The Core Essay by Gaby Laughlin

In the early part of the semester, we were introduced to The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K Jemisin, who I have never heard of or read any previous works, so I was quite new to it as many others were as well. I was presented to me as a new reader of bad-faith manipulation of myth and science that Jemisin presents into racialization, gender, and use-caste. Jemisin connects these key ideas into her books to show how real-life issues can also be seen through mythical stories with scientific ideology. I discussed these key ideas in my Lithosphere essay I wrote after reading, The Fifth Season, I was just understanding Jemisin’s writing style when I originally wrote that essay based on only the first book. It was clearly presented that characters were mistreated or misjudged based on their group they identified as such as Orogenes, Guardians, Stone Eaters, and Geomests. Through these characterized groups, I was able to get an understanding of Jemisin’s main idea she was progressively presenting through the use of the groups that allowed real-life issues to peek through. It allowed me to connect better with the book, as I was able to relate real-life scenarios that were being presented throughout all of the trilogy.

In my Lithosphere essay, I had understood that characters had struggles and had faced events that were much like the real world. Events such as family problems, racial discrimination, and struggles that I read, which allowed me to understand that any book can present these situations through different genres. I read articles and conversations of what other people also thought from this first book, The Obelisks Gate, which very well gave me more to think about with the geographical phrases and the storyline. The dislike of earth science made me question if I would like this book, but I began to realize it was much more than just a scientific fiction it was placed under. Soon I realized it was much more than that, it made me think about different connections and have a deeper understanding of what Jemisins point was.

 Jemisin presented racial discrimination that certain groups faced such as the orogenes.Orogenes are individuals that had abilities to manipulate energy, particularly the earth’s energy from the ground that caused earthquakes and unintentional freezing of living things. Orogenes were treated very wrongly, as they were sent to these schools, called the Fulcrum, in which they were sent here due to their abilities and powers that many were afraid of. In the very first book, I got to learn about Damaya and Syens thoughts on the Fulcrum, along with the treatment they received there. Damaya was sent there as a young girl. In The Fifth Season Jemisin writes, “She almost killed a boy at school. We’ve got another child, and neighbors, and…” (Jemisin 32). When these powers arose they had been seen as cursed from their communities, as many would want her gone or killed even because Orogenes were seen as dangerous and as mentioned in the beginning cursed with such powers. The powers to freeze anything in sight and feel earth’s energies, this created fear for ordinary people as they couldn’t protect themselves. So due to this fear,many parents either beat their children to death or were able to sell them to child-buyers, or even send them to the Fulcrum. 

 Guardians would take them to the Fulcrum to be managed, which in my thoughts at this time, I thought connected the real world to how the government tries to control the civilians and their thoughts. Some might also agree to disagree but the Fulcrum is like many countries’ governments, and the people that were controlling it would be the Guardians, who many could say are like the leaders in this government. As the Orogenes are the civilians whose purpose was to follow the Fulcrums leadership, as it was a way of “protecting” the communities. This connects with many governments in different countries as some countries have an autocratic type of leadership which controls every aspect of individuals. Emeritus describes this type of leadership as, “Autocratic leadership, also known as authoritarian leadership, is a leadership style where leaders have absolute control and authority to make decisions and supervise their subordinates with minimum or no input from others” (Shinde). This is similar to the ideology the Fulcrum has, they wanted to restrict the Orogenes individual rights as they felt it was the righter good for society. The Fulcrum was led by Guardians, who are an ancient order of humans that had supernatural powers, with the main task of having to control and manage Orogenes. With the Guardians controlling every aspect of the orgeones life there, such as their day to day and powers. We see a variety of punishments that orogenes face when misbehaved, which consists of cold showers if not properly cleaned,or striking for not having clean beds, not dressing or grooming properly, uncombed hair, unbrushed teeth. In The Fifth Season it says, “You are representatives of us all, the instructors say if any grit dares to  protest this treatment. When you’re dirty, all Orogenes are dirty. When you’re lazy, we’re all lazy. We hurt you so you’ll do the rest of us no harm” (Jemisin 193). The Orogenes had to follow their rules because then they would face punishment, which is clear to me then that Orogens were the bottom of the use-caste. They were not seen as anything else but the bottom, this made it okay for the treatment they received. Realizing now that some governments that use this sort of systematic idea as well, connects with this message Jemisin presents through use-caste and discrimination of certain groups.

