Revisiting A Swiftly Tilting Planet

photo: Savanna Sturkie

In the months leading up to the release of the A Wrinkle in Time movie, we're asking authors of middle grade and young adult titles to revisit one of the first four books in Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet. For January, Caleb Zane Huett, a bookseller at Avid Bookshop and author (Top Elf), looks at A Swiftly Tilting Planet.

Revisiting A Swiftly Tilting Planet was hard.

Like all of the books in the series, the novel asserts that everything in the universe is connected, and even the smallest choices matter. It's a series of Quantum Leap-style situations in which Charles Wallace follows the winds of the universe to change historical events: he must shape history such that the leader of a fictionalized South American country is born as El Zarco, good and "peaceful" from a blue-eyed bloodline, instead of as the war-mongering Mad Dog Branzillo of the "arrogant and angry," dark-eyed timeline.

As I reread, I became worried. I loved these books as a child. What did I take away from this? I didn't consciously register an insidious concept behind the importance (and goodness) of the blue-eyed timeline; I just liked the magic.

All of us--especially creators of works for children--have to think further than the magic. We must pay attention to the literature we produce and avoid repeating tired, harmful tropes. Real people can be affected for decades by our decisions. Thankfully, we're working on it: We Need Diverse Books and the OwnVoices movement are examples of groups making positive change in children's publishing. I'm grateful that they (and so many others) are dedicated to creating an industry that values everyone, not just the same people we've valued for centuries.

Every choice matters, big and small. The story choices we make and the structure of our fantasies affect actual humans and actual issues. Our planet, the real one, is swiftly tilting. Let's make sure we like where it's going.

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