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.
Octavia E. Butler
In celebration of Black History Month, let’s take a look at some African American Science Fiction available at Danville Public Library. Also check out our Afrofuturism display in the 1st floor walkway.
In this hip, accessible primer to the music, literature, and art of Afrofuturism, author Ytasha Womack introduces readers to the burgeoning community of artists creating Afrofuturist works, the innovators from the past, and the wide range of subjects they explore. From the sci-fi literature of Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler, and N. K. Jemisin to the musical cosmos of Sun Ra, George Clinton, and the Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am, to the visual and multimedia artists inspired by African Dogon myths and Egyptian deities, the book’s topics range from the “alien” experience of blacks in America to the “wake up” cry that peppers sci-fi literature, sermons, and activism. With a twofold aim to entertain and enlighten, Afrofuturists strive to break down racial, ethnic, and social limitations to empower and free individuals to be themselves.
Hired to find a mysterious boy who disappeared three years before, Tracker joins a search party that follows the boy’s trail through ancient cities and into dense forests, and encounter creatures intent on destroying them.
This is the way the world ends. For the last time. A season of endings has begun. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester. This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.
All of humanity must share the world with uncanny, unimaginable alien creatures after war destroys Earth, in an omnibus edition containing three classic science fiction novels–Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago. The acclaimed trilogy that comprises Lilith’s Brood is multiple Hugo and Nebula award-winner Octavia E. Butler at her best. Presented for the first time in one volume, with an introduction by Joan Slonczewski, Ph.D. Lilith Iyapo is in the Andes, mourning the death of her family, when war destroys Earth. Centuries later, she is resurrected — by miraculously powerful unearthly beings, the Oankali. Driven by an irresistible need to heal others, the Oankali are rescuing our dying planet by merging genetically with mankind. But Lilith and all humanity must now share the world with uncanny, unimaginably alien creatures: their own children. This is their story…
When Jessica marries David, he is everything she wants in a family man: brilliant, attentive, ever youthful. Yet she still feels something about himis just out of reach. Soon, as people close to Jessica begin to meet violent, mysterious deaths, David makes an unimaginable confession: More than 400 years ago, he and other members of an Ethiopian sect traded their humanity so they would never die, a secret he must protect at any cost. Now, his immortal brethren have decided David must return and leave his family in Miami. Instead, David vows to invoke a forbidden ritual to keep Jessica and his daughter with him forever.
The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky. In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life. Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together.
In the near future, the climate has deteriorated to the point that people are living in a wasteland. Lauren lives in this post-apocalyptic California in a walled-off cul-de-sac where the residents of her small neighborhood try to survive. She goes beyond this, knowing that one day she’ll have to survive on the outside, so she trains and prepares for this eventuality. It comes when vandals and junkies burn down the neighborhood, leaving only Lauren, Zahra, and Harry to survive. They decide to head north together, and gain new group members as they travel. Along the way, she shares her philosophy/religion with them. It’s called Earthseed and the goal is for people to reach heaven literally, by going out into space. It’s a long shot, but all such things have to start somewhere.
It’s so rare to find a book that focuses on the faith of a teenage girl, particularly when that faith is one she created herself. Many of the Earthseed verses were already familiar to me, as they have been quoted often. This is a found family story, where the members of Lauren’s group are coming together for safety and may or may not betray each other. The characters are complicated and no one is without faults. If you are interested in strong female characters, post-apocalyptic tales, or all-too prescient science fiction, then you will enjoy this book.
Review by Jessica A.
We here at Danville Public Library are very excited about the release of Black Panther in theaters this weekend. The film takes place in Wakanda, a fictional African country that is easily the most technologically advanced nation in the world. As such, the Black Panther comics (which we’ve reviewed in the past) and the upcoming movie are great examples of Afrofuturism.
What is Afrofuturism? From CNN, Afrofuturism is a cultural aesthetic that “intersects science fiction, technology, and ancient African mythologies.” To perhaps oversimplify, this genre places Black people at the forefront of science fiction and magical realism stories.
Once you’ve seen the film, you may just want a greater taste of this genre, so here a few examples that are available in our library system:
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
Twelve-year-old Sunny Nwazue, an American-born albino child of Nigerian parents, moves with her family back to Nigeria, where she learns that she has latent magical powers which she and three similarly gifted friends use to catch a serial killer.
Everfair by Nisi Shawl
A neo-Victorian alternate history novel that explores the question of what might have come of Belgium’s disastrous colonization of the Congo if the native populations had learned about steam technology a bit earlier.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin
Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother’s death and her family’s bloody history.
The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead
An elevator inspector becomes the center of controversy when an elevator crashes. The inspector, Lila Mae Watson, is a black woman who inspects by intuition, as opposed to visual observation, and now she must prove her method was not at fault. A study of society’s attitude to technology and a debut in fiction.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
In 2025 California, an eighteen-year-old African American woman, suffering from a hereditary trait that causes her to feel others’ pain as well as her own, flees northward from her small community and its desperate savages.
Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkison
Possessing no magic but a beautiful singing voice, Makeda leaves her formerly conjoined twin sister, Abby, to set out on her own for a life of independence, but must reconcile with her sibling after her father goes missing.
Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand by Samuel R. Delany
Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand is a science fiction masterpiece, an essay on the inexplicability of sexual attractiveness, and an examination of interstellar politics among far-flung worlds. First published in 1984, the novel’s central issues–technology, globalization, gender, sexuality, and multiculturalism–have only become more pressing with the passage of time.
The novel’s topic is information itself: What are the repercussions, once it has been made public, that two individuals have been found to be each other’s perfect erotic object out to “point nine-nine-nine and several nines percent more”? What will it do to the individuals involved, to the city they inhabit, to their geosector, to their entire world society, especially when one is an illiterate worker, the sole survivor of a world destroyed by “cultural fugue,” and the other is–you!*
*Description for this title comes from Goodreads.
Note: All book descriptions are from the SHARE library catalog except as noted. All book covers are from Google Images.
How would you handle it if you were an African American woman from 1976 that has been transported back to the 1820’s to a southern plantation that owns slaves? Our main character finds herself face to face with her many times great grandfather, a white plantation owner who will eventually rape a black woman to continue his line to her. I found this book riveting. I waffled back and forth between liking the man to hating him. Butler gives us a great insight into the social structure of the time, and whether or not we approve, it was the reality and the expected norm.
Review by Leslie B.