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Stephanie Toliver

Key Professional Appointments

  • Assistant Professor, Curriculum and Instruction, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Awards, Honors, Associations

ICQI Qualitative Book Award, International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, 2023

Postdoctoral Fellow, National Academy of Education, 2023

Steve Cahir Early Career Award, Writing and Literacies SIG of the American Educational Research Association, 2023

Alan C. Purves Award, National Council for Teachers of English, 2022

Outstanding Dissertation Award, Arts-Based Educational Research SIG of the American Educational Research Association , 2021

Promising Researcher Award, National Council for Teachers of English, 2021

Research & Service

Stephanie R. Toliver is an assistant professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Informed by her love of science fiction and fantasy texts as well as her experience as a 9th and 10th grade English teacher, Toliver’s scholarship centers the freedom dreams of Black youth and honors the historical legacy that Black imaginations have had and will have on activism and social change. Specifically, her research centers three, interrelated areas: (1) the examination of how Black youth engage in the reading and writing of speculative fiction to discuss and challenge their experiences with social injustice; (2) the consideration of how intersecting oppressions infiltrate the field of education and how educators must use their imaginations to dream of ways to challenge injustice in schools; and (3) the demonstration of how Black people use speculative storytelling to metaphorically describe modern and historical antiblackness and to dream of worlds and futures in which Black people are free from the burdens of societal injustice. She is the author of the award-winning book, Recovering Black Storytelling in Qualitative Research: Endarkened Storywork, and her academic work has been published in several journals, including Equity, Excellence, & Education; Journal of Literacy Research; and Journal for Multicultural Education. Her public scholarship has been featured on LitHub, Huffpost, and the Horn Book.


Hadley, H. L., & Toliver, S. R. (2023). The Monstrous Hospitality of Canonical Text Selections: The Need for a Hospitable Literacy Framework. Journal of Literacy Research.  link >

Thomas, E. E., Griffin, A. A., & Toliver, S. R. (2023). Intersectionality and Discourse Analysis. In M. Handford, & J. P. Gee (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Discourse Analysis (2 ed., pp. 217-230). (Routledge Handbooks in Applied Linguistics). Routledge.  link >

Toliver, S. R. (2023). In Search of My Mother’s Stories: (Re)membering Endarkened Storywork. In B. Bickel, R. L. Irwin, & R. Siegesmund (Eds.), Arts-Based Educational Research Trajectories: Career Reflections by Authors of Outstanding Dissertations (pp. 13-21). (Studies in Arts-Based Educational Research; Vol. 6). Springer.  link >

Toliver, SR. (2023). It will take nations of billions to obstruct our dreams: extending BlackCrit through Afrofuturism. Journal for Multicultural Education, Article 705669. Advance online publication.  link >

Toliver, S. (2023). Monstrous Others: Black Girl Refusal in Afrofuturist Young Adult Literature. Women's Studies, 52(6), 708-723.  link >

Toliver, S. R. (2023). “Weird Is Normal”: A Womanist Discourse Analysis of Black Girl Nerds’ Community Building. Equity and Excellence in Education, 56(1-2), 206-220.  link >

Toliver, S. R. (2023). Who’s afraid of the dark? Myth, joy, healing, and trauma in Tracey Deon’s Legendborn. The ALAN Review, 50(3), 9-21.

Toliver, S. R. (2022). "Dreamland": Black Girls Saying and Creating Space through Fantasy Worlds. Girlhood Studies, 15(1), 17-33.  link >

Constantine, D. H., Kirkwood-Marshall, M. A., Price-Dennis, D., Thomas, E. E., & Toliver, S. (2021). Kitchen Table Talks: Reading Texts and Black Girlhood. In D. Price-Dennis, & G. E. Muhammad (Eds.), Black Girls' Literacies: Transforming Lives and Literacy Practices (pp. 170-178). (Expanding Literacies in Education). Routledge.  link >

Gilliam, E., & Toliver, S. R. (2021). Black Feminist Wondaland: Reckoning, Celebrating, and Reclaiming Joy in Higher Education. Journal of Effective Teaching in Higher Education, 4(2), 84-98.  link >

