I’m the kind of reader that will pick up almost anything but earlier this year I realized that I had fallen in to a rut: I was halfway through several long series and needed something new. I went to my bookshelf, but everything kind of seemed bland and I couldn’t put my finger on why. Then it hit me:
The majority of the books I was reading were written by white authors. My bookshelf suddenly looked very pale.
I’m not one for yearly reading goals, but this just didn’t feel right, so 2018 has become the year to diversify my reading list, and I’ve found some really amazing POC authors whose work I’ve either started reading or am planning on diving in to in the near future.
Cixin Liu is a Chinese author of science fiction whose book The Three Body Problem has been recommended to me by no less than three people. His work has garnered him the Hugo Award as well as nine Galaxy Awards. Liu writes hard science fiction. There is no way to get around that. The first person to recommend his work to me holds several PHDs in several sciences and said that they “had to just start ignoring the physics and trust that it was right”.
The Three Body Problem is set in China throughout the Cultural Revolution that spanned the mid-1960s and 70s and follows the scientific, political and personal life of Ye Zhetai. From political revolution to first contact with alien life to virtual reality The Three Body Problem is far from a light read, with a complex plot that is honestly difficult to summarize without spoiling important points. However, Liu’s work is on my TBR list and is getting higher and higher each time I hear about it.
Tomi Adeyemi’s fantastical work is influenced heavily by her Nigerian-American background and twists even traditional stories in on themselves. Her first book is Children of Blood and Bone which has been so heavily talked about since its release that I have been bumping in to her interviews everywhere. It will be followed in 2019 by Children of Virtue and Vengeance, which will complete the planned duology titled Legacy of Orisha.
In Children of Blood and Bone, when magic disappeared from the world overnight, Maji were targeted and killed, and a relentless king sought to destroy all magic for good. Zelie, the main character, lost her mother in the ruthless attacks, and is just starting to develop her own magic. With the help of a rogue princess, Zelie must fight to save magic, and to control her own dangerous powers.
I would be lying if I said that this isn’t at the top of my list.
Octavia Butler was a black, female, American science fiction writer, who was born in 1947, and passed in 2006. In her lifetime she received both the Hugo and the Nebula rewards, and was the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship, whose focus, according to their website, is to develop the work of “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication.” Butler wrote both short stories and novels, of which Kindred is her best-known work. Kindred follows a young African-American writer who finds herself dragged between modern Los Angeles and a pre-Civil War plantation in Maryland, starting just after celebrating her 26th birthday. Each time she is brought to the past, she encounters the same young white man, who she eventually realizes she must keep alive so that he can father her great grandmother. Kindred is a combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction.
I am currently reading Butler’s short story collection Children of Blood, and it is written so honestly and straightforward that I am immediately drawn in the worlds she crafts. They are just relatable enough that I feel like I can see the interactions happening in my life, but still so incredibly alien that they are fantastical. The combination of these makes for stunning storytelling.
Nnedi Okorafor is a Nigerian-American writer who creates science fiction and fantasy narratives for both children and adults. She started her career with Zahrah the Windseeker in 2005, but is probably best known for her Binti series and her Akata Witch books. I read Binti earlier this year, after having heard so many excited reviews that I couldn’t pass it up. Binti is a really good way to test the waters with Okorafor’s writing, as it is only 96 pages long, but has a depth and richness to it that is hard to pull yourself away from.
The title character, Binti, is the first of her tribe to be accepted to Oozma, a prestigious college on another planet, but in order to attend, she must decide to go against her traditions and her family. While she is in transit to the university, her ship is attacked by a warlike race called the Meduse. It is really difficult to summarize the plot much more for fear of spoiling it, so I’m not going to try. The writing is crisp and deep, and worth every page.
Haruki Maurakami is a Japanese science fiction writer whose style can only be defined as mind-bending. Spanning science fiction, magical realism, and surrealism, Murakami is definitely not light reading for most people, but his storytelling is intricate and unique. Kafka on the Shore intertwines the stories of 15-year old Kafka, and an older man named Nakata. Kafka is a teenage boy running away from home and an Oedipal curse to search for his missing mother and sister. After leaving, he chooses the name Kafka. Meanwhile, Nakata is an aged war veteran who never fully recovered after he returned but has found that he has an ability to find lost cats.
Other works by Murakami include 1Q84, What I Talk about When I Talk About Running, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and The Wild Sheep Chase, but honestly, that is only a tiny portion of his overall works.
Who would you add to the list?