This year is a *lot* to deal with. The pandemic, protests against police brutality, and the palpable effects of the climate crisis have me feeling emotionally fatigued and helpless. Not to mention, of course, the threat to our democracy and the passing of the late, great RBG. And while I practice mindfulness, mediation, and the like, I feel it is reading these kinds of books that is keeping me whole right now.
Like my previous post on Afrofuturism, the fictional books below grapple with serious issues in accessible, entertaining ways. And Aphro-isms, a collection of essays by two sisters, discusses Afrofuturistic activism as a way forward.
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Kindred is a science-fiction novel about a character named Dana, a 26-year-old Black woman in 1976. Dana and her husband Kevin move into a new home in California when, suddenly, Dana is transported from the home back in time to the antebellum South. Kindred has got it all: time travel, love, hate, racial conversations and moving depictions of slavery. Best of all, Kindred offers a satisfying ending and left me feeling changed for the better.
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
This title draws on African mythology and tradition. Apparently some folks call it the “Nigerian Harry Potter” and I’m totally here for that. Akata Witch has magic, mystery, and action, while grappling with tensions surrounding skin color, bullying, and the stigmatization of behavioral/learning disabilities. This book is so fun, you’ll forget you picked it up for social justice.
Remembrance by Rita Woods
Rita Woods exceeds expectations in this outstanding debut novel. I liken Remembrance to Kindred. It’s part historical fiction, part neo-slave narrative, with magic woven in. The story follows four women spanning 200 years. While the story paints a clear picture of slavery, a recurring focus is on the personal development of the characters and how they learn about their own strengths, spirituality, and families. The book challenges time and provides beautiful, vivid imagery.
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Ever wonder what the world would look like if women were the dominant gender? Naomi Alderman’s The Power does just that. The story is a third-person narrative following several key characters navigating a world where pubescent girls have the power to wield electricity through their fingertips. And they can “awaken” the power in grown women. An organ, called a “skein,” is responsible for the power. Alderman incorporates conversations regarding consent, women in professional spaces, and global sex trafficking, among myriad other injustices women and minorities face.
Aphro-isms: Essays on Pop Culture, Feminism and Black Veganism from Two Sisters by Aph Ko and Syl Ko
I read Aphro-isms a total of two times but it is one that I find myself referring back to often. Aph and Syl are intellectual heavy-weights, but don’t let that deter you from checking out their work. One of my favorite essays in the collection discusses why emphasizing similarities does nothing for the oppressed, as it is the source of oppression (systemic white violence) which connects POCs, animals, and other marginalized groups. Rudimentary comparisons offend folks and can have the opposite effect. (Think of Tiffany Haddish wearing fur to protest police violence against POCs).
Another one of my favorites discusses how radial revaluation is a precursor to revolutionary change. “Afrofuturism is about reimagining our citizenship as well as the citizenship of others, without being held captive by the thoughts of the dominant class.” (Aph Ko, 135). Aph argues that oppressed groups can challenge white supremacy by reevaluating their relationship to non-human animals.
I like to support writers by purchasing their books. But if that isn’t viable or desirable for you, check at your library, rent online or borrow books from friends! Happy reading dumplings, and cheers to Afrofuturism.
Get more like this—Sign up for our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Photo: Unsplash Sincerely Media; Wikipedia; Goodreads