Core Essay 

Sean Anglim 

When looking back through the course epigraph along with the work I completed throughout this course, it is clear to me that my thinkING has totally been reformed. As I first became involved with the English 111 curriculum, I was honestly not prepared for the various ways my mind and ideals would be reshaped; this caused me to discover a more complex understanding through our course work. When first diving into N.K Jemisin’s work, I will admit that at many times I was struggling through the means of confusion and understanding; it was difficult at first for me to interpret and soak in so much. As we ran through the beautiful and complex Broken Earth Trilogy, all the elements and ideologies used by Jemisin profoundly embellished the themes she focused on within this collection of novels, and it had such a monumental impact on my thinking as I reached the end. 

While examining my reflection throughout my Lithosphere Essay I wrote earlier this semester, I mainly touched on how Jemisin’s combines real world societal constructs such as racialization and oppression with science and myth to create such an impactful first novel. The way Jemisin combines all these themes gives the reader a unique perspective of the real world societal issues Jemisin portrays with this fictional world. In turn, this further develops and changes the reader’s views and ideologies of what racism and oppression look like within a society; this society Jemisin creates on paper basically masking ours(on a structural standpoint at least). She deeply ingrains racialization and inequality into the world of the Stillness through the use of “orogenes”, who are long discriminated against because of the seismic powers they are born with. Staying on the topic of my Lithosphere Essay, I kept on pointing back to the idea of the Fulcrum, a sort of jail or camp where these orogene peoples would be sent at an early age if their powers were discovered. I mainly focused on this idea of the Fulcrum because it was such a large reason that racialization and oppression were so deeply rooted within this society Jemisin creates for us. I referred back to what these orogenes would be forcibly taught and convinced by higher ups in the Fulcrum throughout their upbringing; how what they learned in the Fulcrum followed them for the rest of their lives. “Friends do not exist. The Fulcrum is not a school. Grits are not children. Orogenes are not people. Weapons have no need for friends (Jemisin, pg 297).” Being told this about you and your people is detrimental to a young mind. When you are convinced by society at such a young age that you are a “weapon” and a “tool” only, you have no choice but to believe it.  

When I put together my Lithosphere Essay, I was honestly a little confused with the overall plot and storyline of The Fifth Season. Jemisin left so many open ended questions and lingering mysteries that caused my mind to not fully interpret certain themes that would come to be essential later on as the course moved along. As I progressed through these three books, I no longer was in this state of subtle confusion; everything and every character Jemisin includes in this series has a reason. I was able to look back to the course epigraph, having a much clearer understanding of Jemisin’s use of theme. Her emphatic use of racialization throughout the next two novels gave me a new interpretation and viewpoint on the meaning and definition of this construct. I started to slow down my reading after I finished the Fifth Season, and this caused me to grasp and catch so much of what Jemisin underlyingly slips in throughout this series. While in reflection, I went back to the course epigraph and realized that I did not fully conceptualize what I believed racialization looked like while writing this earlier in the course. When looking back to how I was thinkING, the term “race” was something I believe I fully understood, which in result caused me to kind of overlook the course epigraph. The course epigraph states “a name we retain for the strategic, epistemological, and political commitments it recognizes—attached to a repeating tendency, of the gravest import, to demarcate human beings through differences among humans that are selectively essentialized as absolute and fundamental, in order to distribute positions and powers differentially to human groups”(Heng 27). The strategic and hierarchical concepts of racism were ideas I realize I couldn’t grasp on a wide scale before this trilogy, as I only had the viewpoint of being a majoritarian white male in society.Now, after reading the trilogy, I see how this term is much deeper and more complex than I once thought. From my perspective in our society, it is hard to grasp and interpret racialization as I have never experienced it. Putting myself in someone else’s shoes does not exemplify what this term truly means on a deeper level. With the perspectives Jemisin gives us throughout these books, I now have more of an understanding of what it is like to be racialized and oppressed; to be kept down by all of society in every way, to be hated and even killed simply because you’re being yourself. Hiding who you truly are so you aren’t hunted down and killed is real, and is something that I really could not grasp previously. I really found my thinkING adapting and evolving as we progressed through N.K Jemisins work. The more we delved into Jemisins work, the more developed my idea of racialization got. The course description states that this class is meant to provide us with a better understanding through “the ways in which systems of power lead to different outcomes for members of diverse groups “, and I would definitely say that has held true to my epistemology on this matter. Seeing racial inequality through alternative perspectives made me much better conceptualize discrimination as a whole, and the underlying themes N.K Jemisin focuses on; such excruciating and deeply ingrained inequality that many in our society have not experienced first hand(myself included), but is ever-so prevalent.

The more I traveled through Jemisins work, the more I was able to appreciate her use of various themes. Her use of racial constructs along with such meaningful dialogue between characters absolutely shot over my expectations before diving into this course. When we were introduced to the Broken Earth Trilogy, I was honestly confused through the means of how a science fiction trilogy could change the way I thought about and conceptualized real world ideologies and problems. This is like no other set of novels that I have ever read, as the combination of science, myth, and important real world issues are what reeled me in as I read. The dialogue between characters was just so impactful, and Jemisins work has such deeper meaning than what I expected before starting The Fifth Season. “…being useful to others is not the same thing as being equal”(The Stone Sky). The way Jemisin constructed the society of the Stillness to resonate so closely with ours just makes this so much more eye-opening, with 

. What resonated with me the most throughout these writings was the beautiful dialogue from character to character, and the relationships between certain characters. These relationships were so meaningful and relatable in our society, it honestly changed my view on relationships in my own life. Seeing Nassun and Jija’s relationship unfold is what impacted me monumentally; doing everything in your power to change who your own daughter really is would before seem unimaginable to me, but Jemisin really opened my eyes and made me think deeper. Nassun could have done anything, but the only thing that would make her father accept her was to change what really made her Nassun. Reflecting for the final time over our course epigraph, my understanding of societal systems of power has really been reevaluated from Jemisins work. Seeing the imbalance of power throughout the world Jemisin creates made me think about our systematic structure, and truly how neglectful it is towards so many marginalized groups. All my life I have had a broad view of what society is really like, as I come from a small town and now live on a close-knit college campus; it was always difficult for me to grasp  how the systematic structure of our society causes so many people to be scrutinized and see little to no opportunity for success. Jemisin has given me a clearer idea of how structural inequality can affect a person, and a whole group of people; and how devastatingly cruel the world can be. 

