For J-term, the Davis Family Library is hosting a display of science fiction, fantasy, and other works of speculative fiction by authors from diverse cultural backgrounds. If you’re looking for something a bit less elf-y to help you while away the rest of January, we’ve got you covered.
It’s one thing when black people aren’t discussed in world history. Fortunately, teams of dedicated historians and culture advocates have chipped away at the propaganda often functioning as history for the world’s students to eradicate that glaring error. But when, even in the imaginary future — a space where the mind can stretch beyond the Milky Way to envision routine space travel, cuddly space animals, talking apes, and time machines — people can’t fathom a person of non-Euro descent a hundred years into the future, a cosmic foot has to be put down.
The seeds of this display grew out of frustration. I was the sort of reader who wanted to like science fiction and fantasy, but often struggled to do so, because it often felt like reading the same book over and over again. The appeal of speculative fiction, for me, is in finding a new lens through which to engage the human condition, even if the human in question is actually a robot or an alien or a… I don’t know, a halfling or something. But much of the canon of fantasy literature can come to feel like endless riffing on J. R. R. Tolkein ; the science fiction I grew up with was all by Robert Heinlen or Isaac Asimov. Not that those books can’t be satisfying reads, but I was just looking for something else. Something that came from somewhere else entirely.
Around that same time, Afrofuturism was beginning to push into the mainstream — not quite full on MCU, Black Panther-level yet, but more visible than its 1990s roots. So I read Who Fears Death? by Nnedi Okorafor, and re-read some Octavia Butler. And it was like someone had opened a window to let fresh air into a stale, stuffy room. These were voices that came from different perspectives, less familiar (to me) perspectives… but isn’t that the whole point of speculative fiction? To clear out the familiar in order to see the world through different eyes? Speculative fiction that treads the same ground over and over again, while it can be comforting, is useless as a medium for introspection. And without introspection, what’s the point of suspending the rules of our everyday lives in favor of new possibilities?
For me, this was about opening my eyes to perspectives that are different than mine; for you, it may be a chance to finally recognize your own experience in these genres. There are so many ways to be in the world, and so many perspectives from which to learn, and in which to recognize ourselves. And so, the search led from book to book, first one addition to our collection and then another. This display is our effort to bring some of these works out of the stacks and put them in front of your eyes. It represents only a starting point for your explorations; there are worlds and ideas out there still waiting to be discovered.
Here are some useful terms and sources to help you look for more books like these:
Anthologies can be a useful way to find works by authors from under-represented cultures. Websites like BookRiot and Tor.com also frequently publish lists of similar and related titles. If there’s a work that you think would be a valuable addition to this collection — or even just something that you’d like to read that we don’t own yet! — you can request any title at any time via go/request/. Many titles (for example, N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy) are also available as audiobooks at go/audiobooks/.
Many thanks to Katrina Spencer, and especially to Kat Cyr, for their help and support in pulling this display together.
Amy Frazier is the Film & Media Librarian at the Davis Family Library, and also a huge nerd.
Middlebury Libraries is happy to unveil our newest video tutorial for 2019: Citation For People Who Hate Citation. This is a big-picture look at citation: why we do it, what it’s for, and how to make it an easier, stress-free process. Big thanks to Middlebury students Emma Román ’22 and Kayla Moore ’22 for their participation! You can watch the video here, or find it at go/CitationForPeople/.
Our newest video tutorial offers students some helpful tips for those moments when they feel stuck in their research, or are just not sure what to do next. There’s no need to struggle in silence! Middlebury College Librarians are here to help with all research problems.
The 2018 Clifford Symposium starts today! Come to Davis Family Library to see our display of related works, including titles noted in The Origin of Others and other works by Toni Morrison.
Also find a multimedia presentation of original audio of Toni Morrison reading from her (then still unpublished) novel Song of Solomon, while teaching at the Breadloaf School of English in 1977. Thanks to Special Collections for providing this recording and related photographs!
Tonight, December 6, 2017, we’ll be hosting the Third Annual Middlebury College Write-In, sponsored by CTLR, the Writing Program, Middlebury College Libraries, and the Anderson Freeman Resource Center. This event creates a one-stop place for students to get everything they need to hammer out those last papers in a fun and supportive environment. It’s like an academic writing party at the library!
The Write-In will be happening from 8-11 pm at Davis Family Library, and 8:30-11pm at the AFC. Both Write-In locations will feature snacks, hot chocolate, writing tutors, a research librarian, and lots of moral support from friends. This event has been a great success the last two years, and we’re hoping to make this one the best so far!
It was a hit last spring, and so we’re doing it again: on Wednesday, December 7, the CTLR, the Writing Center, and the Library are hosting the second Middlebury Write-In! Students can attend at either the Davis Family Library or the Anderson Freeman Resource Center to find a productive, social, and supportive environment designed to help them focus on their writing. There will be food, prizes, and writing and research help on hand to make end-of-term writing less stressful and more fun. The Write-In begins at 8 pm and lasts until 11pm, but students are welcome to come any time!
What: Middlebury Write-In!
When: Wednesday, Dec. 7, 8-11 PM
Where: the Davis Family Library and the Anderson Freeman Resource Center