Looking for something to read for Black History Month, but you’d rather look to the future to than the past? Afrofuturism is Speculative Fiction (as well as art, film and music) from a Black perspective- offering up alternate pasts, imaginative presents, and fantastic futures rooted in rich African cultures.
Friday Reads: Juneteenth
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, celebrates the freedom of those who had been enslaved in the U.S. The holiday, observed on June 19, commemorates the day that Union army General Granger announced the emancipation of enslaved people in Galveston Texas on June 19, 1865. You can read more about the history of Juneteenth on Wikipedia.To celebrate today, have a look at these books by African Americans, released in 2020.
The city we became / N.K. Jemisin.
Every great city has a soul. Some are ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York? She’s got six. When a young man crosses the bridge into New York City, something changes. He doesn’t remember who he is, where he’s from, or even his own name. But he can feel the pulse of the city, can see its history, can access its magic. And he’s not the only one. All across the boroughs, strange things are happening. Something is threatening to destroy the city and her six newborn avatars unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.
Felix ever after / Kacen Callender.
Felix Love, a transgender seventeen-year-old, attempts to get revenge by catfishing his anonymous bully, but lands in a quasi-love triangle with his former enemy and his best friend.
A fortune for your disaster / poems by Hanif Abdurraqib.
In his much-anticipated follow-up to The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, poet, essayist, biographer, and music critic Abdurraqib has written a book of poems about how one rebuilds oneself after a heartbreak, the kind that renders them a different version of themselves than the one they knew.
Hood feminism : notes from the women that a movement forgot / Mikki Kendall.
A collection of essays taking aim at the legitimacy of the modern feminist movement, arguing that it has chronically failed to address the needs of all but a few women.
Red at the bone / Jacqueline Woodson.
As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s coming of age ceremony in her grandparents’ Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, making her entrance to the music of Prince, she wears a special custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody’s mother, for her own ceremony — a celebration that ultimately never took place.
She came to slay : the life and times of Harriet Tubman / Erica Armstrong Dunbar.
Harriet Tubman is best known as one of the most famous conductors on the Underground Railroad. As a leading abolitionist, her bravery and selflessness has inspired generations in the continuing struggle for civil rights. Now, National Book Award nominee Erica Armstrong Dunbar presents a fresh take on this American icon blending traditional biography, illustrations, photos, and engaging sidebars that illuminate the life of Tubman as never before.
Friday Reads: Locus Award Winners 2019
On June 29, 2019, The Locus Award Foundation announced the winners of the Locus Awards. Here are a few of the winners, available at Danville Public Library or by request. For the full list, visit the Locus Magazine.
NOVELLA: Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
A sentient robot with only vague memories of the massacre it committed that gave it the name Murderbot, teams up with a Research Transport Vessel to find out what happened. This is the second book in the Murderbot series.
ANTHOLOGY: The Book of Magic edited by Gardner Dozois
“An anthology celebrating the witches and sorcerers of epic fantasy–featuring stories by George R. R. Martin, Scott Lynch, Megan Lindholm, and many more! Hot on the heels of award-winning editor Gardner Dozois’s (Rogues, Old Venus) acclaimed anthology The Book of Swords comes this companion volume devoted to magic. How could it be otherwise? For every Frodo, there is a Gandalf…and a Saruman. For every Dorothy, a Glinda…and a Wicked Witch of the West. What would Harry Potter be without Albus Dumbledore…and Severus Snape? Figures of wisdom and power, possessing arcane, often forbidden knowledge, wizards and sorcerers are shaped–or misshaped–by the potent magic they seek to wield. Yet though their abilities may be godlike, these men and women remain human…some might say all too human. Such is their curse. And their glory. In these pages, seventeen of today’s top fantasy writers–including award-winners K. J. Parker (The Two of Swords), Megan Lindholm (The Windsingers), John Crowley (The Deep), Tim Powers (Last Call), Liz Williams (Snake Agent), Elizabeth Bear (Eternal Sky Trilogy), George R. R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire), Kate Elliott (The Court of Fives Trilogy), Scott Lynch (The Republic of Thieves), and more–cast wondrous spells that thrillingly evoke the mysterious, awesome, and at times downright terrifying worlds where magic reigns supreme: worlds as far away as forever…and as near as next door”– Provided by publisher.
ART BOOK: The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition by Ursula K. Le Guin, illustrated by Charles Vess
“Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the timeless and beloved A Wizard of Earthsea comes this complete omnibus edition of the entire Earthsea chronicles. Now for the first time ever, they’re all together in one volume–including the early short stories, Le Guin’s “Earthsea Revisioned” Oxford lecture, and a new Earthsea story, never before printed. With a new introduction by Le Guin herself, this essential edition also includes fifty illustrations by renowned artist Charles Vess, specially commissioned and selected by Le Guin” — Provided by publisher.
HORROR NOVEL: The Cabin at the End of the World: A Novel by Paul Tremblay
A family vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake faces a home invasion by four strangers carrying menacing but unidentifiable objects who claim to be acting to save the world.
COLLECTION: How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin
In the first collection of her evocative short fiction, Jemisin equally challenges and delights readers with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption. In these stories, Jemisin sharply examines modern society, infusing magic into the mundane, and drawing deft parallels in the fantasy realms of her imagination. Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow South must save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.