Now that this course is behind me, I have really gone through such a considerable amount of growth in so many areas from our past assignments. I have developed such a better understanding through a variety of concepts, and have seen my communication skills vastly improve from our group collaborations. I hate to say it, but I initially came into English 111 for credit purposes, but I am so grateful that I was able to participate in this course and improve my skills through this curriculum with my classmates. N.K Jemisins work has given me such a deeper understanding of complex themes and relationships, and I can say without a doubt that through this trilogy and coursework I have learned so much.

Traveling to the Core

At the beginning of the course, we were instructed that everything we learn and do in class has a purpose. I never understood how this could be possible, but my learning development has allowed me to deepen my thinking and understanding of societal issues and racialization. Geraldine Heng defines race as follows; “…race is a structural relationship for the articulation and management of human differences, rather than a substantive content”. This definition and understanding of race have deep roots in the Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin, the course, and our society.

The lithosphere essay investigated the trilogy’s first book, The Fifth Season. The lithosphere is the outer part of the Earth (National Geographic) which can relate to the surface level. At this point, our understanding of the connection between Heng’s definition and the trilogy was surface-level. I understood the definition and the connection it had to the book, but I didn’t go any further with how it connected to a bigger picture. Within my lithosphere essay, I addressed how orogenes were racialized due to their possession of powers to cause seismic events. Orogenes possess the powers but are seen as unworthy and dangerous which causes them to be discriminated against. Stills, who are people without these powers are superior in their society. A character named Uche was an orogene; “these people killed Uche. Their hate, their fear, their unprovoked violence. They. (He.) Killed your son. (Jija killed your son.)” (The Fifth Season, 58). His death was a causational effect of predetermined notions about orogenes that were crafted through racialization. This process of racialization has correlations with the process that occurs in our world. However, in ours, it is based on the color of one’s skin. Specifically, black people are victims of this process and continuously are pressured by society to feel less than other groups of people. Structural racism allows society to be structured strategically, where there are groups of superior people and groups that are inferior. Within the earlier part of the semester, I viewed racialization as only involving the color of one’s skin. My previous educational experiences taught me racialization and how this has structured society to separate people based on race. However, throughout the semester, this understanding has broadened and deepened. Heng’s definition of race identifies that human differences are managed but not substantive content. Race is based upon viewing the lithosphere of a person and not their core. In our society, race is determined by the color of one’s skin, but not the characteristics that an individual possesses. We see people on the outside but fail to acknowledge the characteristics on the inside. Going deeper into the class, we traveled deeper into the core and found connections between the trilogy and the racialization that occurs in our world. 

As previously stated, race is a way for society to structure the differences among humans and determine who is seen as powerful and powerless. To understand this further, we discussed as a class what it means to have excellence and be hated for it. The second book in the trilogy, The Stone Sky, described a fictitious world called “Syl Anagist”, a highly advanced and urban nation known to be dominant. Sylanagistines, members of this nation, built a plutonic engine that was known to be highly developed and powerful. This threatened others and led to people becoming jealous which grew into hatred. These feelings of hatred and jealousy caused the failure of this nation. The people of this nation possessed the craft and skill to produce something so powerful, and this threatened people. Individuals in a society may feel threatened because of jealousy and fear that the inferior will become the superior. This idea is connected to the hatred of Jews. Throughout history, there has been a consistent hatred of Jews. Jews are known to be successful and intelligent, which as seen in Syl Anagist, threatens people. This jealousy fuels the hatred people have towards a specific group of people. Race allows society to pinpoint certain characteristics of a group of humans and use that against them, for one group to be seen as superior to the other. In the trilogy, orogenes and sylanagistines have power and intelligence but are seen as less than the others. They are seen this way because racialization has structured society to pick out groups who are superior and inferior. This concept allowed me to think deeply about racialization and what goes into this process. It is not just about the color of one’s skin, it is about any characteristic that can be seen as different. Society uses this to construct groups of people based on certain characteristics. Furthermore, this can be seen in our society with certain professions. Jobs such as doctors and lawyers are seen as elite and ultimately considered more important than other jobs such as janitors and plumbers. The treatment of these different groups of individuals is consistent with the eliteness of the occupation. In the trilogy, the fulcrum is a place for orogenes to be trained in their powers. Ykka, an orogene is known as “feral” because she is not fulcrum-trained. Essun, another orogene is fulcrum-trained, which means she is seen as higher ranked than non-fulcrum-trained orogenes. Essun says to Ykka, “‘[w]hat, now you want to adopt…’ You shake your head, incredulous. ‘Violent bandit ferals?’”(The Stone Sky, 71). The language used by Essun clearly shows how society feels about ferals. Fulcrum-trained are seen as superior compared to non-fulcrum-trained. Essun is stating that she doesn’t trust ferals to do the needed job because they were not trained in a valued institution. This shows a difference in the treatment of people based on their training and profession. If you possess a profession that is seen as elite in society, you are treated as superior. This day in society, everyone is expected to attend college and receive a well-respected occupation. There is a different level of treatment based on your salary and occupation. This concept of our society connects to racialization on a deeper level, and this process goes beyond the color of one’s skin. Racialization infiltrates every sector of society from skin color to occupation. This deeper level of thinking allowed me to open my eyes to the many factors that go into racialization and how society can orient itself to idolize one group over the other.

