Okay, so it turns out I lied. I claimed I was going to release one final antiracist reading list installment featuring all the fiction titles. Turns out, the fiction list is way too long for one post, so I’m splitting it in two.
So, here’s a post full of amazing speculative fiction titles, because apparently, an absurd percentage of my reading diet is genre fiction.
Seriously, folks, this is some really brilliant sci-fi/fantasy/etc. The titles are links to the book’s Goodreads page:
Kindred – Octavia Butler — Butler is one of the greatest sci-fi writers of all time, and beginning in the 1970s she smashed barriers to gain acclaim in a genre that was very male, and entirely white. Kindred uses the structure of slave narratives to tell the story of a Black woman who keeps being pulled through time between her home in 1976 California, and an antebellum Maryland plantation where she becomes entangled in the story of her ancestors.
Dawn (Xenogenesis #1) – Octavia Butler — Kindred is amazing, but Butler spent most of her time writing futuristic sci-fi. So you should definitely read her Xenogenesis series. The series begins as a woman, Lilith Iyapo, awakens on an alien ship after humanity has wiped itself out in a nuclear holocaust. She, along with other survivors, must decide if the aliens can be trusted, and if they themselves are willing to change what it means to be human in order for humanity to have a future.
Speaking of Butler spending most of her time writing futuristic sci-fi, some call her the mother of Afrofuturism. So, if you like Ryan Coogler’s conception of Wakanda, or Janelle Monáe, or Nnedi Okorafor’s writing (see below), that all exists thanks in part to Octavia Butler.
I’m about to read Butler’s Parable of the Sower. Written nearly three decades ago, it’s “set in the 2020s, where society has largely collapsed due to climate change, growing wealth inequality, and corporate greed.” Sound familiar?
She was a brilliant writer, and I don’t think I’ve ever read any work more insightful and empathetic than hers. We need her voice right now. Always, but especially right now.
The Fifth Season (Broken Earth #1) – N. K. Jemisin — There is simply no one in the fantasy game better than N. K. Jemisin, right now. And she’s got the hardware to prove it. Each of the three books in this series won the Hugo Award – in three consecutive years! You’ve never read fantasy like this before. It’s gripping, powerful, and wholly original.
The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead — Genre-defying story of a woman’s struggle to escape the slave states on an Underground Railroad that’s more than just metaphorically underground, and that travels across more than just physical distance. If you haven’t read Whitehead before, this is a great place to start.
Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1) – Tomi Adeyemi — Adeyemi has written a thrilling YA fantasy story set in a dangerous and beautiful world based on the myths, history, religion, and language of the West African Yoruba culture. If you’re into YA fantasy – or fantasy in general – it doesn’t get better than this.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf (Dark Star Trilogy #1) – Marlon James — Dark, violent, wildly imaginative fantasy rooted in African myths, history, culture, and tradition. To say I’ve never read any fantasy like this would be a gross understatement. It’s deeply immersive, not just into the world James builds, but into the brooding heart of our protagonist and the story he tells.
From what I understand, the Dark Star Trilogy is going to be Rashomonic, with each volume relaying the same events from a different perspective. I’m all over that!
Michael B. Jordan bought the rights for an adaptation before the book was even released.
Who Fears Death – Nnedi Okorafor — In a post-apocalyptic Africa, a world where magic and sorcery exist, Okorafor tells a story deeply rooted in themes of race and gender. None of the writers in this section seem at all concerned with playing by the rules of old fantasy structures, and Okorafor’s voice is powerfully original.
Binti – Nnedi Okorafor — This novella is awesome. Like so much of the best sci-fi, Binti transplants political and social realities of today onto an alien future, to hold our own society up to the light. But even if you don’t care about that, this is a great story, with a great hero, whose struggle to embrace her own strength and identity may decide the fate of the human race.