Brown Girl in the Ring: Magic for the Marginalized

This lecture was an extension of my 2013-14 graduate thesis for the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

I spent two years studying middle grade and Young Adult fiction that either featured black girls as the main characters, or as secondary and even tertiary characters. I focused on speculative fiction–magical realism, science fiction, and fantasy. After reading several books, I began to notice some unsettling things about how black girls are sometimes portrayed.

In both the thesis and lecture, I point out stories that are empowering and uplifting. I’ve included both the actual thesis and an audio of the lecture, including images of the PowerPoint presentation.


That lovely photo is by Haitian American photographer extraordinaire, Fabiola Jean-Louis.

Ibi.Zoboi Critical Thesis


Also, here is a PDF file of the PowerPoint presentation with images, statistics, and lists of strategies and takeaways for creating empowered brown girl characters in speculative fiction stories. This can also serve as a guide for recognizing the ways in which stories either empower or disempower girls of colors depending on a number of factors.


I hope this can serve as one of the many resources for the continued conversations about humanizing representation of children of color in books.

Thank you for reading, listening, and viewing!


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