Nov. 2nd, 2015

cereus: Cereus cactus blossom (Cereus)
(this post inspired by this series of posts on my Kemetic blog)

So when we're talking about "representation" in books (and movies and...)

I think that one of the most important types of representation in books for me, personally are desert books.  Even more than trans or disabled characters, for example.

No matter where you are in the United States, the "default paradigm" for stories is very northern temperate forest-based.  Like the whole tolkein and D&D and Arthurian mythos.  And a lot of stuff is built off that mythos.

And you can't just substitute some trees for cactus and have things work either, there's a whole different set of understandings underneath.  For example, the whole idea of Light being purely benevolent and Dark being purely malevolent doesn't work here.  It doesn't map onto reality well at all.  And even the idea of any force being purely malevolent or benevolent starts to become iffy.  Also "purity" is less of a central concept because "pure" things are often not condusive to the flourishing of life and life can use all the help it can get.  Mud isn't always something to wash away, it's something to shelter.

And I think that this stuff is why I latched on to Dune so hard, despite the fact that it is "problematic" as hell and sometimes I want to yell at Frank Herbert through the page..  Because it was also the first book that gave the highest honors to the Kangaroo Rat.

And that is precious.

A (incomplete) list of "Desert Books" -

Bless Me Ultima - Rudolfo Anaya
Territory - Emma Bull
Joshua Tree - Emma Bull (actually a short story)
The Blue Sword - Robin McKinley
Dune - Frank Herbert
Song of the Magdalene - Donna Jo Napoli

And I'm coming to think that the Myst series of video games have some of this too.  It's complicated because your adventures take you across many worlds, few of them desert.  But Atrus and Ti'ana both grew up in the desert, more or less.  And a lot of the attitudes and understandings are there.

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