Lithosphere Essay

Racializing is a common issue in today’s real world but it has also been shown in the book The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin. By having this in the book, it shows the problems that people have to go through in the world and the author may have done this because she has gone through it. N.K. Jemisin is a black woman and by putting these issues into her book, she may want to bring more awareness to the unfair treatment by people when they racialize. There are many examples of racializing in The Fifth Season to the people called “orogenes”. This is because of what they can do which is seen as supernatural but people use bad faith and certain myths to believe that their powers hurt them more than save them. 

There have been a lot of examples of racializing in the book with the character Damaya. Damaya is considered an orogene which her parents and the people in her town know which has caused a lot of unfair treatment to her. When Damaya is first introduced into the book, we learn she has been locked away in a barn by her parents. On page 26, it states “When Damaya doesn’t respond, Mother says ‘She can’t have gotten out. My husband checked all the barn locks himself.” This quote shows that she is treated like an animal for who she is even though she has absolutely no control over it. When Jemisin wrote “She can’t have gotten out” it sounds like Damaya is just some barn animal but she is a human being just like her parents. During this chapter in the book, we learn that Damaya’s parents took away her coat during winter and gave it away to her cousin. This shows that they think she is less than other people and doesn’t even deserve a coat in the cold season. On page 31, it states “Mother draws up in surprise. ‘We gave away her coat.’ ‘Gave it away? In winter?’ He speaks mildly but mother looks abruptly uncomfortable. ‘She’s got a cousin who needed it.” Damaya’s mother also talks about how she gave the coat away because she believed a myth that orogene’s don’t feel the cold the same way others do. This myth can be harmful to believe because Damaya had to suffer in the cold just because her mother believed it. On page 31, it states “And you’ve heard that orogenes don’t feel cold the way others do.’ says the man, with a weary sigh. ‘That’s a myth. I assume you’ve seen your daughter take cold before.” This quote also shows that Damaya’s mother is never with her and has no idea how Damaya is when it is cold. Towards the end of the book, the readers learned that Damaya was never taught how to read. This seems like such a basic need but since Damaya is looked down upon, her parents didn’t believe she deserved it. It also shows that her parents never cared or spent time with Damaya, all because of who she is. On page 297, it says “The instructors have taught her to read as her parents did not.” Damaya’s storyline shows the huge problem of racializing and the harm it has done to her.

In the real world, there are terms and slurs that are used to dehumanize and degrade people. This is also a problem in The Fifth Season where the term “rogga” is known as a slur to orogene’s. The term “rogga” has been talked about many times in the book when either a character calls themselves it or is called it by another person. Characters have spoken about how the term is a slur and how dehumanizing it is to them. On page 89, it says “Damaya inhales, horrified. It has never occurred to her that roggas-she stops herself. She. She is a rogga. All at once she does not like this word, which she has heard most of her life. It’s a bad word she’s not supposed to say, even though the grownups toss it around freely, and suddenly it seems uglier than it already did.” This quote also demonstrates that when Damaya was first thinking, she didn’t even consider herself to be one because she knows that it is a slur. This is a huge part of racializing because all the orogenes are grouped together when they are called this term. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they have done, they are “roggas” which is the same issue that people have in the real world with the slurs that people call them. This issue has come up in the book again, when the readers learn that rogga is a slur to orogene’s and not just some word. On page 140, it says “Sometimes a rogga can’t learn to control.’ Now she understands that his use of the slur is deliberate. A dehumanizing word for someone who has been made into a thing.” This quote also shows that the term is used when people believe that orogenes are not human beings, they are below them. This is exactly how it is in the real world when people use slurs to degrade people, believing that they themselves are higher up than the people they are degrading.

A character in the book is called Essun and she has dealt with people seeing her and just knowing that she is an orogene. When someone saw her, they immediately raised their weapon even though Essun was no threat to them. This can also be related to the real world, when police would treat black people as criminals when they did nothing wrong which became a huge problem. On page 55, it says “Perhaps he does not see the latter woman quickly shoulder her weapon and orient it on you.” In this scene in the book, Essun was walking with another man but he was not an orogene which shows that Essun was seen as the issue. This part of the book was quickly escalated when the woman with the weapon shot at Essun. When Essun felt threatened by the woman and knew she was most likely to shoot at her while she was unarmed, she started to use her “supernatural” powers to protect herself. Essun stated in the book that she deals with these types of situations a lot which is why she decided to protect herself. It is unknown to the readers if the woman was going to shoot at Essun even if she didn’t protect herself but it still shows that Essun has dealt with weapons being pointed at her a lot. It can also be shown that Essun could have died many times just because of what people think of her but she has protected herself to stop her death. On page 55 and 56, it says, “And because once upon a time and in another life you learned to respond to sudden threats in a very particular way, you reach for the air around you and pull and brace your feet against the earth beneath you and anchor and narrow and when the woman fires the crossbow, the bolt blurs toward you.” This scene shows that Essun was just using a weapon to defend herself just as that woman did to her, but Essun is much more powerful than her. This shows the powers that caused people to racialize the orogene’s.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin has shown many examples of racializing in her book. There are numerous ways that the book connects to the issue of racializing in the real world. Scenes in the book can relate to problems that people have to deal with in our world and having it in a book can show these issues to a broader audience. The grouping of people is dangerous and extremely dehumanizing which the book shows how orogene’s are affected by this issue.

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