The collaborative essay with my peers discussed how small events can lead to a catastrophe. This was connected to earthquakes and how small seismic events such as fault movements can create something big and impact many. This allowed me to go deeper with my understanding of racialization and the parallels between the trilogy and our society. The primary concept of how many small events can lead to bigger ones led me to connect to the layers of the earth. As you go down deeper into the core, you are passing through many layers. This can represent the levels of thinking I endured throughout the semester. At first, I viewed Heng’s definition as just that, structuring society based on skin color. However, this transformed into thinking about the many sectors in society and how racialization can influence more than skin color. Furthermore, once you reach the core, there is a great amount of intense heat and pressure (Core). Beginning of the semester, I never realized the impact of these small occurrences and how they can add up to an enormous amount of pressure on a group of people. The class discussions of the trilogy and other societal connections allowed me to view the world critically. This brought me to the conclusion that as a society, we are feeling the pressures of the small injustices that lead to racialization. Understanding the injustices that have been crafted and executed by society due to uncontrollable characteristics. Furthermore, I have reached the core of my understanding because I have learned that thinking deeply and carefully has allowed me to change my way of thinking. Before I entered this semester, everything I learned was very prominent and evident. My previous educational experiences taught me to think about what is right in front of me. My thinking strategies were very cut and dry and my thinking was done in a manner to get the job done and make a conclusion. However, this has changed heavily. Now, I think about the implications of everything and think about the connection to a larger meaning. I have broadened my understanding of society and the process of racialization. I have learned that racialization doesn’t always occur with skin color, but it also occurs in educational institutions and job occupations. 

Over the semester, I have grown as a student and as an individual. I have developed the skill of looking at multiple perspectives when learning. This has allowed me to dig deeper into the meaning behind this class, the trilogy, and societal issues. This difference in my thinking matters because it has allowed me to develop as a person and an intellectual. I have learned that taking on multiple perspectives when I am viewing an issue in our society has allowed me to realize how many moving parts play, like tectonic plates. These moving parts can represent small yet significant instances of injustices and how they can construct a society to have superior and inferior groups of people. This adaptive way of thinking has enabled me to slow down when thinking and consider the moving pieces of the topic. Overall, I have developed many skills throughout the semester that have transformed my thinking and way of learning.

Journey to the Core of N.K. Jemisin’s ‘The Broken Earth’ Trilogy

At the beginning of my journey through N.K. Jemisin’s “The Broken Earth” trilogy, I discussed how the narrative manipulation of science fiction could be compared to the very real processes of racialization, gender-making, and class differentiation. After rereading my Lithosphere essay from the beginning of this semester I was reminded of how I felt at the end of reading the first novel. There was still so much left unsaid and still such a long way to go in the story, but I had finally started to see the direction in which the story was headed. In my initial analysis, I noted Jemisin’s depiction of societal hierarchies but specifically the stark division among different groups of people such as the orogenes, Guardians, and non-orogenes. I reflected on our course epigraph, quoted from Geraldine Heng, and emphasized how race is a construct imposed upon individuals rather than something that is inherent to someone’s being. I noted that the systematic discrimination faced by orogenes paralleled our real-world racial inequalities, and that this novel could serve as a reflection of our contemporary social issues. I was also intrigued by the multiple names and personalities of Essun and how they portrayed her transformation through various names and roles, but we don’t discover this until the end of the novel. This fluidity of names echoed Heng’s notion that race is only a “primary name” that is assigned to individuals based on societal constructs rather than intrinsic qualities. Through Essun, Damaya, and Syenite, I observed how societal expectations and stereotypes shaped each of their experiences and interactions depending on who they were with.

Now looking back after having finished the trilogy and reflecting on my Lithosphere essay, I can acknowledge that my thinking has shifted, although not that much. I think that Jemisin peeled back more layers that revealed a deeper explanation of the complexities in issues of race, gender, and class. For example, in the third novel when we discover the history of Syl Anagist it plays a crucial role in understanding the Stillness, and the power that Corepoint possesses. The history of Syl Anagist adds depth to making sense of why the Stillness society is the way it is. I think in my initial analysis I had a very surface level understanding of the oppression that occurred in the novel. I narrowed it down to just the oppressor vs the oppressed when there is a much more nuanced exploration of power dynamics and complicity that needs to be discussed. One significant shift in my thinking pertains to the portrayal of bad-faith manipulation. Previously, I focused solely on the clear exploitation of marginalized groups by those in power, but after finishing the trilogy I recognize now that there are subtler ways in which internalized oppression can contribute to systemic injustices.

Characters like Alabaster and Schaffa are examples of people who embody the complexities of moral ambiguity. They challenged my notion of a hero and a villain, and I never truly knew how to feel about them. For example, Schaffa was originally a mentor figure towards Essun when she still went by Damaya and helped her in troubling times, however it became apparent that Schaffa was untrustworthy when he found Essun and essentially forced her to kill her son Corundum. However, when Schaffa is nearly killed by the earth he comes out of his injuries to find Nassun and he helps her. By helping Nassun he shows that he is capable of loyalty. Alabaster, on the other hand, held many secrets, one of them being that he is the one that caused the Rifting. Alabaster is at least a little more trustworthy and leans more toward a “hero” status than Schaffa does due to his relationship and help with Essun.

Despite my original thoughts of the trilogy becoming more advanced my shift in perspective does not change the core principles of what the trilogy offered. The trilogy’s critique of systemic injustice and its call for empathy and solidarity still reigns true with me. This trilogy tugged at my heartstrings and at points made me question which decisions were right and which ones were wrong. It showcased how in-depth systemic issues are and why they are not so easily reversed. This trilogy also emphasized the importance of people in power having the ability to shape the world, or even people who aren’t necessarily in a powerful position but have power, like Nassun. While they may not be able to shape the world exactly the way they want it, they are most definitely able to make changes in it. For example, the world took so much from both Essun and Nassun, and while Nassun wants the world to end she knows that Essun’s last wish is for Nassun to “Open the Gate, pour the Rifting’s power through it, catch the moon. End the Seasons. Fix the world.” (pg. 387) Despite the struggle Nassun has gone through and the hatred she had for her mother at certain moments in the trilogy she chooses to follow her mother’s wishes.

