book movie adaptation ever made.)

To Kill a Mockingbird copy.jpg

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October is time to celebrate Halloween! Pick one character that you would love to dress up as for Halloween.

Who wouldn’t love to dress as the baddest assassin in town, Calaena Sardothien from Sara J. Maas’ Throne of Glass?

Throne of Glass copy.jpg

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November is the month when we’re reminded of how much we have to be thankful for. Choose one book you’re grateful for having read and give a shout-out to the person who recommended it!

I am so glad I read Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda . I don’t remember how I stumbled across it, so I’m not sure who to thank, but Simon vs. the HSA was one of my favorite reads of 2015. I loved Simon’s voice and am puzzled by how this heartwarming book is not on more people’s favorites lists.

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda cover

If this book tag is something you’d like to try, consider yourself tagged!