Darkening the Dream: The Fantasy of History and Reality of Difference in Libba Bray’s The Diviners

Jennifer A. ReimerBilkent University

This essay addresses how Libba Bray’s 2012 children’s and young adult historical fantasy novel, The Diviners, represents an alternative literary articulation of US history in the modernist period that links difference to the material contexts of American history and society. I explore how historical fantasy allows Bray to connect the imaginative possibilities of the speculative genres to a critique of practices of exclusion in the US. Through an analysis of how Bray represents diverse characters in America in the 1920s, I argue that the novel reflects the ways in which the inter-war years shaped the racial and ethnic paradigms that would define a great deal of twentieth-century America. I focus in particular on the novel’s engagement with the Harlem Renaissance, nativism, and immigration restriction. In trespassing the borders and boundaries of genre, history, identity and reality, The Diviners harnesses the potential of the speculative genres to imagine alternatively.    KEYWORDS: YA Literature, The Jazz Age, Race & Ethnicity, Historical Fantasy, the Harlem Renaissance, American History, Contemporary American Literature, US Immigration

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