My journey through N.K. Jemisin’s “The Broken Earth” trilogy has been a continual process of reflection and growth. One that has even changed my perspective on certain plot lines as well as left me conflicted in certain parts of the story. One question that I had from the very beginning of the series that was answered very well was why Jemisin starts the series with the line, “You are she. She is you. You are Essun. Remember?” The entirety of this series I was wondering why this story was being retold in that way. That the person, Essun in this case, could not recall any of the events and needed the story to be retold. I think it is a very full circle moment that at the end of the series we discover that Essun has become a stone eater and does not remember anything from her now past life, and this whole series is Hoa retelling it to her. I wonder now what this new Essun will think of the story. Will she find herself coming to the same realizations she had when she experienced the story firsthand, or will she have a different view of how things went now that she is hearing it from an outside perspective. While my thinking may have shifted a bit than what I originally thought, what stands true is the transformative power of storytelling as a constant source of inspiration.

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.

Core Essay- Stella Boothby

At the start of this course, we crafted our first writing piece called the Lithosphere Essay. To prepare for this essay, we focused on learning and recognizing good and bad faith practices both in everyday life as well as connecting it to N.K. Jemisin’s Trilogy. More specifically, we honed in on the manipulation of bad-faith in terms of myth and science and how it creates systems of inequality and racism within the trilogy, as I wrote in my previous essay. As a framework for our writing, we continuously return and reflect our work to our course epigraph which highlights what race means to the core. Geraldine Heng portrays racialization  as “… a repeating tendency, of the gravist import, to demarcate human beings through differences among humans that are selectively essentialized as absolute and fundamental, in order to distribute positions and powers differentially to human groups”. 

First, I will provide some hindsight and perspective into how I first interpreted this epigraph in terms of the first book “The Fifth Season”. The novel takes place on a supercontinent referred to as the Stillness, in a society that uses a use-caste system where most individuals are oppressed, targeted, and dehumanized. When I was reading the first novel, I explored the ideas about how our identities and lives are shaped by who and what we are surrounded by as well as the attributes and traits that we possess. In The Broken Earth Trilogy, there are two races: Orogenes and Stills who are treated drastically differently due to the qualities that one race has over the other. As for the Orogenes, they were born with special powers that give them the force to manipulate the Earth and seismic activity. Unlike Orogenes, the Stills do not have powers and therefore, are perceived as “normal” beings. These two races live completely different lives and Orogenes are highly exploited and systematically harmed. This sparked my thinking of the world we live in today where certain groups of people still receive and experience poorer treatment than others. Whether that be in regards to their race, class, education, there are several systems of structure that deliberately separates humans and society. As you move through Jemisin’s Trilogy, you see several parallels and themes between her books as the story expands deeper into the lives of these Orogenes. 

At this point in the semester we have reached the core of our reading and thinking. When I think of the word core, I like to think of it as all the puzzle pieces coming together and meeting in the middle. Throughout this class, we are asked to think about the meaning behind our words or thoughts; to look at the bigger picture for our thinking. I think this question plays a significant role in wrapping up this final piece of work by using it as a tool to build our way up to where we are in the present. N.K. Jemisin’s series portrays themes of oppression, power, survival, and the effects of environmental degradation. It is a very compelling and eye opening read that she narrates through a science fiction lens, but holds many truths to reality as well. 

My viewpoints of the trilogy stayed relevantly consistent throughout reading, but certain characteristics of characters altered my thinking about the meaning behind the novels. For example, the series tells the story through the lives of three main characters: Essun, Syenite, and Damaya who are revealed to be the same person; all at different stages of their lives. However, most of the book surrounds Essun who undergoes tragic changes throughout the trilogy as she deals with personal trauma, societal oppression, and accepting her true identity. As the story unfolds, it is apparent that Essun experiences significant character development as she conquers these obstacles. At the beginning of the first novel, she feels ashamed of her Orogeny, concealing her identity from the world to avoid fear and punishment. However, as the trilogy progresses, we start to notice a shift of her attitude and acceptance towards herself and her powers. Instead of thinking she can only do harm to the world, she learns more about the nature of her powers in the Stillness and realizes she can also harness them for great change. The Fifth Season describes “It’s a gift if it makes us better. It’s a curse if we let it destroy us”. (Jemisin, 311 PDF). This pertains to the reality of any special trait that an individual possesses. It can be viewed through two different lenses as the Orogenes learn, one with a positive outcome and the other with a negative. Essun uses her powers for survival, to protect her loved ones, to manipulate her environment, and also to seek revenge from all that she lost. 

Though we see great deals of character development throughout the trilogy, the overarching theme and issues stay persistent. The racialization within their society never gets resolved and Orogenes are still fighting for justice and to recover from all the destruction that has been made. As I state in my Lithosphere essay, “They are Orogenes, the Misalems of the world, born cursed and terrible” (Jemisin, 145 PDF). This quote examines how severely misunderstood and exploited they are from the powerful sources in their society. The Fulcrum, which is an institution that trains Orogenes to constrain them from their powers is an example of this from the Trilogy. It is evident that those who hold the most power, are oftentimes the ones who exploit the vulnerable. This is referenced in The Stone Sky “… someone must suffer , if the rest are to enjoy luxury” (Jemisin, 1784 PDF). This portrays how in order for certain individuals to succeed or be satisfied, others are being hurt in the process. It encapsulates the harsh realities of structural societies and unjust power dynamics, while highlighting the inequality that exists within many systems of society. Sadly, someone is always getting the “bad end of the stick” when living in an unfair world. As for the trilogy, the Orogenes have to abide by the rules and system of their guardians who run the Fulcrum. The guardians feed into the suffering of the Orogenes due to their strong belief that the way they treat them is right and protects everyone around them. Though some guardians may feel empathy and remorse towards the Orogenes, their genuine concern for them is overshadowed by the systematic oppression that is ingrained into their society. Overall, this prohibits the guardians from showing these feelings or taking any action towards helping the Orogenes.

Lastly, Jemisin’s trilogy explores the ways in which conflict and power struggles impact communities and groups of individuals. But amongst all the chaos and suffering, there were still moments of hope for the future and a desire to make a change. For example, 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.” (Jemisin, 263 PDF). Jemisin emphasizes the rift that occurs between two forces battling in a society. However, we learn that sometimes it allows the opportunity for individuals to unite and rebuild what has been destroyed; shedding light on the possibilities of what could be on the other side.

