(a few) Reasons for Inclusion:
Tesa in Silent Dances and Silent Songs is Native American and Deaf. The Elspind species in Shadow World use neutral pronouns until maturity. Minor recurring character Dr Blanket is genderless and uses “seloz” as a pronoun starting in Book 2. Etsane in Ancestor’s World is Ethiopian. Cara in Shadow World is black. Jib in Silent Dances is Maori. Serge in Serpent’s Gift has prosthetic hands. Alexis in Voices of Chaos is lesbian. Magdalena in Voices of Chaos is Hispanic. Secondary characters are very racially diverse.
First Book Summary:
Earth’s first contact with an alien race turns to disaster when a friendly encounter erupts into inexplicable violence and the threat of interstellar war.
But two ordinary individuals–Mahree Burroughs, an ordinary woman with a gift for friendship, and Dhurrrkk’, a male Simiu with boundless curiosity–have forged a bond of understanding that bridges their many differences.
Along with a reluctant Robert Gable, brilliant young ship’s physician, they make an astounding journey across the stars, to seek a way to save the future of both species!
At first glance, the Starbridge series looks like fairly ordinary 90s science fiction. But behind the sometimes-awkward prose is a hell of a lot of spirit, and diversity proud on every page.
A C Crispin, taking after the traditions of genre-builders Andre Norton and Anne McCaffrey, begins Starbridge with a teenage girl hero. Of course, Mahree Burroughs isn’t yet the legendary figure she’ll become, she’s just a girl on an unremarkable spaceship.
But then the Desiree encounters the Simiu, the first aliens humans have ever met. What follows is a truly amazing First Contact story, filled with all the realistic concerns of communication with an alien species.
Mahree quickly finds a friend among the Simiu. And then it all goes wrong- a misunderstanding turns to violence turns to distrust, and the First Contact threatens to fall apart.
Mahree and Dhurrrkk’ save the day, and make even more allies and friends in the process. Their story culminates in the founding of Starbridge Academy, a school where students from all species learn to work together.
The rest of the series follows the stories of various Starbridge students. Of particular note is Tesa Wakandagi, featured in Book 2, Silent Dances, and Book 5, Silent Songs. Tesa is Native American (Lakota), and she’s Deaf. Her assignment: to work with the Grus, a species of bird-like aliens who use a signed language.
“Being Indian is part of what makes me who I am… my culture, my identity. Well, so is being Deaf”
Both Native American and Deaf culture are discussed in Silent Dances. Tesa’s parents want her to get an implant to “fix” her condition, something she doesn’t want.
“To you, deafness is a physical condition. To her, it’s a cultural one.”
Tesa stands up for herself on those issues, but that’s only a part of her plot.
Her mission puts her in a unique position to not only forge a connection between humans and Grus, but to meet yet another species and build a long-awaited peace.
And that’s only two of the seven books.
The characters are treated with respect- nobody is ever reduced to stereotypes or made into a plot point. Acceptance and respect are the expected norm at Starbridge Academy. The stories are fun and filled with characters from all sorts of species, not just humans.
This is a humane and fun series- science fiction that leaves behind war and technobabble to focus on connections and relations, and most of all the importance of communication.
The books are hard to get ahold of in print (I had to order mine secondhand) but they’ve recently been reissued for Amazon Kindle.