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Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction

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In Bodyminds Reimagined Sami Schalk traces how black women's speculative fiction complicates the understanding of bodyminds—the intertwinement of the mental and the physical—in the context of race, gender, and (dis)ability. Bridging black feminist theory with disability studies, Schalk demonstrates that this genre's political potential lies in the authors' creation of body In Bodyminds Reimagined Sami Schalk traces how black women's speculative fiction complicates the understanding of bodyminds—the intertwinement of the mental and the physical—in the context of race, gender, and (dis)ability. Bridging black feminist theory with disability studies, Schalk demonstrates that this genre's political potential lies in the authors' creation of bodyminds that transcend reality's limitations. She reads (dis)ability in neo-slave narratives by Octavia Butler (Kindred) and Phyllis Alesia Perry (Stigmata) not only as representing the literal injuries suffered under slavery, but also as a metaphor for the legacy of racial violence. The fantasy worlds in works by N. K. Jemisin, Shawntelle Madison, and Nalo Hopkinson—where werewolves have obsessive-compulsive-disorder and blind demons can see magic—destabilize social categories and definitions of the human, calling into question the very nature of identity. In these texts, as well as in Butler’s Parable series, able-mindedness and able-bodiedness are socially constructed and upheld through racial and gendered norms. Outlining (dis)ability's centrality to speculative fiction, Schalk shows how these works open new social possibilities while changing conceptualizations of identity and oppression through nonrealist contexts.


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In Bodyminds Reimagined Sami Schalk traces how black women's speculative fiction complicates the understanding of bodyminds—the intertwinement of the mental and the physical—in the context of race, gender, and (dis)ability. Bridging black feminist theory with disability studies, Schalk demonstrates that this genre's political potential lies in the authors' creation of body In Bodyminds Reimagined Sami Schalk traces how black women's speculative fiction complicates the understanding of bodyminds—the intertwinement of the mental and the physical—in the context of race, gender, and (dis)ability. Bridging black feminist theory with disability studies, Schalk demonstrates that this genre's political potential lies in the authors' creation of bodyminds that transcend reality's limitations. She reads (dis)ability in neo-slave narratives by Octavia Butler (Kindred) and Phyllis Alesia Perry (Stigmata) not only as representing the literal injuries suffered under slavery, but also as a metaphor for the legacy of racial violence. The fantasy worlds in works by N. K. Jemisin, Shawntelle Madison, and Nalo Hopkinson—where werewolves have obsessive-compulsive-disorder and blind demons can see magic—destabilize social categories and definitions of the human, calling into question the very nature of identity. In these texts, as well as in Butler’s Parable series, able-mindedness and able-bodiedness are socially constructed and upheld through racial and gendered norms. Outlining (dis)ability's centrality to speculative fiction, Schalk shows how these works open new social possibilities while changing conceptualizations of identity and oppression through nonrealist contexts.

30 review for Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Thistle & Verse

    A fascinating book and a quick read. Schalk follows the 'tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them' format pretty explicitly. Having the points reiterated multiple times was helpful for me. I'm casually familiar with disability studies, but I don't think that was necessary to understand this book. Schalk does a good job of explaining the concepts relevant to her analysis. This isn't a book where Schalk evaluates how good the disability representation is. H A fascinating book and a quick read. Schalk follows the 'tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them' format pretty explicitly. Having the points reiterated multiple times was helpful for me. I'm casually familiar with disability studies, but I don't think that was necessary to understand this book. Schalk does a good job of explaining the concepts relevant to her analysis. This isn't a book where Schalk evaluates how good the disability representation is. Her questions are more around what constitutes a disability in these novels, how is it represented, and how does it conform to or destabilize more realism-based narratives of disability.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bogi Takács

    My review (~1500 words!) finally up: http://www.bogireadstheworld.com/nonf... Spoiler: Yes, I recommend this book! ______ Source of the book: Print review copy from publisher My review (~1500 words!) finally up: http://www.bogireadstheworld.com/nonf... Spoiler: Yes, I recommend this book! ______ Source of the book: Print review copy from publisher

  3. 5 out of 5

    Danni Green

    Excellent, thought-provoking intersectional analysis. The parts of my brain that get off on this type of scholarly discourse were all lit up. I didn't even have to have read/watched all the literature and film examples the author cited, the points that were being made were well-illustrated by the synopses of the relevant content and the way the author discussed them. Also, I told someone about this book and then they agreed to go on a date with me, so it is clearly good luck. Excellent, thought-provoking intersectional analysis. The parts of my brain that get off on this type of scholarly discourse were all lit up. I didn't even have to have read/watched all the literature and film examples the author cited, the points that were being made were well-illustrated by the synopses of the relevant content and the way the author discussed them. Also, I told someone about this book and then they agreed to go on a date with me, so it is clearly good luck.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sistermagpie

    Really fascinating overview of black women's speculative fiction and how it deals with (dis)ability race and gender--hmm, I just rewrote the title. I can just say it's exactly what it says on the tin, but I had never thought this much or this deeply about that tin. The author looks at the work of many authors and really challenged the reader to think about different ways to interpret and think about their stories--which is one of the best things sci-fi and fantasy can do. Not only do I want to r Really fascinating overview of black women's speculative fiction and how it deals with (dis)ability race and gender--hmm, I just rewrote the title. I can just say it's exactly what it says on the tin, but I had never thought this much or this deeply about that tin. The author looks at the work of many authors and really challenged the reader to think about different ways to interpret and think about their stories--which is one of the best things sci-fi and fantasy can do. Not only do I want to read more by Schalk, but I now also have a list of books she talked about to read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Donyae Coles

