YallWest 2018: How authors are embracing representation in fantasy

Tomi Adeyemi and Tamora Pierce discuss readers seeing themselves as beautiful and important in media.


This article is a recap of the morning keynote at YallWest 2018 which focused on the “job” of the fantasy genre.

Welcome to the first panel of the morning, book friends! Everyone is excited and ready to absorb what all of these amazing authors have to offer us during this year’s YallWest. And what better way to start off our morning then talking about YA fantasy?

The morning keynote was moderated by Kami Garcia (Broken Beautiful Hearts). She was joined on stage by Tamora Pierce (Tempests and Slaughter) and Tomi Adeyemi (Children of Blood and Bone). The discussion began with Kami Garcia thanking Tamora Pierce for her writing and the way she paved the road for so many authors in writing strong female characters in fantasy. Tamora goes on to say that it was just as important for her to write these stories as it is for readers to read them. She says, “you know when a teenager tells you your book changed their life, they mean it, because you remember the books that changed your life.”

Kami then turns to Tomi Adeyemi, who has been successful with her debut novel, and who we all want to know more about! Tomi shares stories about how she began writing and a few of her plot ideas from the past. She tells the audience how she was writing herself into these stories, but the characters never resembled the way she looked. Tomi says, “I wasn’t writing the adventures I wanted to see, they were what I wanted to be.”

This opened up an interesting conversation about the way media has changed over the years. Tomi then recalls, “back then, I couldn’t be a princess.” So why would she think she could write a character who looked like her in a book, let alone a fantasy one? Both Tamora and Tomi agree that it was important for them to step into the unknown and write the characters they did. They wanted to feel beautiful just like they hoped their readers would feel, needing to show the importance of that.

The authors tell the audience about the ways their stories are parallel to events happening in our own world. I found this part of the discussion particularly interesting because it’s one of the main reasons why I enjoy reading YA fantasy. Gathering from everyone’s reactions, I think they agree that we all love the way fantasy expands our minds and forces us to view things differently. Phew, what a great panel! Are you ready to grab every YA fantasy novel available or write your own? I know I am!

"And she is the reader who browses the shelf and looks for new worlds but finds herself." - I'm a writer who enjoys telling you all about the things I love, which includes a lot of books!

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