Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction
by Sami Schalk
In the book Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction, the author and scholar Sami Schalk address key issues related to race, gender, and (dis)ability with the help of Black women’s speculative fiction. In other words, Sami uses an Afrofuturistic approach by including fictional writing by Octavia Butler, N. K. Jemisin, Shawntelle Madison, and Nalo Hopkinson to study how Black women and (dis)abilities are discussed. The aim of Sami’s book is to highlight the need for Black feminism theory to include more disability work and perspectives and to discuss this merge with love and criticism.
In her book, Sami also uses two key concepts, bodymind and (dis)ability, which are included in the book’s title and add further depth to her research. With bodymind, she refers to the collective understanding of how the mind and body are intertwined and impact each other. With the term (dis)ability, Sami defines it as “to reference the overarching social system of bodily and mental norms that includes ability and disability” (Schalk 2018:6).
In the first two chapters of the book, Sami dwells deeper into the concept of (dis)abilities, both mental and physical and draws on fictional writings, such as Kindred (1979) and The Tomorrow People (2013). She emphasizes the importance of including (dis)ability, both material and metaphorically, narratives and how this narrative is being discussed from a neo-slave narrative. She also argues how the representation of (dis)abilities in fictional writings are important to highlight and address, likewise to any other marginalized group’s representation, in which negative stereotypes stem from an oppressive system that creates a hostile culture, history and knowledge.
Sami dedicated the following chapters of the book, to discuss how speculative fiction can showcase a utopia for oppressed groups. She discusses how these fictional writings offer an Afrofuturistc approach to see a potential future of liberation, joy, love and freedom from oppressive measures and structures. In other words, these fictional stories can give another meaning to what the future can hold for narratives regarding (dis)abilities, gender and race. Sami centres these narratives within the speculative fiction and showcases how they can change the social stigma and open the diversity of identities of individuals through a futuristic lens and context
Dr. Sami Schalk is the Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her interdisciplinary research focuses broadly on disability, race, and gender in contemporary American literature and culture.
“In this smart and necessary book, Sami Schalk persuasively argues that black women’s speculative fiction offers a rich archive of alternate framings of (dis)ability, race, sexuality, and gender that move us closer toward justice. Bodyminds Reimagined reveals how nonrealist representations can defamiliarize categories assumed to be self-evident, opening up new ways of thinking about methodology, trauma, metaphor, and politics. Schalk’s work pushes all of us in feminist studies, black studies, and disability studies to reimagine how we understand minds and bodies moving though the world.” ―Alison Kafer, author of ― Feminist, Queer, Crip
“The argumentation is abundantly clear and not only provides provocative readings of black women’s speculative fiction, but useful histories about (dis)ability, race, and gender while pointing to ways these histories remain relevant and troubling today. As the first book to examine black women’s speculative fiction in the context of (dis)ability, Bodyminds Reimagined represents a significant step forward for the disability studies field, not only because it brings disability analysis to bear on non-white subjects, but it also brings a new genre into the disability studies fold.”―
“It is now time to bring focus and attention to the works of Black women speculative writers and their subjects. Bodyminds Reimagined becomes the discovery that celebrates these writers and subjects, while challenging the status quo within speculative fiction and (dis)ability studies, and moves them from marginalized objects to realist representations.”―Grace Gipson, Black Perspectives
“Bodyminds Reimagined encouraged me to check my own privilege, to think differently about identity, and to reimagine my small niche in the world. The book is that good in its confrontation of the status quo, in its analysis of marginalized peoples in estranged worlds. . . . When I refer to Schalk’s Bodyminds Reimagined as groundbreaking, I do not mean this lightly. . . . All libraries should stock this book on their shelves.”―Isiah Lavender III, Science Fiction Studies