Women of Color & Horror: 10 On My TBR

Women of Color & Horror: 10 On My TBR

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It’s September and for me finally the beginning of the creepy season, huzzah! I’ll just ignore that last small heat wave this week, go away please summer, I have my tea and candles and creepy reads ready! I have a lot of books on my tbr that fall under speculative, horror and mystery, but I’m also working towards seeking out and supporting more women writers of Color. I’ve chosen horror because it’s a genre I’ve been wanting to explore more and because, like science-fiction and fantasy,  horror can offer women of Color a space in which to disturb social conventions and transgress boundaries.

This here is a list of 10 works by WoC writers that can be considered horror (often also fantasy) and some of which may be new to you as well. Let’s start with a better known one:

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White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi gr-pic

Haunted house story and a reworking of the gothic trope, Oyeyemi’s work is a psychological fest around trauma, racism and a sentient house set in Dover, England. I hope I’ll get to read it finally for RIPXI.

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Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma gr-pic

This is a novelette or short story about two sisters or cousins and childhood abuse set in gritty Liverpool. Apparently it’s super disturbing and comes with trigger warnings for abuse, rape and incest, yikes! It’s published by TOR though.

alyssa wong

Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong gr-pic

Silicon recommended Alyssa Wong’s stories to me and I’ll definitely read at least one this fall since her recs are always on point. This story has also received the Nebula Award for Best Short Fiction. It’s got a vampire and is about dating and relationships!

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The Evolutionist by Rena Mason gr-pic

Set in the suburbs of Las Vegas, Stacy keeps dreaming about killing and dismembering people. She feels she’s just a normal person having very vivid nightmares and so Stacy goes to see a psychiatrist, he turns out to be not quite so normal.

unhallowed graves

Unhallowed Graves by Nuzo Onoh gr-pic

“Oja-ale is the night market run by the dead. Everything can be bought for a deadly price. Alan Pearson is a sceptical British diplomat, contemptuous and dismissive of native superstitions…Until the day he receives a terrifying purchase from the Night Market, which defies Western science and logic.” (GR) Onoh is “queen of African horror.”

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Solitude by Sumiko Saulson gr-pic

“Solitude is the riveting tale of diverse individuals isolated in a San Francisco seemingly void of all other human life. In the absence of others, each journeys into personal web of beliefs and perceptions as they try to determine what happened to them, and the world around them.” (GR) Saulson also curates a Black women in horror list here.

crescendo

Crescendo by L. Marie Woods gr-pic

 James’ comfortable life changes when he begins having nightmares after his lover’s death. A family curse, can he do anything or is this his destiny? Everyone in his family has secrets. Set in tranquil Rockland County, New York.

kristine ong muslim

Age of Blight by Kristine Ong Muslim gr-pic

“What if the end of man is not caused by some cataclysmic event, but by the nature of humans themselves? In Age of Blight, a young scientist’s harsh and unnecessary experiments on monkeys are recorded for posterity; children are replaced by their doppelgangers, which emerge like flowers in their backyards; and two men standing on opposing cliff faces bear witness to each other’s terrifying ends.” (GR) A collection of short stories with illustrations.

linda ddison

How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda Addison gr-pic

“From the first African-American to receive the HWA Bram Stoker award, this collection of both horror and science fiction short stories and poetry reveals demons in the most likely people (like a jealous ghost across the street) or in unlikely places (like the dimension-shifting dreams of an American Indian). Recognition is the first step, what you do with your friends/demons after that is up to you.” (GR)

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My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due gr-pic

And of course one of my favorite writers! Last year I read Due’s The Good House and it was wonderfully atmospheric and I will make to read this one in broad daylight.

“When Jessica marries David, he is everything she wants in a family man: brilliant, attentive, ever youthful. Yet she still feels something about him is 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.” (GR)

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And a great opportunity to read horror and more with other book bloggers is Carl’s wonderful yearly challenge, R.I.P. – Readers Imbibing Peril, going on right now! It’s a book blogging institution and now in its 11th year. The challenge takes place from September 1st, 2016 through October 31st, 2016 and offers many different levels and genres, there’s something for everyone in it. Sign up here. I’ll be doing Peril the Second, but I hope I’ll read much more than two creepy reads.

Definitely take a look at Sharlene’s wonderful recs for a more diverse R.I.P here, she has great recommendation for all RIP genres, I know I’ll be reading The Hunter.

Lastly, check out my Queer Horror post for some creepy reading with LGBTQIA+ themes.

What are you all reading this creepy season? Let me know in the comments!

Thoughts: Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

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Lagoon is my second book by Nnedi Okorafor and one I chose for Sci-Fi Month. I didn’t manage to post this short review last month, but having really gotten into science-fiction and fantasy this year I feel that every month should be sci-fi month 🙂

Lagoon is the extremely imaginative story of a first contact, where an unidentified object crashes into the ocean in Lagos, Nigeria. Three people are at Bar Beach when the crash occurs and become embroiled in saving Lagos: Adaora is a marine biologist, Anthony is a rapper from Ghana and Abu a soldier. The three are asked for help by the alien ambassador Ayodele. Of course, word gets out that aliens are about and chaos breaks out in Lagos. The aliens calling themselves – and claiming to seek change, inspire everything from war and scamming to LGBTIQ adoration (Ayodele can shift genders amongst other things).

