So, for the past couple of years, I’ve entered the Goodreads Reading Challenge, and once again, I failed to meet my goal. I tend to overestimate how much time I have for reading, and I always seem to buy more books than I can actually read. I also run a small publishing house, so although I’ve actually read enough “potential books” to meet my reading goal, I can’t count them, because unpublished manuscripts aren’t, well, actual books yet. Still, I’ve read some amazing books this year, and I’d like to share a few of my favorite reads with you. A caveat, not all of these books are by Black lesbian writers although most of them contain queer content or characters.
Justin Cronin’s The City of Mirrors. I’m a huge fan of apocalyptic fiction and this final book in The Passage Trilogy was the first book I finished in 2017. Like many of Cronin’s fans, I’d been waiting for this one to come out for months, and devoured it in about two days. It won’t make much sense if you haven’t read the first two books in the series, but if you have some time on your hands, and I mean enough time to read about 1800 pages total, go for it. It’s one story of how the world as we know it ends, and how the survivors of that world endure.
Lesley Nneka Arimah’s What it Means When A Man Falls from the Sky. So if you know me at all, you know that short stories are my favorite genre of fiction. I’ve read several collections this year, and Arimah’s is one of my favorites. There are a couple of stories with queer characters, so those of you looking for yourselves might find a taste there. Otherwise, read this for the masterful storytelling, especially the titular story and “Who Will Greet You at Home,” which is just stunning.
Naomi Kritzer’s Cat Pictures Please. The titular story in this collection won a Hugo Award (one of the top awards for science fiction writing), and it’s not hard to understand why. The stories are imaginative, humorous, and thought provoking. My favorite stories in the collection are “Cat Pictures Please,” “The Golem” and Artifice.”
Victor LaValle’s The Changeling. I’m not sure what I can say about this book that others haven’t already said, but I finished it in less than 36 hours. I simply could not put the book down. In a nutshell, it’s a story about love and loss, and the lengths to which one goes to fight for one’s family. It’s speculative fiction, so there are all manner of strange creatures and happenings going on. Grab a mug of cocoa and a blanket and dive into this one now.
Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women. I reviewed this title earlier this year, so if you want to know how I really feel about this book, you can check it out here. I will say this, regardless of whether or not Gay’s style or subject matter is to your liking, (some of the stories will make your heart hurt), no one, and I mean no one, does short fiction better right now.
N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, and The Stone Sky. I’ve only finished the first two of these books, but by the time this review posts, I should have finished the third one. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy is some of the best sci-fi/fantasy out there, as evidenced by her two Hugo awards and scores of rave reviews. But that’s not why I want you to read it. These books are simply some of the best writing I’ve ever read. And as a bonus, they’re Blackety Black, and contain lots of queer characters. I finished the first two books (nearly 1000 pages), in about three days. I COULD NOT PUT THEM DOWN, and I’m glad that I saved them for my holiday break so I could spend all of my free time in the world that Jemisin built.
Finally, Krystal A. Smith’s debut collection of speculative short fiction, Two Moons, which will be released on March 20. Full disclosure: not only is Krystal a member of the BLLC, she is also one of the writers at my publishing house, BLF Press. Now that I’ve gotten my biases out of the way, I want to tell you why this is one of my favorite books. It’s pure Black lesbian magic. Krystal’s stories remind us to love ourselves and each other, that the world is filled with wondrous and magical entities, and that we are own best thing. Reading this book will do your mind and body good.
And just in case you get through all of these titles and have a little more reading time on your hands, check out a few of my other favorites:
What is Not Yours is Not Yours, Helen Oyeyemi
Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion
Something Better Than Home, Leona Beasley
Earthseed, Octavia Butler
Reviewer: Stephanie Andrea Allen
Stephanie Andrea Allen, Ph.D., is a native southerner and out Black lesbian writer, scholar, and educator. She is the publisher and editor-in-chief at BLF Press, and the author of a collection of short stories and essays, A Failure to Communicate. Stephanie is hard at work on her first novel and a new collection of short stories. Connect with Stephanie on Twitter, Goodreads, or Facebook.