NOVELETTE: The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander
Early in the twentieth century, a group of female factory workers in Newark, New Jersey, slowly died of radiation poisoning. Around the same time an Indian elephant was deliberately and publicly put to death by electricity in Coney Island. These are matters of historical fact. Now these two tragedies are intertwined in a dark alternate history of rage, radioactivity, and wrongs crying out to be righted. Brace yourself for a wrenching journey that crosses eras, chronicling cruelties both grand and petty while searching for meaning and justice.
FIRST NOVEL: Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do the monsters. Maggie is a monster hunter and a small town enlists her help to find a missing girl. As Maggie discovers the truth, she will have to confront her past if she wants to survive.
NON-FICTION: Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing by Ursula K. Le Guin with David Naimon
In a series of interviews with David Naimon, Le Guin discusses craft, aesthetics, and philosophy in her fiction, poetry, and nonfiction works. The discussions provide ample advice and guidance for writers of every level, but also give Le Guin a chance to to sound off on some of her favorite subjects: the genre wars, the patriarchy, the natural world, and what, in her opinion, makes for great writing. With excerpts from her own books and those that she looked to for inspiration, this volume is a treat for Le Guin’s longtime readers, a perfect introduction for those first approaching her writing, and a tribute to her incredible life and work.
Note: All book covers are from Google Images and all descriptions are from the SHARE Catalog.
Book Review: The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
The final book in the Broken Earth trilogy concludes Essun and Nassun’s stories. Essun wants to recover the Moon and bring it back into orbit thereby ending the cycle of seasons, while Nassun just wants to destroy the world. I admit that while reading the book, I had no idea until the very end who would succeed. We are already aware that Hoa is telling this whole story to Essun, yet it is not until this last book that he finally shares his own story.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, so just know that this is a very satisfying ending to the trilogy. It had surprises along the way and brought tears to my eyes more than once. The ending kept me so entranced that I stayed an extra 20 minutes on the treadmill, listening to the audiobook until the final credits. I would recommend this series to anyone who likes stories of magic and secrets, or post-apocalyptic tales, or strong yet fallible female characters, or extraordinary world-building. The Broken Earth series has all of this and more, so do yourself a favor and start with The Fifth Season.
Review by Jessica A.
Book Review: The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin
The second book in the Broken Earth trilogy continues to follow Essun as she learns more about what causes a Fifth Season and what can be done about it. Essun decides to stay, at least temporarily, at Castrima so that she can learn from the dying Alabaster. He teaches her what she can do and she becomes more involved in the politics of Castrima life, whether she wants to or not. The book also follows Nassun, Essun’s daughter. We learn what happened when her father killed her little brother for being an orogene and kidnapped her, hoping to find some way to rid her of her orogeny. She meets up with one of Essun’s old antagonists, and throws in her lot with him completely.
Unlike The Fifth Season, the characters are not traveling near so much, so we get to see them as they adjust to life in a village. Essun in particular grumbles at this, but she also flourishes in Castrima. This book teaches us, along with Nassun and Essun, the how and why of the seasons and what can be done to stop the cycle of seasons altogether. The way that mother and daughter’s stories parallel is wonderful. Often, second books in a trilogy are a little weaker than the first and third books, but I’m happy to say that is definitely not the case here. The Obelisk Gate sucked me in just as much as The Fifth Season and I can’t wait to finish the trilogy with The Stone Sky.
Review by Jessica A.
Book Review: The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
This is the first book in the Broken Earth trilogy. In this world, the Stillness, there is great concern over earthquakes and the devastation they can bring to the entire world. These events are called a Season. Orogenes have the ability to sense the earth and to cause or still quakes. They are considered very dangerous, and generally treated like witches. At the Fulcrum, Orogenes are trained to use and control their abilities. The Guardians watch over them and basically govern them.
This story is about Essun, a woman who keeps her orogeny a secret from her entire village, who comes home from work to find her son dead, obviously at her husband’s hands, for having been an orogene. Her daughter is nowhere to be found. It also about Damaya, a young orogene who is being brought to the Fulcrum for training. And finally, it is about Syenite, an ambitious orogene who is paired with a highly skilled and possibly mad orogene to work an assignment far from the Fulcrum.
The story starts with an enormous earthquake that starts what may be the worst Fifth Season in history. We then follow Essun, Damaya, and Syenite at different points of time in the Stillness. Throughout, we discover what really happened, why, and who was involved. We learn so much about these three women and their very different lives as orogenes in the Stillness.
This book won a Hugo award and so did both its sequels, making for the first time ever that an author received a Hugo award three years in a row. I finished this book and immediately started the second one in line, The Obelisk Gate. It’s a story that pulls you in quickly and doesn’t let go. I want Essun to find her daughter and to learn more about the travelers she meets along the way. I want to see how people intend to survive this Fifth Season, if they even can. Those who enjoy either dystopian or apocalyptic stories will certainly find this book enjoyable. As a person not generally drawn to those sorts of stories, I can attest that this book certainly has a wider appeal. Give it a try and you’ll be sucked right in.
Review by Jessica A.