Lagoon has everything: a superhero story, magic, folklore, Nigerian mythology, eco-warriors and Okorafor has a lot of fun imagining fantastical creatures and giving many a voice, too.  The story is chaotic and teeming with ideas and concepts all happening at the same time. There is a wonderful multiplicity of narrative voices. It might take a few chapters to get used to, but this really works in the book’s favor, creating complexity and chaos, while simultaneously connecting different strands, different voices of the city.

While this may seem a fun romp and riff off District 9 (it is! and seeks to break the film’s stereotypical representation of Nigerian villains), Lagoon is rife with weighty issues that pack a punch. Okorafor explores everything from racism and domestic violence to the treatment of the LGBTIQ community. I wish there had been a chance to get to know many of the characters in more depth, as it is the female main characters are wonderfully complex and the other characters remain walking ideas and aspects of Lagos life. But Adaora and Ayodele are amazing characters, I’d love to meet them in other works. As usual, I am left wanting more so I’m glad Okorafor is such a prolific writer. My advice is to take a deep breath and jump, and you’ll love Lagoon!

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!

September in Books and a Peek at October

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September was a good reading month for me, as it’s been ages since I managed 6 books in one month. September also marks the start of the R.I.P. X challenge and I completely immersed myself in creepy fall reads. I hope to manage separate reviews for most of them, so this’ll be just a quick overview. I read Lockhart’s hyped work before signing up for the challenge and can recommend it as a YA mystery-ish quick read.

During my last migraine, once the absolute worst was over and before I even managed to face the house outside my bed in sunglasses, I tried listening to The Body in the Library, an old comfort read, on audible. Earplugs were out, but the narrator was great and the story a very familiar one and so it was nice to drift in and out of the migraine haze with a cozy crime. I haven’t really given the newer tv adaptations of the Marple books a go, but I think they’ll be great fall tv (even without a fireplace). If you’ve watched them, let me know how you liked them! What with my goal to read more YA literature and fantasy, I chose Cinder and Rosemary and Rue for the R.I.P. challenge and enjoyed them both quite a lot. I’ll post a review of Cinder sometime this week, and I’ve already put both series on my tbr.

September was also the month I discovered e-book flats and I managed to finish two books on Scribd: The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls and NOS4A2. The first was a children’s book I think, but it was creepy as hell along the lines of Coraline, so I maybe kid’s are much tougher than I am. But it was a great read and I’ll definitely try more of Legrand’s works. NOS4A2 was even creepier and at times a tough read, but it was a quick read despite the 450 something pages and had a great main character.

Now in October, I’ll be continuing with my R.I.P. list and this month I’m also taking part in Aarti’s Diversiverse challenge. The challenge is a simple but important one: Read and review and book written by a person of color during October 4th and 17th. I already have the new Jemisin book The Fifth Season and Due’s The Good House on my R.I.P. list, so if I’m short of time, I might combine both challenges. But I’ve been thinking of what would make my reading more diverse and also be more connected to my own context and place and so I thought I’d read a book by a German woman of color:

Popoola-Also-by-mail_rbg_web

Also by Mail is a comedy-drama by London-based Nigerian-German author, speaker and performer Olumide Popoola. It’s about two Nigerian-German siblings traveling to Nigeria to bury their dead father, fitting in with their Nigerian family and their grief and loss as well as being racialized in Germany. I chose this work for how it resonates with me and also because it’s available in English.

This month I will also be continuing my Scribd trial and I have so many books on my wish list, I think I will continue the e-book flat. At the top of my list is The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley, I’m about 200 pages in and love it so far. This is what I want from fantasy and speculative fiction more generally, complex ‘other’ worlds to explore matters of multiple genders, colonialism and genocide and trump the horn for social justice matters.

That’s it from me, how was your September? And what’s on the tbr for October?

Current read: Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias

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These days, I’m spending nearly all my time doing, researching and reading decolonial, intersectional feminisms. But since my work is now firmly situated in cultural studies rather than literary studies, all the fiction reading I get done tends to be escapist, white mystery literary production. You know, novels that don’t press my work button. While this is usually fine with me, because I do need a break sometime, it also means that a lot of great works pass me by. One such book is Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias, which I actually only stumbled on in my search for a library copy of Jewelle Gomez’ The Gilda Stories (the depressing state of German libraries, especially small-town libraries!).

