“Personal Growth and Racialization: Insights from ‘The Broken Earth Trilogy’ and Beyond”

       In the context of our course, racialization refers to the process of imbuing individuals or entities with racial characteristics by categorizing and marginalizing people based on race. Racialization highlights the role of shaping different power dynamics and perpetuating inequalities within a society, all of which can be connected to the real world as well as The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin. In this Trilogy, a world full of racial and hierarchical/political tensions is depicted in many instances. Racialization is a very real concept that warrants careful attention and analysis in the context of this course and its teachings. My opinion from the start of this course up until now has not changed in all honesty, however for the purpose of this essay I will elaborate more as my Lithosphere essay was geared towards more factual ideologies in relation to contemporary events as opposed to how I personally feel about the topic. 

         When the concept of racialization was first presented in class I certainly could agree with the importance in “talking about it” for educational purposes and ensuring proper understanding of a topic that plays an influential role in the U.S. As a conservative thinker, dominantly based on my religious beliefs and the words of God in the bible, I believe that the emphasis on racialization not only undermines merit-based principles but also feeds resentment among people who believe themselves to be unfairly targeted. Excessive attention to racialization overly intensifies divisions in society as well as fostering a victim mentality among certain groups which is why minority groups often struggle so much to make societal gains. One example of this can be seen in the treatment of orogenes, who are marginalized and discriminated against due to their inherent abilities. Throughout the trilogy, orogenes are subjected to prejudice and fear from non-oregene society members, leading to their ostracization and mistreatment. This continuous formation perpetuates a victim mentality among orogenes, who struggle to make societal gains due to the barriers imposed upon them. Circulating back to the first book at the very beginning, there was a quote that really stood out and even in this essay still speaks to me, “This is what you must remember: the ending of one story is just the beginning of another. This has happened before, after all, People die. Old orders pass. New societies are born. When we say, ‘the world has ended’, it’s usually a lie, because the planet is just fine” (The Fifth Season, pg. 14). This goes to show how history always repeats itself, continuously, and as I mentioned in my Lithosphere essay, nothing changes unless something changes, unfortunately this is not the case and the barriers keep coming back because the society cannot seem to keep moving forward, instead the characters in the novel live in the past, common to how real-life society works. We take two steps forward and five steps back until changes are made that set the pace to perpetuate society forward enough to make a long-lasting difference.

In the real world, just as characters in the trilogy suffer due to racialization, real-world individuals face prejudice based on their race or ethnicity especially in regard to the workforce and employment. Treating people differently based on race is unjust; as a society we have made monumental gains so that all humans, both male, female, as well as any race have equal opportunity for employment. Recognizing the value of every individual regardless of their background and promoting empathy towards all is crucial in dismantling oppressive systems and fostering a more equitable society. The bible says, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free” (Galatians 3:26-28). This verse emphasizes the unity in all believers regardless of their social or cultural distinctions, which particularly speaks well to me. Suggesting that excessive focus on difference can lead to division rather than unity. 

Unfortunately, where efforts have been made to equalize opportunities for individuals of all races, a paradoxical situation has emerged where being white can now pose challenges in securing employment. While the intention behind implementing diversity quotas is to address historical inequalities and promote inclusivity, the unintended consequence is that hiring decisions are increasingly influenced by race rather than the quality of work. From firsthand experience, aiding my own friends and family in joining the workforce, as well as learning a wealth of information from my mother who migrated to the United States from Honduras and her perspective on the way things work in the world,  it has been made abundantly clear the shift towards prioritizing diversity quotas over meritocracy in the workplace. This approach undermines the principle of fairness and equal opportunity, as individuals should be evaluated based on their qualifications and capabilities rather than their racial background. Although, of course acknowledging the importance of fostering diversity and inclusivity is imperative, ensuring that those efforts do not come at the expense of merit-based hiring practices is also essential for maintaining a competitive and productive workforce and society as a whole. 

