Nalo Hopkinson Appearance

Sorry Ive been MIA for a minute. It seems that I just keep getting busier and busier. Im TRYING to write my dissertation people! I’m queen of procrastination lately. I decided to break up this section from the comic/ cartoon blog even though they are entwined, but I have so much to say I cut them down.

On March 5, I had the fortunate experience to meet and listen to novelist Nalo Hopkinson, as she presented her new novel, The New Moon’s Arms to the world. Hopkinson is the author of 3 novels, several short stories and is a celebrated contributor to the genre of science fiction. My favorite book by her by FAR is Midnight Robber, which of course I’m writing a chapter of my dissertation on.

Nalo read excerpts from her new  novel, spoke about her construction of the storyline, and dove right in to a conversation about black women, hybrid identities and speculative imaginings. One of the things I’m exploring in my dissertation is the way that black women novelists who are writing science or speculative fiction, utilize the genre to think about new identity formation for black women that aren’t stereotypical or constructed by western ideology. We talked about the black women who are appearing in science fiction film and other media – Zoe on Firefly, Storm in X-men, Angela Bassett as Lornette “Mace” Mason in Strange Days. Of course during this conversation about the possibilities of science fiction, the question of a race-less future is always raised. Somehow, when people think about the future, they think about science fiction and our imagined future worlds, they imagine a place that doesn’t have race, gender or sexuality as inhibitors to the body. I think part of this comes from our own attempts to imagine a utopian world without any pain or oppression. But I think if the long history of science and fantasy fiction has taught us anything – its that human nature is a messed up thing. Power, greed and selfishness take over and posit that the individual is more important than the collective – and there you have it.

Nalo bristled a bit when a white woman, claiming Native American ancestry (sigh), mother to a black and white daughter began her question with “I’d love it if you could talk about how you think race functions in your novels and in the future, you know, I have a bi-racial daughter who I tell not to check any boxes she doesn’t want to. I tell her to check warrior or princess”. I felt myself hold my breath because it really is so close to home with me, white women telling their bi-racial daughters they don’t have to claim their blackness. I swear Nalo rolled her eyes inside, and said, “well, I really have not alot of patience for folks who talk to me about race not mattering in the future, its actually kind of irritating. I mean, how boring would that be? A world where we all looked the same and we all had the same culture? No I like worlds where there are culture clashes and diverse lives meeting one another.” I wanted to freakin stand up and start clapping. Lady – I know we were in Berkeley and everything, but DAMN – do you seriously want to sit in a room full of black women and tell us that you don’t want your daughter to claim her blackness? That she doesn’t have to if she doesnt want to? or that its not going to matter one way or the other? Look lady – no matter how much we want utopia, no matter how much money we get to hide ourselves in the hills of Berkeley – we DONT live in that world. Call me old school, call me militant, but just because I see myself as a mixed race black woman – doesnt mean that when i walk down the street in rural Texas or Central California, that someone is gonna see me, take a step back and say – “oh well, she’s mixed with white so I’m not gonna call her a nigger.” My whiteness does NOT protect me the way it protects my mom.

Nalo was awesome. She also spoke about the tremendous loss of the beloved Octavia Butler and how imperative it is for us to keep calling her up, and remembering her as an pioneer in science fiction writing. If you dont know Octavia – you betta ask somebody.

I’m looking forward to reading the book and I had her sign my old copy of Midnight Robber.


2 thoughts on “Nalo Hopkinson Appearance

  1. completely agree with nalo and you, and that’ s exactly the same argument i says to people who keep hiding to themselves the issues of race….
    who keep saying ” oh you shouldn’t bring your daughters up as black, they are mixed race,, they are alsooooooooo white ”
    yeah, but how come when we walk down the street people notice their blackness, not their whitenes, asking me in “where u got them from?” or when always they get asked by new teachers : “where r u from?, where r ur parents from?” or wntn they get called the n-word by schoolmates….

  2. i am octavia butler’s number one fan. a terrible loss – i love the powerful way she addresses the human obsession with racial hierarchies in her xenogenesis series. great stuff. i am also a huge fan of midnight robber and envy you the opportunity to hear ms. hopkinson read and discuss her work, and to put that woman in her place.

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