Unearthing the Core of N.K Jemisin’s Trilogy

Going into English 111 I knew nothing about N.K Jemisin, nor about her “Broken Earth Trilogy.”  I went into this class completely blind to the power behind her writing and stories. At the beginning of this semester I learned about N.K Jemisin’s life, which consisted of her witnessing the evils of racialization and the horrors of inequality and racism around her. N.K Jemisin is an African American author, her identity has shaped her experiences and in turn has shaped her writing. I feel that understanding her history and her story allows me to interpret her writing on a deeper level, and is important in understanding the novel to a greater extent. 

In my lithosphere essay,I unpacked how racialization is portrayed and used to maintain power in the first book of the trilogy and its parallels to the real world. I focused on a few aspects of racialization, on being the Fulcrum, which is a school seen in The Fifth Season, where Orogenes suffer from the impacts of racialization. I also focused on one of the slurs used against Orogenes in the novels, which is the term “rogga.” I discussed how Syenite’s (one of the Orogenes) relationship with the term develops from uncomfortable to a sense of reclamation, and how the slur enforces racialization of Orogenes. 

At the beginning of this journey, I believed the trilogy to be a powerful and unique way of exposing the parallels of racial inequality, discrimination in the world today and throughout history into a science fiction novel, while also incorporating Jemisin’s personal experiences with social injustices. 

At the end of this journey I believe the same, I still think that this trilogy spreads themes of injustice, inequality and discrimination and the consequences of it. The novels are a portrayal of parallels seen in the real world and throughout history. However, as we drove deeper into these books and into the semester we found that the entirety of the civilization and society where the protagonists exist is built on social injustice and the oppression of peoples, similar to many of our powerful nations today, including the United States of America . This is seen through the unearthing of Hoa’s story and his past throughout the novel. 

Hoa starts off as a mysterious character in the trilogy, as we move forward through the books we see how important his story is. Hoa is a stone eater, which means exactly what you might think, he eats stone. He also has extremely pale skin and eyes and white hair. However, he is also a very ancient being who has seen the civilizations before that of Essun, and the creation of the current one. In the last book of the trilogy, the Stone Sky, Jemisin really unpacks Hoas past. Before the Stillness (the realm that Essun exists in), there was Syl Anagist. Hoa and all the other Stone Eaters were forced to be tuners, which means he was a worker for Syl Anagist. The people of Syl Anagist were scared of the powers that the Stone Eaters had and how their features were so different from their own. The bright white eyes, hair and skin made the people of Syl Anagist uneasy. The fear of their powers and features fueled the people of Syl Anagist to control and strictly monitor those like Hoa, leaving the tuners to suffer the effects of racialization and discrimination. 

This can really be seen when Hoa is taken to see the inner workings of what powers the city, this is where Hoa sees the “briar patch.” The briar patch consists of “retired tuners” sent after they can no longer work or provide for Syl Anagist. The tuners after serving the Syl Anagist are sent to be stuck in a purgatory between life and death. The people of Syl Anagist do not trust the tuners to use their magic correctly on their own, therefore, when they can no longer work they place them in this purgatory. They are alive physically, but in a sense brain dead. “Keeping them alive keeps them generating more (power)” (Jemisin 2017). According to Hoa, “The briar patch’s victims have been here for years. Decades… Still alive, and yet not” (Jemisin 2017). There is so much to unpack with the idea of the briar patch and the inhumane treatment of the retired tuners. The briar patch sucks out all of the tuner’s magic and life force. Syl Anagist is being built on the suffering of millions of these tuners whose lives are taken to serve Syl Anagist by treating them like objects, beings only meant for keeping Syl Anagist running smoothly, due to their fear of their differences and powers. 

When I first read this I could only think about how many countries in our world were built on the suffering and expense of others. In the United States, our nation was fabricated through the horrors of slavery. The U.S was built on the suffering and inhuman treatments of human beings, just because white colonists believed themselves to be superior due to their skin color and culture. Just like the tuners in Syl Anagist, human beings were treated as machines, their only purpose was to work. In both cases, this discrimination and oppression was “justified” by physical difference in characteristics, this benefited those in power on both sides of the parallel. Syl Anagist was able to inhumanely create energy and oppress the tuners, and the economy in the U.S flourished through the horrors of slave labor. Just as Syl Anagist was built on injustice, so was the United States. The parallels of suffering seen in Syl Anagist and our own history highlights the racialization and disparities in both the book and our society. 

So why does any of this matter? Recently my Professor, Dr. McCoy, was told by Dr. Giorgis, one of the Professors of Geological Sciences here at Geneseo, that earthquakes and seismic events can have domino effects. One large earthquake, or one small one, can trigger a long line of consequences. The same goes for injustice. Jemisin shows through her books how the intense trauma from the pure discrimination, violence and oppression that Essun faced, developed her character that we see in the later books. The suffering that Essun was subjected to due to discrimination not only affected her but affected her children, her friends, her allies and enemies. Her daughter, Damaya, grew up with hatred and confusion. She murdered many, just as Essun did. Injustice and racialization affects everyone, not just those subjugated. Everyone in society feels the impact of it in one way or another. This goes for the trilogy just as it goes for real life. 

These books are so much more than the science fiction trilogy that I originally thought they were. N.K Jemisin puts a lot of thought in care into every detail of the story, the names, the characters, their actions. She portrays issues that readers can connect to the world that we live in today, and the consequences of them. Her incorporation of themes of oppression, racism and discrimination were clear in the novel, beginning to end. Jemisin made me think differently about characters, and question my anger or love towards them. She challenges a reader’s thinking and ensures they understand the emotion that is carefully embedded in the trilogy.

Lily Conroy- CORE Essay

In this course, we read The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin, which takes place in a far-from-future world. The world has periods of devastating storms, starvation, volcanic eruptions, and several other seismic events that it nearly impossible for humans to survive; they are defined by recurring “Seasons’” in this world.  In my earlier Lithosphere essay, I delved into N.K Jemisin’s first book in the trilogy, “The Fifth Season” and I explored how the control of science and myth can contribute to the dominance over the people, and cause racialization, distribution of classes, and genderization certain groups of people within my essay.  When I constructed the Lithosphere essay I was only focused on understanding the elements I listed above and how they may have created systematic inequalities and injustices in the continent of the Stillness. I analyzed the misconceptions of the Orogene abilities how the Orogenes were racialized by institutions like the Fulcrum and how it can contribute to harsh structures within the first book in the trilogy.   

