Girls on Fire: Transformative Heroines in Young Adult Dystopian Literature
Dystopia is an American Tradition and a present and future reality. The signs that we are living in a dystopia have been clear for decades. Climate change threatens our water, air, and land. Corruption, inequality, and injustice in politics create a vast divide between the rich and the poor. Racism, sexism, and homophobia divide us and oppress individuals and groups. Violence and incarceration threaten the bodies and lives of our most vulnerable. The marginalized suffer, the privileged are unhappy, and complacency and cynicism abound. In trying times, we look for heroes, and American traditions of utopia and dystopia tend to do what most traditions do-focus on men and boys as the movers and shakers, the makers (and the destroyers), and as agents of social change and the promise of the future. But times are changing and The Hunger Games transformed the game spurring an explosion of young adult (YA) dystopia that features female protagonists. Ignoring or minimizing the roles that girls and women play in the present and the future (and the past) is no longer an option. In Girls on Fire, Sarah Hentges argues that American traditions of dystopia should look to girls and women in fiction-and in the world-for inspiration toward progressive transformation in the future. She shows the ways that female protagonists act as Girls on Fire and reveal the injustices of the present through the lens of the future. Tracing patterns and themes and weaving together analysis of over a hundred and forty books as well as films, pop culture texts, social media, articles, feminist theory, academic analyses, and observations and students' voices from the classroom, Girls on Fire illustrates a rich tradition and a promising future. With a focus on Young Adult (YA) dystopia and female protagonists, and with particular attention to intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality and power and empowerment-as well as a vision toward social justice- Girls on Fire traces trends and critiques, themes and issues, characters and plots, details and patterns...and the intersectional possibilities that fictional futures point toward. When we expand our vision and explore our collective imagination, we build a better future. Girls on Fire are ready to lead the way.