At this point in the semester, I think I still agree with my thoughts on Jemisin’s efforts to show discrimination of groups, along with this sort of use-caste system that she demonstrates throughout the next two books. I saw it a little more though other groups actions such as in the second book, The Obelisks Gate, Nassun is traveling with her father Jija. Nassun is the daughter of Essun who also has possessed the extraordinary orogenic abilities, as for Jija her father he’s a normal Still who has no powers but a very strong hatred of Orogenes as he killed his son due to this. In The Obelisk Gate, “When Nassun comes home that afternoon, Uche is already dead. Jija is standing over his cooling corpse in the den, breathing hard. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to beat a toddler to death…” (Jemisin 8). Seeing this strong hatred of a certain group connects with many outside societies in the world. This use-caste system “allows” it to be okay for Stills to feel this fear of them as a sense of power to hurt them, as well as other groups like Guardians who also have a hatred of them. In The Obelisk Gate, “That’s why they have to be drowned as babes” (Jemisin 47). Schaffa and Litz who are guardians both laugh and joke about this, representing the careless feelings they have towards another group such as Orogenes.

I also never fully understood the connection of Essun, Syen, and Damaya as great as I do now. In the beginning I was confused and lost most of the time. Now at the end of the semester I can really connect all three and understand the grief or pain they have gone through. These names that this one character has gained are the different stages she has gone through, demonstrating the parts of her life. This connects with society in the real world, we may not change our names to show the different parts of ourselves but everyone goes through different struggles and pain at different times which develops who we are in the end as we are always evolving and growing. Jemisin gives these characters these three names as it shows her growing and overcoming difficult times. Damaya was the child-like version of her who was sent to the Fulcrum, that went through discrimination and this use-caste system at the Fulcrum. Syenite was the name she chose as this after overcoming her first-ringer test and thinks of herself as a weapon that should be honored. Uniquely enough, this name has a scientific meaning behind it that Jemisin uses, Syenite is an intrusive igneous rock that has different characterization of it and is composed of different looks such as granite and quartz. A brief idea of Syenite gave me a new idea that Syenite is supposed to be characterized by different things as it connects to the Jemisisn point of this is her middle stage in life. Essun was the final name she chose, it was after Meov was attacked and she was forced to kill her son Corundum rather than let him be taken as a slave. After this she creates a new identity for herself as Essun, in which she moves to a different town Tiromo and has another family. These names demonstrate all the things they have gone through such as discrimination, use-caste systems and most importantly the struggles they faced. Each name demonstrates the next chapter in their life. In The Obelisk Gate, “After all, a person is herself, and others. Relationships chisel the final shape of one’s being. I am me, and you. Damaya was herself and the family that rejected her and the people of the Fulcrum who chiseled her to a fine point. Syenite was Alabaster and Innon and the people of poor lost Allia and Meov. Now you are Tirimo and the ash-strewn road’s walkers and your dead children… and also the living one who remains” (Jemisin 1). This quote describes in the best possible way of what each character’s chapter was at that point in time. They have seen and gone through terrible times but continue evolving through it, and I believe that is one of many important messages in this trilogy. 

As I went through my own journey of this trilogy, I also went through my own journey of this class as I was able to gain new knowledge and a different perspective on this genre of literature. It allowed me to be able to learn, gain, and use this new knowledge as a skill and be able to demonstrate it through collaborations or this essay. I was glad to have been able to take this class as I found it immensely interesting, as I would never have thought I could have enjoyed it as much as I did. I was also able to grow as a person just as these characters did, I learned new knowledge but also learned new skills such as collaborating and being able to voice my own thoughts on different small group discussions. I think I was able to get out of a “shell” I have always been in as I’ve always been scared of judgment for my thoughts. But in small groups it was never judgment, it was feedback and praise at times. In The Stone Sky, “‘Because that is how one survives eternity,’ I say, ‘or even a few years.Friends. Family. Moving forward with them. Moving Forward” (Jemisin 397)

Works Cited

Jemisin, N. K. The Fifth Season. Orbit, 2015.

Jemisin, N. K. The Obelisk Gate. Orbit, 2016.

Jemisin, N. K. The Stone Sky. Orbit, 2017.

Shinde, Siddhesh. “What is Autocratic Leadership? A Comprehensive Guide for You.” Emeritus, Accessed 2 May 2024.