    This book was recommended to me by two different people before it even came out because they knew that these topics were my jam and all of them together would be the perfect vortex for me. And both of those people were right. I had actually read almost all of the books discussed in this work which felt like I had done my homework in advance. Schalk offers a new perspective on these topics which are often just dismissed as entertainment and lays out the path in which they connect with a larger fr This book was recommended to me by two different people before it even came out because they knew that these topics were my jam and all of them together would be the perfect vortex for me. And both of those people were right. I had actually read almost all of the books discussed in this work which felt like I had done my homework in advance. Schalk offers a new perspective on these topics which are often just dismissed as entertainment and lays out the path in which they connect with a larger framework of society. Despite being an academic text, the book was easy to read and engaging. Shalk has a great voice and a wonderful way with words. Really excellent read if you're into fiction as metaphor not just entertainment.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ro Mo

    Phenomenal linkage of black feminist studies and disability studies— focusing on the speculative fiction genre, Schalk refers to multiple works that demonstrate how the genres affords the author space to move beyond totalizing disability, to defamiliarize race/disability/gender/sexuality and imagine new status quos, and more. Cannot recommend this thought-provoking read enough.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nathaniel

    “The use of defamiliarization in black women’s speculative fiction is not limited to (dis)ability alone. The additional defamiliarization of race, gender, and sexuality in these texts reveals how this speculative-fictional method of representation is integral to the texts’ social critiques. The collective defamiliarization of multiple social categories emphasizes that (dis)ability, race, gender, and sexuality are distinctly human, socially construccted concepts that rely on particular notions of “The use of defamiliarization in black women’s speculative fiction is not limited to (dis)ability alone. The additional defamiliarization of race, gender, and sexuality in these texts reveals how this speculative-fictional method of representation is integral to the texts’ social critiques. The collective defamiliarization of multiple social categories emphasizes that (dis)ability, race, gender, and sexuality are distinctly human, socially construccted concepts that rely on particular notions of bodyminds, senses, behaviors, and abilities, often in mutually constitutive or intersecting ways. Defamiliarization is therefore a key nonrealist technique through which black women’s speculative fiction reimagines bodyminds in ways that change the rules of interpretation and analysis, emphasizing the importance of the contexts in which categories of (dis)ability, race, and gender exist.”

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joshie

    Incredibly thoughtful meditations on race, gender, and discourse. The best applications of intersectional feminism and disability justice on media I’ve come across. the material Schalk explores is so rich with analysis, imagination, and fucking PLEASURE. This book was an absolute PLEASURE to read, think about, sit with, feel, share. I’ve deepened friendships over discussing this text, and sharing its insights when discussing the works it analyzes in community. Please read this book- For all fans Incredibly thoughtful meditations on race, gender, and discourse. The best applications of intersectional feminism and disability justice on media I’ve come across. the material Schalk explores is so rich with analysis, imagination, and fucking PLEASURE. This book was an absolute PLEASURE to read, think about, sit with, feel, share. I’ve deepened friendships over discussing this text, and sharing its insights when discussing the works it analyzes in community. Please read this book- For all fans of sci fi, fantasy, Justice, pleasure, feminist theory, queer theory, anti racist feminism, and books that connect the arts, politics, and life. Edit: schalk is a genius

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    This book is doing vital, vanguard work! Two things I wanted more or differently from it though: 1. The Intro and in some chapters could unpack some of the critical theory developments in more detail for people not already fully in them. For example, the analogy of Crip Theory to Queer Theory intrigues me, but I want the book to walk me through some of the strategies and stakes of Crip Theory. 2. I was looking for a deeper engagement with SF Studies given the primary texts at the core of this book. This book is doing vital, vanguard work! Two things I wanted more or differently from it though: 1. The Intro and in some chapters could unpack some of the critical theory developments in more detail for people not already fully in them. For example, the analogy of Crip Theory to Queer Theory intrigues me, but I want the book to walk me through some of the strategies and stakes of Crip Theory. 2. I was looking for a deeper engagement with SF Studies given the primary texts at the core of this book. Work by Donna Haraway, Steven Shaviro, and N. Katherine Hayles, to name a few, would really add texture to the work unfolding in this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Soren

    This book was so unbelievably nourishing! It felt like finding community after believing for years that you were alone. Would especially recommend the second chapter, "Who's Reality Is It Anyway? Deconstructing Able-Mindedness," and "The Future of Bodyminds, Bodyminds of the Future." Can't wait to read the works discussed here, particularly Phyllis Alesia Perry's Stigmata and Nalo Hopkinson's Sister Mine. This book was so unbelievably nourishing! It felt like finding community after believing for years that you were alone. Would especially recommend the second chapter, "Who's Reality Is It Anyway? Deconstructing Able-Mindedness," and "The Future of Bodyminds, Bodyminds of the Future." Can't wait to read the works discussed here, particularly Phyllis Alesia Perry's Stigmata and Nalo Hopkinson's Sister Mine.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Boynton

    Outstanding!!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ngozi Alston

    Amazing book that thoroughly interrogates how we think about intersectionality with (dis)abilities that are apparent or not, and how they are perceived with other marginalized identities.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  14. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kat

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mel

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Allen

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shawna Garcia

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rachael

  20. 4 out of 5

    Avery Delany

  21. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

  22. 5 out of 5

    Danny

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chloe

  24. 5 out of 5

    António

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kiah

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cole Jack

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Cuddie

  28. 4 out of 5

    Asali

  29. 5 out of 5

    Britt Marie Zeidler

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jenna Hanchey

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