Toliver, S. R. (2021). Afrocarnival: Celebrating Black Bodies and Critiquing Oppressive Bodies in Afrofuturist Literature. Children's Literature in Education, 52(1), 132-148.  link >

Toliver, S. R. (2021). Beyond the Problem: Afrofuturism as an Alternative to Realistic Fiction About Black Girls. In D. Price-Dennis, & G. E. Muhammad (Eds.), Black Girls' Literacies: Transforming Lives and Literacy Practices (pp. 153-169). (Expanding Literacies in Education). Routledge.  link >

Toliver, SR., & Hadley, H. L. (2021). Ca(n)non Fodder No More: Disrupting Common Arguments that Support a Canonical Empire. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 17(2), 2.

Toliver, S. R. (2021). Critically Analyzing Black Female YA Speculative Fiction Alongside Author-Produced Epitext. In S. Witte, M. Gross, & D. Latham (Eds.), From Text to Epitext: Expanding Students' Comprehension, Engagement, and Media Literacy Libraries Unlimited.

Toliver, S. R. (2021). Freedom Dreaming in a Broken World: The Black Radical Imagination in Black Girls’ Science Fiction Stories. Research in the Teaching of English, 56(1), 85-106.

Toliver, S. (2021). On Mirrors, Windows, and Telescopes. Council Chronicle, 31(1), 29-30.  link >

Toliver, S. R. (2021). Recovering Black Storytelling in Qualitative Research: Endarkened Storywork. (Futures of Data Analysis in Qualitative Research). Routledge.  link >

Toliver, S. R., & Hadley, H. (2021). Rhetorically speaking: on white preservice teachers’ failure to imagine an anti-racist English education. English Teaching, 20(4), 485-500.  link >

Toliver, S. R. (2020). Can I Get a Witness? Speculative Fiction as Testimony and Counterstory. Journal of Literacy Research, 52(4), 507-529.  link >

Toliver, S. R. (2020). Eliminating Extermination, Fostering Existence: Diverse Dystopian Fiction and Female Adolescent Identity. In R. Fitzsimmons, & C. A. Wilson (Eds.), Beyond the Blockbusters: Themes and Trends in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction (pp. 187-202). Article 13 University Press of Mississippi.  link >

Toliver, S. R. (2020). “I Desperately Need Visions of Black People Thriving”: Emancipating the Fantastic With Black Women’s Words. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 64(3), 323-332.  link >

Toliver, S. R. (2020). “We Wouldn’t Have the Same Connection”: Using Read-Alouds to Build Community with Black Girls. Voices from the Middle, 27(4), 24-27.  link >

Toliver, S. R. (2019). Breaking Binaries: #BlackGirlMagic and the Black Ratchet Imagination. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 15(1).

Toliver, S. R. (2019). Emancipating The Fantastic: Dismantling Antiblackness in Speculative Fiction. Council Chronicle, 29(1), 22-26.  link >

Toliver, S. R., & Miller, K. (2019). (Re)Writing Reality: Using Science Fiction to Analyze the World. English Journal, 108(3), 51-59.  link >

Toliver, S. R., Jones, S. P., Jiménez, L., Player, G., Rumenapp, J. C., & Munoz, J. (2019). “This Meeting at This Tree”: Reimagining the Town Hall Session. Literacy Research: Theory, Method, and Practice, 68(1), 45-63.  link >

Ellison, T. L., & Toliver, S. R. (2018). (CHAT)ting at Home: A Family’s Activity Theory System. Voices from the Middle, 25(3), 35-40.  link >

Toliver, S. R. (2018). Alterity and Innocence: The Hunger Games, Rue, and Black Girl Adultification. Journal of Children's Literature, 44(2), 4-15.

Toliver, S. R. (2018). Imagining New Hopescapes: Expanding Black Girls’ Windows and Mirrors. Research on Diversity in Youth Literature, 1(1), Article 3.

Toliver, S. R. (2018). Unlocking the Cage: Empowering Literacy Representations in Netflix's Luke Cage Series. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 61(6), 621-630.  link >