As I reread and reflected on my thoughts in the initial essay with thinking, I realized that my thinking had shifted as I moved through the trilogy and reached the core of the trilogy.  One of the shifts of my thinking is diving deeper into the understanding of how the elements of racialization, distribution of class, and gender grouping are not just all separate experiences or incidents in the trilogy, however, view them as connected parts of a broader oppressive and power structure. In my first essay, I mentioned how the slang is used to define orogenes and how it shows how racially discriminated they are by using a quote from the first book  “’ You’re a rogga,’ Asael snaps, and then has the gall to look surprised at herself.“(Jemisin Fifth Season, page 216). As I kept reading the trilogy I noticed that the slang term is still being used “Months in my comm, and still all you are is ‘just a rogga.’”(Jemisin The Stone Sky 384 online) This demonstrates that there is a continual theme of racialization and discrimination throughout the trilogy and how it’s shown to be a bigger issue.  It also illustrates how fundamental prejudices are generally ignored even when circumstances and characters evolve over time. You can demonstrate how Jemisin illustrates the ongoing problems experienced by oppressed groups through the language that is being used by drawing a connection between these two quotes. Throughout the trilogy, “rogga” is used repeatedly by various people and settings, serving as a reminder of the prevalence of prejudice and the systems of oppression. This is only one example of how continual acts of oppression are not essentially isolated incidents that certain groups of people are going through. 

I have gained a new understanding of the orogeny myth’s important role in upholding oppressive systems through investigating this idea. Although orogeny was originally connected to racial classification, further reading into The Broken Earth Trilogy has shown that it also has an impact on power structures and social standards in the Stillness universe. The myth of orogeny covers both economic and political power in addition to justifying the ruling class’s exploitation of orogene abilities. I have gained a deeper understanding of the complexity present in systemic injustices by observing the relationship between myth, science, and power relations through my analysis of the trilogy.

Syenites’ story of responding to the prejudice and injustices demonstrated in the book is a complicated example of how diverse reactions are taken. First of all, the young orogene is depicted as someone trying to function within the institution of the Fulcrum.  Syenite demonstrates her determination despite these challenges by following her path and challenging the constraints of the Stillness society. Again, An example of Syenite’s strength is her ability to resist the oppressive narratives that were imposed upon her. She doesn’t agree with Fulcrum’s claim that these ideas and myths are the source of their control and weakness. The ability to use self-awareness allows her to get through the power struggles while maintaining her individuality and freedom as an individual with a range of experiences and skills. Her stories expose the harsh realities of oppression while also highlighting the resilience of marginalized individuals living within those constraints. Furthermore, the quote “It’s been a challenging forty thousand years”(Jemisin, The Stone Sky 2118 online), captures the larger picture of adversity and perseverance faced by both the Earth and individuals like Syenite. This quote represents Syenite’s path of overcoming adversity and fighting against an oppressive system while also thinking back on the challenges she and others have faced over the years. Like Syenite and the others challenge the oppressive myths that were imposed upon them, the society in the books maintains a past of exploitation demonstrating themes of resilience throughout all parts of the narrative.

The course epigraph we read at the beginning of the semester emphasizes how race-making functions such as political and strategic processes to uphold power and wealth differences through the disparities is resonates with the themes throughout the Broken Earth Trilogy.  This viewpoint also goes along with my changing or developing thoughts from the beginning to the end of the Trilogy.  The epigraph also touches on the aspects that are related to the Broken Earth Trilogy examination of how power dynamics, myth-making, and racialization of certain groups are all interlocked and branched off the bigger picture of control.  As I reread the course epigraph at the end of the semester I came to realize the importance and connection it had to the books we have read and the course as a whole.  

In conclusion, reading The Broken Earth Trilogy has changed teh way I think about the ideas that were covered in the books as well as the course. I now dont look at these issues as stand-alone thoughts but now as an essential component of the bigger picture of oppression and resilience.  This change of thinking highlights the depth of Jemisin’s writing and story and encourages the reader to dive deeper into how myth, science, and societal structures influence individuals and group experiences.


Jemisin, N. K. (2016). The fifth season. Orbit.

Jemisin, N. K. (2017). The stone sky. First Edition. New York, Orbit.

Engl 111 Core Essay

It is now nearing the end of the spring 2024 semester for my English 111 class. Compared to how I started in the beginning I developed a lot, especially my view of N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy. At first, I wasn’t excited to read the books, especially since there were 3 with lots of pages. It was also a genre of book I hadn’t read since I was a kid, so I was a bit wary of how the book would be once I had to start reading it. However, as I started to read the first book, The Fifth Season, I started to enjoy it a bit. This was able to help me write my first essay for this class, the Lithosphere essay. In my essay, I focused on how Jemisin uses racialization to create the setting and characters in her first book. 

However, I feel like this changed as I continued to read into the second and third books, where Jemisin started to focus on characters that weren’t as prevalent in the first book and when she started to focus on deeper issues like generational trauma within the characters. For example, Schaffa, who was Damaya also known as Syenite’s guardian. I would like to mention that Damaya, Syenite, and Essun are all the same person, the reason for the different names is due to the period of her life. Damaya is in early childhood, Syenite is in early adulthood, and Essun is in late adulthood. Back to Schaffa, he was seen as someone abusive and manipulative towards Damaya and Syenite in the first book. One instance was when he first met Damaya and broke her hand, but he also said he loved and cared for her. This will, later on, twist her view on what love is, affecting the way she raises her firstborn, Nassun. This can be seen in the second book, The Obelisk Gate, where we now get a point of view of Nassun’s story, a character that wasn’t seen or talked much about in The Fifth Season. Through her story in The Obelisk Gate, she tells us how her mom has broken her hand, similar to what Schaffa has done to her mom. Schaffa’s toxic love affected the way Nassun was raised by her mother, which created a sense of hatred inside Nassun toward her mother. I found this part interesting, since in our world, this would be called generational trauma, which is trauma that a previous generation experienced that gets passed down to the next, affecting the new generation psychologically with symptoms of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, etc (American Psychological Association 2023). The way Jemisin incorporates generational trauma into her series started my love for this trilogy, especially since it adds realism and depth to her characters, which makes them more relatable. 

