Empathy as an Answer to Challenges of the Anthropocene in Asian American Young Adult Science Fiction





ecopedagogy, empathy, Anthropocene, Asian American literature, young adult fiction, science fiction


This article suggests that Malinda Lo’s Adaptation duology (2012-2013) and Cindy Pon’s Want duology (2017-2019) represent empathy as a desirable answer to challenges of the Anthropocene. Set in near-future Taipei, Want follows a group of teenagers who eventually become militant environmental activists. The teenage protagonists’ capacity for empathy distinguishes them from the villainous antagonist and makes them likeable for the readers despite their violent tactics. Lo’s duology features two teenagers who are turned into human/alien hybrids by extra-terrestrial scientists after a nearly fatal car accident. The procedure equips the protagonists not only with an accelerated healing ability, but also gives them access to other people’s emotions through touch. Although the teenagers at first experience their newfound superpowers as a burden, they slowly realise their significant potential for changing humanity for the better. My article will combine close readings from the novels with research from ecopedagogy to explore in how far novels like Lo’s Adaptation and Pon’s Want can encourage readers to treat their fellow human beings as well as more-than-human life forms with more empathy.


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A human stands in front of a split rock as a gigantic moon rises behind them.