A Journey From Lithosphere to Core

Emily Rechlin : English 111

Throughout my time taking English 111 here at Suny Geneseo, I have grown as a writer and student, while also deepening my understanding of the course material. At the beginning of the semester, Professor McCoy introduced a trilogy, known as “The Broken Earth” which gave me insight into societal dynamics. Additionally, my peers and I delved into the complex relationships between myth, science, the process of racialization, gender-making, and class distinctions. Exploring these hierarchies and groups allowed me to deepen my understanding on the process of racialization which plays a large role in reinforcing these systems of power, oppression and identity. While reading Jemisin’s first book in the trilogy, “The Fifth Season”, my understanding of these concepts developed greatly, as in my Lithosphere essay, I was still attempting to understand Jemisin’s narrative and thinking when writing these novels. This narrative changed my way of thinking and view of these concepts, as I was challenged to deepen my understanding and change my preconceived notions, ultimately prompting a deeper exploration of racialization and power dynamics within fictional realms, which in turn shed light on real world problems that are occurring within society. 

 In “The Broken Earth” trilogy, and discussed in my Lithosphere essay, Jemisin portrays certain communities, in this case the Orogenes, as marginalized due to society’s misunderstanding of their unique traits that give them certain powers that others do not have. Because of these traits, the Orogene community are stigmatized against, much like marginalized communities in our own society, due to race, color, ethnicity, or in this case, their ability to manipulate seismic energy. Terms used in the trilogy such as “rogga”, are used to discriminate and be derogatory towards the Orogene community, once again mirroring the real world where marginalized communities are consistently discriminated against and given labels based on differences that society perceives as unconventional.  “To be safe, the Fulcrum will treat any children born to any rogga as potential roggas themselves, until proven otherwise… But once they’ve proven it, after that, they’ll be… people” (page 111, online). Because the Orogene community has certain abilities that they were born with, they are treated disrespectfully, mirroring real world scenarios. As I continued to progress through the series, my perspectives on racialization and power dynamics evolved alongside the narrative that continued to unfold. Characters such as Essun and Syenite allowed me to understand the complexities of intersectional identities and systematic inequalities more deeply. Throughout the series, these characters show a great deal of resilience, perseverance and overcoming of obstacles that they face, which allowed me to question my thinking and become aware of how identities can be shaped, as well as how social hierarchies operate. 

At the beginning of the semester, my understanding of social dynamics was characterized by what I have personally experienced and been taught. I have always been interested in topics such as oppression, power dynamics and racialization. The academic environment I have been surrounded by has always encouraged me to delve deeper into different perspectives of these topics, and in specific, focus on underlying structural forces that shape societal outcomes. I have always believed that societal structures are not inherently fair, however I did not fully acknowledge and grasp the complexities of this topic. Prior to reading the trilogy, I was comfortable with the amount of knowledge I had on these topics. However “The Broken Earth” trilogy has pushed me to diversify my perspectives and delve deeper.  

Because the Lithosphere essay I wrote during the beginning of the semester in this class was only based on the first book in this trilogy, as I continued to read through the second and third, Essun, a central character in N.K. Jemisin’s trilogy became a character that is considerably more intricate. This allowed me to explore further into Jemisin’s themes of the books. In the “Fifth Season”, Essun is grieving the loss of her son, who was murdered by his father due to his seismic abilities. This creates fire in Essun to find her daughter who has been taken and seek vengeance against her husband. Just like her mother, Nassun also possesses seismic abilities. We see the adventure Essun takes in the “Obelisk Gate”, and discover a caring and passionate side to her personality, ultimately helping and training Orogenes to use their powers and not be ashamed of them. 

 Jemisin does a great job of showing instances in which groups come together to face this adversity and confront the systemic injustices that had shaped their lives. An example being when Essun gathered the group of Orogenes at the fulcrum, and encouraged them to recognize how powerful they could be together and demand change. By doing this, Essun showed great perseverance and reminded me of resilience that was talked about in “The Fifth Season”, as well as discussed with my group members in our collaborative exercise. The novel notes “…what is important is that you know it was not all terrible. There was peace in long stretches, between each crisis. A chance to cool and solidify before the grind resumes.” (page 263, online). Although the Orogenes have been exploited and controlled due to their seismic abilities, Essun does an amazing job in emphasizing that though they may be unique, the Orogenes deserve freedom and rights just like anyone else. By exposing the Fulcrum and rallying the Orogenes together, Essun changed my point of view on these topics. Witnessing Essun rallying these Orogenes to promote change and awareness for their community was extremely empowering and showed how her journey from being a victim and facing tragedy to becoming someone that the Orogene community looks up to was inspiring. By using both individual agency and collective empowerment, Essun was an inspiration teaching valuable lessons on how to go about issues and allowed for me to reflect on the ways that I can impact society and create change where it is needed. Advocating for what you believe in is a great way to contribute to positive social transformation. I believe that my mindset shifting from the beginning of the semester only allowed me to deepen my understanding of what I was reading in the trilogy. 

As I reflect on the journey through N.K. Jemisin’s “The Broken Earth” trilogy, the exploration of themes such as identity, power and resistance prompted me to shift from passive acceptance to one of active engagement in order to advocate for justice and equality. Challenging the oppressive systems that have been in place is an essential first step in striving for a more compassionate and just society. 

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