Another thing I like about Jemisin’s work is her word choice surrounding sensitive and emotional topics like love and sexual assault and how she showcases them in her book that fits into the storyline. For example, in my previous essay, I talked about Alabaster and Syenite’s physical connection, however, in the second and third books, we start to see more of an emotional connection, especially on Alabaster’s side. To give more context, in the book The Fifth Season, Alabaster can be seen as stubborn and honest, paired with Essun, and the two tend to misunderstand or yell at one another. In the first book, when the two were paired to go on a mission together and instructed to have sex with one another, this brought feelings of resentment and negative emotions (Lavallee 2022). This feeling of resentment is more seen with Syenite, where I mentioned in my lithosphere essay that when she’s done having sex with Alabaster she feels disgusted and “takes a shower, methodically scrubbing every bit of flesh she can reach until her skin burns,” (Jemisin 2015). This move by Jemisin in her first book was an eye-opener for me because it made me think about how in our world many victims of sexual assault end up feeling “dirty” within themselves and take multiple showers to feel clean (Loyola University Maryland n.d.). Jemisin’s careful word choice to show how the characters feel during certain moments in their life is once again a touch of realism that she does, to connect with the readers more. 

However, as we continue to read the trilogy the negative feelings the two shared have started to become more positive and romantic. In The Obelisk Gate, Essun quotes, “You hated him, loved him, missed him for years, made yourself forget him, found him again, loved him again, killed him. […] The loss of Alabaster is simply… a thinning of who you are,” (Jemisin 2016). Meanwhile in The Stone Sky, Alabaster writes in his diary, “Syen, I love you, I’m sorry, keep me safe, watch my back and I’ll watch yours, there’s no one else who’s as strong as you, I wish so much that you were here,” (Jemisin 2017). Jemisin’s words that she shows through her characters remind me to take care of and appreciate the important people in my life even if some are no longer present. 

Another part of the trilogy that shifted my thinking was the parental relationships Nassun shared with Jija, her father, and Essun, her mother. As I’m writing this essay, it made me re-read and reflect on the book. In The Obelisk Gate, we see more of Jija and Nassun and their relationship as they travel together. At the beginning of their relationship, we see that Nassun prefers her father over her mother since Jija doesn’t abuse or scold her like her mother. He was also a safe place for Nassun when she was younger, with him hugging and petting her hair/head. This got me thinking about how dads are usually stereotyped as the “fun parent”. Meanwhile, mothers are usually tasked with raising and disciplining their children, making them seem like the less “fun parent” (Grose 2020). This made me think about how I may have viewed my parents growing up and if those stereotypes were true in my household. 

Another example of a family dynamic in the book is the guardians and orogenes. In Jemisin’s blog titled “On Family”, she talks about the family the Fulcrum has created, and that the love created in this environment was conditional. Jemisin quotes, “Obey the Guardians, pass the tests, follow the rules, and receive love and respect as a reward. Disobey and receive broken bones, whippings, public humiliation, and potentially torture and lobotomization in a node chair,” (Jemisin 2015). Reading this blog post got me thinking more about the book and the types of love written, whether it was conditional, toxic, one-sided, etc. It also got me thinking about the family dynamic within Asian households. Though what’s said next isn’t true for every Asian family, it does hold true for some. In Asian culture, parents put immense pressure on their children to do well in school and have reputable careers like becoming doctors or lawyers. This can give off the message that the parents will only love or be proud of their children if they achieve something great, which shows conditional love, and if the child does not perform up to those standards there is little love (Huynh 2024). This once again got me thinking about my childhood growing up and the type of love I may have received from my parents. 

Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy series taught me tremendous growth, and reflections on my own life through her writing. From the beginning, her writing taught me a lot about race and society, but later on, it taught me more about character and personal growth. Thinking back on it, Jemisin’s writing also seemed very personal from her own experiences in life, which can be read from her blog posts. Since she’s also a woman of color her writing resonates with me, making her writing very personal. In conclusion, the meaningful words and real-world connections she makes in her book inspired me to think more about my life and the world I live in, which made me love and care more about this series than I originally thought. 


American Psychological Association. (2023). Apa Dictionary of Psychology. American Psychological Association.

Grose, J. (2020, April 29). I don’t want to be a fun mom. The New York Times.

Huynh, L. (2024, March 20). Dysfunctional Asian Family Dynamics: Asian therapist explains. San Jose Marriage Therapist & Counselor.

Jemisin, N. K. (2015, October 30). On family. Epiphany 2.0.

LaVallee, Z. (2022, May 18). The reality of balance and Love in the broken earth trilogy. ImPossibilities.

Loyola University Maryland . (n.d.). Common reactions to sexual assault. Counseling Center | Loyola University Maryland.,referred%20to%20as%20survivor’s%20guilt.&text=Self%2Dimage%20frequently%20suffers%20as%20a%20result%20of%20the%20assault.

Ye, E. (2024, February 23). Lithosphere essay (the fifth season by N.K. Jemisin, Engl 111). ImPossibilities.

Kira Magnus-ENGL 337: Iteration Essay

My semester’s story in this class can be viewed through a lens that is offered in Robert Eglash, in African Fractals, that of infinity. Eglash offers two kinds of infinity in African Fractals. The first is one that defines infinity in the way European mathematicians before Georg Cantor defined infinity, as “a symbol that vaguely means ‘the number you would get if you counted for forever’” (Eglash, 8). This kind of infinity is something that starts but does not end, only continuously expands. The other kind of infinity is the one that you find in fractals, it is an infinity that “fits into a bounded space” (12). While these two definitions of infinity are not directly opposed, they are two separate ways of thinking about the concept. These ways of thinking are similar to James Snead’s conceptions of viewing repetition, of “accumulation and growth” and “circulation” (149). The readings and work for this class throughout this semester have begun to shift my thinking from a mindset of vague, linearly endless, infinity, that, as Snead would say, accumulates and grows, to a mindset more inline with the idea of inward endlessness and a capacity for infinity inside something with a set beginning and end, an infinity of “circulation” and recurrence. This shift is evident in my work this semester.