In N.K. Jemisin’s the Broken Earth Trilogy, a sanctuary named Found Moon, run by Schaffa formerly Essun’s Guardian, I believe serves as a good parallel for the current border control issue in the United States. Found Moon shelters young orogenes and prioritizes protection and control over its boundaries in order to ensure safety. The community’s strict control over its boundaries mirrors the emphasis on border security in addressing contemporary immigration concerns as well as highlighting the issues concerning balancing security with humanitarian concerns. The oregenes are a racialized group and feared because of their unwarranted powers, the people in the Stillness do not entirely understand the positive function they serve only the negative side of things. That being said the orgenes do create a lot of turmoil for the stillness as well as do unfortunately cause substantial amounts of deaths. Like the border control issue in the United States, the two sides to this draw parallels to the oregenes. A considerable number of immigrants entering the United States may include individuals with criminal intentions, while others seek sanctuary from various hardships. However, this diversity of intentions can understandably lead to some apprehension among some U.S. citizens in particular, as unfamiliarity with diverse cultures and customs can evoke feelings of uncertainty and concern, such as those members of society who were afraid of the oregenes. Granted the fear of the oregenes was warranted by the potential dangers and destruction they can cause, such as the possible dangers undocumented immigrants and immigrants in general can pose. In contemporary society an example of this which was widely spread on the news was the murder of Laken Riley, a nursing student at Augusta University in Athens, Georgia who was murdered by a migrant who “allegedly beat her so brutally with an unidentified object that he disfigured her skull” (nypost.com).

However, even more applicable is when the wall was being built at the edge of the Rio Grande. This was the United States way of protecting the country and controlling who was entering and leaving which is similar to Found Moon. A closer comparison can be drawn between Found Moon and the construction of the wall along Rio Grande; as a sanctuary run by Schaffa, prioritizes the protection and control of its boundaries to ensure safety for its inhabitants, particularly orogenes. Similarly, the construction of the border wall along the Rio Grande represents the United States’ attempt to safeguard its borders and regulate the flow of people entering and leaving the country. Both Found Moon and the border wall reflect efforts to assert control and security within their respective territories, within of course different contexts.

         Throughout the course, I have explored the concept of racialization and its manifestations in both functional narratives and real-world contexts. My opinions on racialization have remained unchanged since the beginning of the course. However, the course has sparked a heightened curiosity in me regarding racialization, prompting me to dig deeper into the subject and conduct further research independently. It is essential for others to also engage in independent research on racialization, exploring perspectives from both sides of the argument to foster a deeper understanding and informed discussions/interpretations.

         The themes of racialization, discrimination, and societal divisions permeate the entirety of N.K. Jemisin’s the Broken Earth Trilogy. Throughout the trilogy, the treatment of orogenes serves as a plausible example of how racialization leads to marginalization and discrimination. Much like Essun’s journey of self-discovery and growth throughout the trilogy, my engagement in the class has led to a deepening understanding of complex societal issues as well as fostering a greater appreciation for diverse perspectives. Essun, from an early age was forced to conceal her orogenic abilities out of fear and necessity by her own family, she lived a life of secrecy and isolation. Throughout the trilogy she had to navigate the complexities of her world, assuming various different names and identities, each reflecting a new “chapter” in her life. Essun also embodies the goal of many oppressed individuals in real-life by transcending the confines of society’s expectations and emerging as a force to be reckoned with when she becomes a stone eater, which shows her true strength and resilience of those who have endured and persevered against all odds.

Orogenes, due to their innate abilities, face isolation and mistreatment from non-orogene society members, mirroring real-world dynamics of oppression and prejudice experienced by marginalized groups, as seen various times in the novel. This portrayal underscores the broader themes discussed in the claims, illustrating how excessive attention to racial categorization intensifies societal divisions and perpetuates a victim mentality among marginalized communities. Overall, my experience in this course has allowed me to dive deeper into the real circumstances of the current world we live in by reading the trilogy. The connections I made helped formulate innovative ideas and perspectives that have had a positive impact on my academic and personal wealth of knowledge. I feel as though I was able to hone my analytical skills by applying abstract themes from the trilogy for instance to real-life contexts, while sharpening my ability to recognize and interpret metaphors and parallels that are being drawn. All of these factors helped me to create writing with more “flow”, complete thoughts, and statements that can be backed up. Class was geared in a direction that aided all of these aspects and I appreciate all that I learned this semester all the more for it as it will help me in the future.


Archive, View Author, et al. Migrant Charged with Laken Riley Murder Disfigured Her Skull: Affidavit. 27 Feb. 2024, nypost.com/2024/02/27/us-news/migrant-charged-with-laken-riley-murder-disfigured-her-skull-affidavit/.

Jemisin, N K. Broken Earth Trilogy: The Fifth Season, the Obelisk Gate, the Stone Sky. New York, Orbit, 2018.

King James Version. The Holy Bible. BookRix, 9 Jan. 2019.