Vourvoulias is a Latina activist, journalist, novelist and the managing editor of Al Día News. In Ink, published with CrossedGenre Publications, she takes up current immigration politics in the US and puts a dystopic spin on an already catastrophic reality. In a near future, Latin@s with a recent immigration history are marked by a biometric tattoo and collectively come to be referred to as Inks. The novel begins as the law to ink is passed and the policing and control of inked people begins with curfews and English-only ruInkles and spirals from there. Having grown up in Guatemala for the first 15 years of her life, these methods come from Vourvoulias’ lived experience. Ink is further animated by magical realism and the mystic, all the characters have some kind of magic, not that this provides them with a neat way out. The story is told by four characters with different relationships to Inks, and so far this narrative situation works amazingly well to show how racial hierarchies and privilege are negotiated as well as expose the way that the various characters work to uphold or challenge the system.

I’m so glad I found this work, I had to share even though I’m only halfway through. It’s probably a great read for anyone interested in women of color speculative fiction and social commentary.  Ink is highly political and it is scarily easy to picture the path from current experiences of the undocumented to Vourvoulias’ warning vision of the future. But working aspects of Latina folklore and mythologies into the story, Ink foregrounds the healing power of community and memory and provides a counterpoint to the dominating dystopic future.

Thoughts: The Windup Girl

 

Paolo Bacigalupi’s first published novel, The Windup Girl, has made quite an impact on the reading world. I honestly enjoy science-fiction, even if I don’t read too many books in the genre. I’d heard a lot of good things about this book and so thought myself lucky to find a used copy. And I’m so glad I read it, because it is amazing in many ways, even though it is problematic in others.

The novel is set in a near future, probably a century after ours if I had to guess, in the kingdom of Thailand. In this dystopian vision, global warming has led to rising sea levels and wiped whole nations from the face of the earth. We learn that Thailand has survived through strict policing of calories and their own seedbank. With its concerns of energy management, The Windup Girl taps into current concerns over renewal forms of energy and global warming. Bacigalupi conjures up a world in which generippers and caloriemen are in control. Calories are currency and seedbanks the most important resource that can decide over survival or downfall.

It is a world that divides its timeline into contraction and expansion. Colonialism and independence are crucial to the story. I was intrigued by the fact that the story is set in Asia, that the author thus moves away from the Western world and furthermore examines the power dynamics between East and West and a renewed colonialism against which Thailand has thus far been able to hold out thanks to its own seedbank. Political intrigue is abundant in Krung Thep. Trade and the Environment Ministry (the white shirts) fight for power, while the two heads of organizations are about to break their tentative peace. Thailand is a kingdom ruled by a child Queen but her protector appears to be pulling a lot of the strings. Additionally, it is a nation that relies on religion, where the characters each pray to their own gods and hope that kamma will allow for a good rebirth.

The titular character, the windup girl, is Emiko. She is another one in the long line of imagined human-shaped beings, with a tell-tale stutter motion, smooth skin and a tendency to overheat. Imagined and constructed in Japan, Emiko has been left behind by her owner and is regarded as unworthy of life, unnatural, a heechy-keechy, always in danger of being shredded.

What humans come up with when they imagine human-like beings is something that interests me most in science fiction. It reveals so much about what people think central to humanity, what are our best features, our worst, and what is that elusive quality that makes us so different from other life-forms? In literature, these imagined beings often have the capability to become something better than human, something more. This ability is what makes them both more than and less than human. They often have the capability to replace humans as the dominant species and the traits which make this possible, lead to them being considered less than human by humans. The humans in Bacigalupi’s world do not consider the windups capable of emotions and their ignorance has them treat the windups with revulsion and fear as they do not think they have souls. To ensure that these windups do not supersede humans, the windups in Bacigalupi’s novel are created without the capability to reproduce. And as a further means of control over the windups, they were engineered as slaves, with the intrinsic wish to please and serve. We learn that they were created with a cheap workforce in mind.

So when it comes to imagining a world post global warming and without oil, Bacigalupi does a great job. I believed in his dystopian vision and the decisions and actions of its people. But that brings me to the problems I had with the book: the characters. Their intrigues, colonialism and such rang absolutely true, but they are more or less all clichés. And the female characters were worse. Emiko is basically of the likeable whore trope, having been engineered as a slave with the all-dominating wish to serve, she now earns her living by getting raped every evening. So the sex in this novel is not the good kind of sordid but non-consensual and I really hope the very detailed descriptions of how Emiko cannot help but respond because she was engineered to please are not supposed to be a turn-on! Her struggle against this servant-“gene” made me hope but I was somewhat crushed by the ending. Maybe I’m too pessimistic, so let me know how you read the last chapter.

Then, as this is a novel about genetic engineering, there is of course the figure of the mad scientist. Bacigalupi does not do anything too radical gender-wise here, the mad scientist is naturally male. The other characters are mostly along the same lines. But I’d still recommend this book and I really hope that his next works will show progress in that regard as the rest is pretty fantastic.

 Has anyone read Bacigalupi’s short-stories? I hear a lot of them already sketch out the characters of this novel.

Other thoughts:

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Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!