Diversity Needed Under the Sea: Not All Mermaids Have Blond Hair and Blue Eyes

By Cindy L. Rodriguez

This month, we’re taking a look at Latin@s in science fiction and fantasy. On Monday, Zoraida Córdova explained how instead of writing about her immigration experience, which seemed expected of her, she decided to write about what interested her most: merfolk.

While there have been hundreds of children’s books published about mermaids, very very very few have featured mermaids or mermen who did not have blond or red hair and blue or green eyes. We asked via Twitter if anyone knew of a Latin@ YA author, other than Zoraida, who wrote about merpeople, or books, other than Zoraida’s The Vicious Deep series, that featured diverse characters. We didn’t get any responses. So, the world under the sea seems to be another area of kid lit that could use some diversifying.

If you have a mermaid story in you, waiting to be told, please consider this: every culture has its own mythology packed with gods and goddesses similar to those in Greek and Roman tales. I’m not saying you should ignore Poseidon or not create white merfolk with blond hair and blue eyes. But, think about it this way: Wouldn’t the sea god mingle with mermaids of color if he is responsible for all of the seas in the world? Knowing that merfolk exist in Mexican, Brazilian, Caribbean, and African mythology, to name a few, gives you the opportunity to diversify your mermaid community. And I know we’re talking about fantasy fiction here, so really you can do whatever you want, including making your mermaids purple, green, or any other color. But, if your writing is rooted in known mythological stories, then keep in mind that mythological stories exist beyond Greece and Rome, so your merfolk don’t all have to look the same.

Check these out:

A cool Tumblr dedicated to mermaids of color.

The City Gallery at Waterfront Park in Charleston, South Carolina, had an exhibit called Mermaids and Merwomen in Black Folklore.

The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art had an exhibit on Mami Wata (Mother Water), the water spirit of Africa.

Iemanja.JPG    

L to R: The first two images are of Iemanjá, Brazil’s goddess of the sea, who is sometimes portrayed as a mermaid. The image on the right is a bronze statue of Iara, a water queen. The statue is outisde the Alvorada Palace, the official presidential residence in Brasília.

                                   

On the left is a Loteria card, part of a Mexican game of chance, featuring La Sirena (the siren). On the right is a work of art by Jose Garcia Antonio of San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca, Mexico seen at the Museo de Culturas Populares in Coyoacan, Mexico City.

confetti-cannon-oAnd now, we’d like to celebrate our own Zoraida Córdova, mermaid expert and writer extraordinaire. Why? Because she’s a Latina writer with a diverse cast of characters in the deep blue sea. And her final novel of The Vicious Deep trilogy, published by Sourcebooks Fire, released on July 1!

Here’s a run down of her series:

12246929For Tristan Hart, everything changes with one crashing wave. He was gone for three days. Sucked out to sea in a tidal wave and spit back ashore at Coney Island with no memory of what happened. Now his dreams are haunted by a terrifying silver mermaid with razor-sharp teeth. His best friend Layla is convinced something is wrong. But how can he explain he can sense emotion like never before? How can he explain he’s heir to a kingdom he never knew existed? That he’s suddenly a pawn in a battle as ancient as the gods. Something happened to him in those three days. He was claimed by the sea…and now it wants him back.

13092528A storm is coming…The ocean is a vicious place. Deeper and darker than Tristan could have imagined. Beneath its calm blue surface, an ancient battle is churning —and no one is safe. In the quest for the Sea Throne, Tristan has already watched one good friend die. Now he must lead the rest on a dangerous voyage in search of the trident that will make him king. But while Tristan chases his destiny, the dark forces racing against him are getting stronger, and the sea witch of his nightmares is getting closer. Battling sea dragons and savage creatures of the deep, Tristan needs his friends’ support. But they each have their secrets, and a betrayal will force Tristan to choose between his crown and his best friend Layla — the only girl he’s ever loved.

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This epic clash of sand and sea will pit brother against brother–and there can only be one winner. In two days, the race for the Sea Court throne will be over-but all the rules have changed. The sea witch, Nieve, has kidnapped Layla and is raising an army of mutant sea creatures to overthrow the crown. Kurt, the one person Tristan could depend on in the battle for the Sea King’s throne, has betrayed him. Now Kurt wants the throne for himself. Tristan has the Scepter of the Earth, but it’s not enough. He’ll have to travel to the mysterious, lost Isle of Tears and unleash the magic that first created the king’s powerful scepter. It’s a brutal race to the finish, and there can only be one winner.

6 comments on “Diversity Needed Under the Sea: Not All Mermaids Have Blond Hair and Blue Eyes

  1. If you’re looking for a diverse mermaid book for tweens and teens, Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly might fit the bill. In addition to the European mermaids, there are mermaids from east and southeast Asia, plus a dark-skinned Brazilian mermaid with a visual impairment. The main mermaid is white, but the narration rotates among the characters. It’s published by Disney and I suspect they’re trying to build a media empire out of the series. Overall, the diversity feels manufactured, but given the whiteness of the literary mermaid world, I think it’s a solid choice.

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