The Fifth Season: Uncovering Racialization’s Implications

In N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, readers are immediately immersed in a world on the brink of destruction, where a minority group of people controls the natural disasters and outcomes of their world as they know it. Events known as Fifth Seasons wreak havoc. Through vivid storytelling, Jemisin explores various applicable topics to contemporary society such as oppression & survival, hierarchical interactions, and environmental degradation. The process of racialization in The Fifth Season involves a complex intertwining of myth, science, and social constructs, shaping the identities and experiences of characters throughout the narrative. Through the exploration of mythical elements such as eclipses, scientific phenomena, and societal hierarchies, the trilogy delves into how racialization functions as a deliberate mechanism to allocate power and establish societal hierarchies.

In The Fifth Season, Jemisin explores a world where orogenes, and excluded group of individuals with the ability to manipulate seismic energy, are oppressed and controlled by higher members of society such as the Guardians and, Yumenes leaders, and more importantly the system that teaches them from a young age to control their abilities and emotions, the Fulcrum. This oppression is evident in the treatment of orogenes within the Fulcrum, the institution that trains and controls them for the benefit of the ruling elite. Reflecting on her experiences, Damaya, a young girl separated from her family to undergo training at the Fulcrum, acknowledges in two separate instances, “(Friends do not exist. The Fulcrum is not a school. Grits are not children. Oregenes are not people. Weapons have no need of friends… No one gets expelled from the Fulcrum, after all. Dysfunctional weapons are simply removed from the stockpile. And functional weapons should be smart enough to take care of themselves.” (Jemisin, p. 297 & 298). This quote shows how the Fulcrum treats orogenes as tools, not as people with feelings or friends. It highlights how they’re used as weapons and not given the care or support that children need, emphasizing their harsh treatment and lack of personal connections within the institution as well as reinforcing the idea that hierarchy is reinforced through the dehumanization and exploitation of orogenes. It also reflects how the process of racialization categorizes them as individuals with inherent worth, perpetuating a system where their identities are reduced to how they are used as well as their level of expendability.

Within the narrative of Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, the Guardian’s words to Damaya reveal the pervasive fear and control surrounding orogenes within the society. He reinforces the notion of their inherent danger, stating, ” You cannot control yourself. It isn’t in your nature. You are lightning, dangerous unless captured in wires. You’re fire-a warm light on a cold dark night to be sure, but also a conflagration that can destroy everything in its path-” (Jemisin, p. 95). This characterization serves to justify the harsh treatment and strict control imposed on orogenes, as demonstrated by the Guardian’s admonition by portraying orogenes as uncontrollable forces of nature, the Guardian reinforces societal prejudices and rationalizes the oppressive measures taken against them.

Furthermore, the Guardian also says to Demaya, within the same conversation, that “‘Orogenes have no right to say no. I am your Guardian. I will break every bone in your hand, every bone in your body, if I deem it necessary to make the world safe from you’… Schaffa keeps stroking her broken hand. ‘I love you’, he says… ‘Never doubt that I do, little one. Poor creature locked in a barn so afraid of herself she hardly dares to speak.’” (Jemisin, p. 99). The Guardian’s manipulative tactics further underscore the oppressive dynamic, as he alternates between threats of violence and affection towards Damaya, instilling in her a sense of guilt and dependence. This complex interplay of fear, control, and emotional manipulation highlights the tenuous existence of orogenes within the book. As well as underscoring the dehumanizing effects of societal prejudice and the lengths to which those in power will go to maintain control. This can be connected to contemporary societal norms and racialization as it mirrors the systemic oppression and control imposed on marginalized groups in our own society, highlighting the enduring struggle against dehumanization and the abuse of power in our own government.Top of Form

In summation, N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season offers a profound investigation into power dynamics, dehumanization, and oppression within its fictional world. Through the portrayal of orogenes and their societal treatment, the novel prompts a thought-provoking examination of contemporary societal norms and the process of racialization. The pervasive themes of fear, control, and manipulation experienced by orogenes parallel real-world instances of systemic oppression and discrimination, particularly against marginalized communities. By drawing these connections, The Fifth Season highlights the enduring struggle against dehumanization and the misuse of authority. Hence, the novel serves as a compelling catalyst for reflection on the pressing need to address and rectify societal injustices.


Jemisin, N. K. (n.d.). The Fifth Season

Historical Foundations of Race. National Museum of African American History and Culture. (2021, December 16). https://nmaahc.si.edu/learn/talking-about-race/topics/historical-foundations-race