Let My People Go

Tonight, a little holiday named Passover takes place. The feast is rooted in the story of the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt. According to the Bible, God sent a plague to kill all the firstborn males of the families. The only thing that could save them was the blood of a lamb smeared over the door frame, then the angel of death would “pass over” the house to go to the next one. After the plague, the Hebrews were finally freed from slavery by Pharaoh.

Today, people celebrate the feast by roasting lamb and partaking in the Seder, the Passover meal. We have a collection of rituals and habits that remind us of our ancestors’ time in Egypt and our redemption.

I noticed I have a certain theme that a lot of my stories use that also factors into Passover: the oppressed people.

In the Protectors series, the shape changers are feared by noblemen. The noblemen, a group called the Protectors, suppress their magic, oppress the shape changers, and have even cursed their bloodline so women can’t have children. The story is about their struggles against the Protectors–to break the curse and eventually live their lives free from fear of these men.

I’ve written a lot of stories that have this common thread. A people fighting against bigotry, rising above into freedom and redemption. Something about it all fascinates me, I guess: a group of people who are seen as weak or less-than-human proving everyone wrong with their strength and resilience.

This is a theme we see again and again in fantasy and science fiction. There is something so poignant about this kind of a story. There are so many possibilities for conflict, character development, and a lasting effect.

If you like this theme in fantasy novels just as much as I do, here are some examples of where else you can see this…
– the Talent Chronicles by Susan Bischoff: a YA novel where those with “talents” are sent to special government schools.
– Touch by Jus Accardo: similar to the Talent Chronicles where the “Sixes” are controlled by an organization called Denazen.
– Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout: another YA novel that branches off of Greek mythology. The world is divided by purebloods and half-bloods, with very different roles for each side.

There are also times when the divisions that people create (based on race, ability, age, or what-have-you) is more of a subplot or a development of the setting, not the basis of a book. There are a lot of great books that have an element of racism or discrimination based on another aspect.

In Harry Potter, the bigotry of the purebloods is more than just a subplot, it drives a lot of the villains (something held be back from adding it to the above list, though, maybe because the main conflict is not the struggle between purebloods and Muggles.)

In most paranormal fiction, you can see some races believing themselves better than other races and certainly better than humans.

I think authors and readers like exploring this theme in fiction because it can show the best of humanity and the worst. It’s also easier to explore in fantasy or science fiction because you can draw metaphors and allusions without actually using examples from humanity’s bloody history. You can play with it a bit more, change the dynamics, and without the risk of offending people (usually).

What do you think? Are there some major book series I’m missing in my list? And yes, I know they’re all young adult. Sometimes I feel like I need to expand my reading horizons, and other times, I’m like, ‘…nah!’

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