I’m listening to NPR right now and they’re talking about Comic-Con—the “safe space” it creates for comic book lovers who, as children and teens, were ostracized as nerds and geeks. Last week a Facebook friend posted this graphic, which addressed the same issue, and then there was a photo of President Obama with Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura)
making the Star Trek sign giving the Vulcan salute (sorry, Trekkies). I’m thinking about getting one of those t-shirts that reads: Black Geek. It might be important for me to wear a shirt like that when I do my author visits. School principals always want to stress that I have a PhD but I didn’t start out wanting to be a professor—I started out dreaming of gnomes and castles and magic beans. So when I sat down to develop an abstract for this book chapter, I reached back into the past for a book that left a lasting impression on my imagination: The Hidden Cave by Ruth Chew. I thought it was about a pair of kids who found Merlin encased in a tree in Central Park, but it turns out the book is set in Brooklyn! So now my paper is
on the significance of urban parks as sites of discovery and recovery in speculative fiction for kids. Chew actually wrote (and illustrated) 29 novels, and almost all of them feature some kind of magic and are set in Brooklyn (where she lived). So as a child in Canada, I read a book about Merlin (because I’m an Arthurian geek, hence my current irrational devotion to Game of Thrones) and as an adult now living in Brooklyn, I’m producing scholarship on that same book (and its relationship to my own novels, which are also set in NYC parks—the African Burial Ground, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Prospect Park). Which is why I’m a proud black geek!