I was reading Katie’s post, and it reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to say:
I like the way Butler deals with representation.
When I was reading Clay’s Ark back in September, I was surprised and excited at the introduction of Stephen Kaneshiro. Why? Because Kaneshiro is an Asian (Japanese, I believe) sounding name. Butler has an (and I’m judging solely based on the name here) Asian character (or character of Asian descent) in her novel!
I was excited because I don’t usually encounter Asian characters in the novels I read. I usually don’t find Asian representation unless I’m consciously choosing a book with Asian representation. Butler didn’t stop at Stephen Kaneshiro. Fledgling has Hugh Tang: Stefan’s (Shori’s youngest brother) symbiont that found Shori in the cave (75). Lilith’s Brood has Joseph Li-Chin Shing, a “Citizen of Canada, born in Hong Kong” (121). “Imago” of Lilith’s Brood also has Marina Rivers (the girl saved by Lilith’s family) who is Filipino: “‘I’m from Manila’” (580).
But Butler also doesn’t stop at just Asian representation.
- Shori and Lilith are of African ancestry.
- Rane and Keira of Clay’s Ark are biracial (462).
- Lupe, Ingraham’s partner in Clay’s Ark, uses (I believe) Spanish forms of address: she calls Rane, chica and Jacob, niño (521-523).
- Jen pointed out in her post that, in Fledgeling, the Gordon’s settlement is named Punta Nublada, which is Spanish for “Cloudy Point” (133).
- João’s, the injured man Dichaan had found in the forest, native language is “português”: Portuguese (Lilith’s Brood 597).
- Johdas narrates that “Most survivors (of Earth) were from Africa, Australia, and South America” (Lilith’s Brood 616).
I keep thinking back to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk. She, as a child, wrote about white, blue eyed characters who played in the snow despite living in Nigeria where there was no snow. She states: “What (the above example) demonstrates, I think, is how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children. Because all I had read were books in which characters were foreign, I had become convinced that books by their very nature had to have foreigners in them and had to be about things with which I could not personally identify” (Transcript).
Butler doesn’t let us forget that people of other (Earth based) cultures exist within her novels. This is something I find incredibly important.