10 GENRE FICTION BOOKS BY AUTHORS OF COLOR YOU WON'T REGRET PICKING UP
The Fantasy genre has long had a reputation - often a deserved one - of being very white. Although recently that’s begun to change more visibly, as authors like Nnedi Okorafor and N.K. Jemisin become more well known. This February, as we celebrate Black History Month and #BooksSoDiverse, we wrote down a few of our faves.
- •Who Fears Death by Nnedi OkoraforThis 2010 World Fantasy Award winner by Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor takes place in a fictionalized post-apocalyptic future Sudan where the light-skinned Nuru oppress the darker Okeke. A powerful, intense novel inspired in part by the 2004 Washington Post article “We Want to Make a Light Baby” about weaponized rape in the Darfur conflict, Who Fears Death is nonetheless ultimately a story that celebrates its heroine’s resilience and strength.
- •Zone One by Colson WhiteheadThe zombie craze seems to be dying down a bit but one stand-out of the genre remains this melancholy novel that takes place in the ebb of the zombie apocalypse as protagonist Mark Spitz and his squad of “sweepers” clean up the stragglers on the streets of New York City. Less of an action/adventure story than a novel that dwells on survival and the struggle to make meaning out of devastation, Zone One tells a familiar story in a beautifully unfamiliar way.
- •Parable of the Sower by Octavia ButlerNo list of genre fiction would be complete without mention of Octavia Butler, who was not only a pioneering black female author in science fiction, but also a pioneering writer in general, pushing the boundaries of the genre and what it could do. This takes place in a future that now seems uncomfortably prescient, in which environmental disaster has torn society apart, and Lauren Olamina develops a philosophy and religion called Earthseed based on the idea that “God is Change.”
- •The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. JemisinN.K. Jemisin, who recently began writing a review column on genre fiction in the New York Times, is one of the most exciting voices to emerge in fantasy in the last few years. This, her first series, tells the story of an empire that has enslaved its gods, and three different women, their stories intertwined, who will shake that empire to its roots. Lovely, exciting, and purely original, if this is the future of science fiction/fantasy then the future looks bright.
- •Storm: Make It Rain by Greg PakThe first solo series in years for comics’ most famous black superheroine, Korean-American Pak’s take on Storm is beautiful and evocative, embracing Ororo Munroe’s enormous power hand in hand with her humanity and compassion. This comic also brought two of the most stunning and powerful covers as a smear campaign brings Storm into conflict with the law, printed around the time of the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
- •Redemption In Indigo by Karen LordA modern fantasy based in part on Senegalese folk tale, this short novel is about Paama, a woman who receives the power of Chaos after leaving her shiftless husband. However, she soon draws the attention of the Indigo Lord, a powerful spirit who believes that power should belong to him alone.
- •White Is for Witching by Helen OyeyemiHelen Oyeyemi’s haunting prose brings chilling life to this novel about generations of women connected through a strange house invested with a peculiar kind of power. Miranda Silver, the most recent descendant of her family, has struggled throughout her life with a peculiar eating disorder. Her story intertwines with that of an African adoptee, Ore, and as Miranda’s connection to her new friend begins to usurp her connection with the house, sublimated menace rises to something darker, sharper.
- •Huntress by Malinda LoThis fairy-tale inspired fantasy, with two seemingly dramatically opposed female protagonists, follows an old plot imbued with fresh life. Something has gone wrong in the human world, and the source of the disturbance seems to have something to do with the Faeire realm. Strongly influenced by Chinese mythology, Lo crafts a compelling story and eventual romance around her two female protagonists: Kaede, solidly grounded, and Taisin, on the path to becoming a sage.
- •The Grace of Kings by Ken LiuAnother novel brimming with Chinese influence, The Grace of Kings is a fantasy based on Chinese literature and legend, with touches of Polynesian influence as well. Thief and ruffian Kuni Garu and fearless warrior and scion of nobility Mata Zyndu, become allies and then friends in the course of a revolution. This sprawling, epic tale juxtaposes the battles of gods and men, tracing developing friendships and relationships against the backdrop of struggles that change nations.
- •A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia SamatarA sequel, Winged Histories, is coming out this year, so it’s the perfect time to catch up on this underrated gem. Much of this story centers on the power of stories and language - “that seductive necromancy, reading”. On his yearly trading visit to Olondria, a country where books are as common as they are rare at home, Jevick finds himself haunted by the ghost of an illiterate young girl and caught in a power struggle between two cults.