Dread Nation (Ireland) - Author Bio

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1978-79
Where—San Bernardino, California, USA
Education—M.F.A., Hamline University
Currently—lives in York, Pennsylvania

Justina Ireland is the author of several young adult fantasy novels; her most recent, Dread Nation, (2018), is an alternate history of the Civil War in which zombies rise up from the battlefields.

Ireland was born and raised in California: first, in San Bernardino; then, in her sophomore year of high school, she moved to Walnut Grove. At 19 she joined the U.S. Army in order to pay for the cost of college. While serving, she became a linguist specializing in Arabic. Nearly 10 years later, married and pregnant with her daughter, Ireland turned to writing fiction. In 2015 she enrolled in the M.F.A. for Children's Literature at Hamline University, receiving her degree in 2017.

One of Ireland's primary goals as a black writer is to change publishing, especially its Children's and Young Adult divisions, making the industry more inclusive of writers of color. She wants, she says, to have young heroines look like her own daughter. As she told Publishers Weekly:

There are precious few Black girls living full and complex lives in children’s fiction..… And even when we get our own characters, their story is usually one of unmitigated suffering, as though the only narrative worth telling about Black people in America is one of tragedy.…

I wanted to write a story that would create space for Black boys and girls to exist. I want to expand the possibilities, so that everyone could see us as heroes in literature for a change

Although publishers claim they want to do more regarding diversity—hiring more black editors and publishing more black authors—they have yet to do so. According to Vulture, in an industry where 80% of its editors are white, the barriers for black voices remains high. The proof is in the numbers: of the 3,700 kids' and YA books published in 2017 (the year before Dread Nation was released), 340 were about black children and teens; of those, only 100 were written by black authors.

Let's hope that Dread Nation and it's sequel will make a significant dent in that color barrier. (Adapted from various online sources. Retrieved 4/4/2018.)

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