In the beginning of this semester, I wrote my seed shape essay on the idea of repetition. This idea drew on James Snead’s essay, “On Repetition in Black Culture,” in which he argues that the world is “not inexhaustible in its manifold combinations” (146). In arguing this, Snead establishes that the world requires repetition. As mentioned, he goes on to argue that repetition can be viewed through a lens of “accumulation and growth” or as “circulation” (149). In my essay, I argued that repetition viewed as “circulation” can be used as a seed shape for understanding literature. While this argument is one that I still find to be true, the way that I make this argument fails to use the lens in which I am arguing for. Instead, I use the first lens of “accumulation and growth,”a lens of linear infinity, to analyze the literature I was discussing. 

I argue in my seed shape essay that Harriet Jacobs’ book, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, can be better understood by viewing it without the anticipation of “accumulation and growth”; however, I do so with an expectation that Jacobs will fulfill my narrative expectations of end goals and solutions to problems. I write that Jacobs’ book does not fit the dramatic structure of “Exposition, Rising action, Climax, Falling action, Denouement,” commonly known as freytag’s pyramid (Turner), that tends to fit into the mindset of “accumulation and growth.” Instead, I write, “the disorder that Jacobs’ experiences does not exactly rise but rather exists in constant and differing threats she experiences…Each solution in Jacobs’ story has another problem.” (Magnus). While my analysis of Jacobs points out its lack of conformity to the form of freytag’s pyramid, it also conforms to a linear sense of problems and solutions. By stating that the solutions in Jacobs’ narrative all contain more problems I suggest a sense of accumulative infinity. 

As I continued in this class I kept some of this sense of accumulative infinity, though I also began to shift my mindset to something more similar to inward or circulatory infinity. The first piece of evidence for this can be found in the sections I worked on for the Collaboration Exercise. In analyzing Kwame Alexander’s poem “life,” I argued that Alexander leaves a space for the audience to respond at the end of his poem. I write that the abrupt end of his poem “may just imply that the house was destroyed, [but] it also allows room for a double meaning that implicates the reader. By stopping the poem before the house is potentially destroyed, Alexander gives room for the reader to intervene in the conversation” (“Sustainability Through…”). My analysis of this poem, while not mentioning any kind of infinity, does explore the possibility for infinite answers contained in something finite. In acknowledging a “double meaning” in the poem, I acknowledge the ability for multiple possibilities to exist at the same time, which contains a form of infinity. 

The idea of multiple possibilities existing at the same time is also something explored in the first/second mini collaboration. The entire focus of this mini collaboration was to explore the many possible answers to whether or not Ishmael Kidder’s art/Art is restrained in Percivall Everett’s book, The Water Cure. I mostly worked on establishing whether Ishmael Kidder’s art of writing under the name of Estelle Gilliam is restrained or unrestrained, and I eventually landed on unrestrained. However, doing so required acknowledging the infinite possibilities for what Ishmael Kidder’s art was and what it meant for it to be restrained. 

As we finished The Water Cure, I began to notice its other capacities for inward infinity. This form infinity is one that is present within The Water Cure on both the level of content and structure. On the level of content, Everett explores multiple ideas which grapple with this capacity for infinite ideas in one confined space. One of these ideas is that of Schrodinger’s cat, which is heavily alluded to throughout the book. A significant place where it is indirectly referenced is when Ishmael Kidder’s daughter Lane tapes a beetle in a box and says that it must never be opened (91). Kidder states that “without telling us what the beetle meant to her, we were left with the knowledge, clear as anything in the world, that the beetle did mean something, and something different to each of us” (91). In this statement, the possibility for inward infinity can be found in many places. There is the infinity in the possibility of what the beetle means to each of them. There is also infinity in the idea that not only does the beetle mean something different to Kidder, his wife, and his daughter, but also to the reader or anyone in the world. There are an infinite number of possible meanings as well as an infinite number of people making those meanings. Yet all of these meanings are contained within the box. 

On the level of structure, Everetts novel as a whole also offers an example of inward infinity. Everetts novel obviously has a clear beginning and end, yet it contains infinite possibilities. These possibilities are evident in the lack of clarity the book offers towards whether or not anything that is stated in the book has really happened. An example of this lack of clarity is in a scene in which Kidder describes driving with a man in his trunk and getting pulled over. Not only does Kidder openly admit that he is not sure that the man in his trunk is his daughter’s attacker, but it is also almost certain that the conversation never really happened (55). The way the officer and Kidder speak to each other, and the fact that the police officer lets him go, are unrealistic, making it unlikely that the conversation took place. However, at the same time, given to overt criticism of American corruption throughout the book, there is room to also believe that this conversation truly did happen. This scene alone raises doubts for the reliability of Kidder to tell the truth to the reader. In this unreliability is the possibility for infinite interpretations and understanding of Everetts book. While almost all books contain room for interpretation, The Water Cure is different in that all of these interpretations are internal to and supported by the book. 

Throughout the course my thinking about course texts has begun to change towards a mindset that focuses on internal and circulatory infinity rather than cumulative infinity. In the beginning I knew of the need to think without expectations of “accumulation and growth” yet had difficulty exercising. Throughout this class, and especially through reading The Water Cure, my perception of infinity has changed to see the ways that infinity can be internal, not merely external. A seed shape, through the lens of linearity, is finite. It is only in examining what is between its beginnings and ends that its infinite possibilities unfold. The Water Cure illustrates this. It takes a human being, which begins and ends finitely, and unfolds what is in between, the capacity for infinite questions and answers. 

Works Cited:

Eglash, Ron. African Fractals: Modern Computing and Indigenous Design. Rutgers University Press, 2005. 

Everett, Percival. The Water Cure. Graywolf Press, 2007. 

Turner, Kitty. “Freytag’s Pyramid: Definitions and Examples of Dramatic Structure.” Scribophile, Scribophile, 28 June 2023, 

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.