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Celebrate Black Excellence with These 5 Stellar Sci-Fi/Fantasy Reads

by  | February 19

One of my resolutions this year is to read more stories by and about people of color. I’m actually finding it difficult to choose from the overwhelming wealth of content out there, especially in the sci-fi/fantasy genres! Afro-futurism and fantasy are so compelling to me because they give POC like me the ability to imagine worlds where we get to be the heroes rather than the victims. We get to wield magic and cross the universe and have sword fights and save the day! But it also allows us to take our pain and trauma and mold it into something beautiful, something fantastic.

These five books all bring something different to the table, but what they have is common is they’re all serving black excellence with everything they have.

The Deep

The Deep

by Rivers Solomon

Inspired by the song of the same name by clipping., The Deep tells the story of Yetu and her water-dwelling people, called the wajinru, who were descended from pregnant African women thrown overboard slave ships. To protect the wajinru from reliving the painful memories of their past, only one person at a time remembers the full history of their people. That person is the historian, and that person is now Yetu. She remembers, so that her people can forget. Until one day it becomes too much and she flees to the surface to explore the world her ancestors left behind. The Deep is a beautiful story about family and memories, but it’s also an important exploration of our current societal narrative.

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Do You Dream of Terra-Two?

Do You Dream of Terra-Two?

by Temi Oh

Have you ever imagined what might happen if Earth started dying? What would that mean for our world? That’s the plight facing a crew of 10 astronauts (four veterans and six newly graduated teenagers) as they embark on a 23-year journey to a new Earth-like planet in Do You Dream of Terra-Two? This story is told alternately from the perspectives of the six teens, who have spent their entire educational career training for this two-decades-long mission. What this is not is a typical story about space exploration. What it is instead is a deep character-driven journey that examines the decisions each astronaut makes, why they make them, and who they are as people. Plus, of course, there’s lots of space action mixed in! If you liked The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet or The 100, you’ll want to check this one out.

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The Chaos

The Chaos

by Nalo Hopkinson

Sixteen-year-old Scotch Smith is the perfect daughter at home, but at school she has a hard time fitting in with Caribbean, black, and white students because of her mixed heritage. Plus, it doesn’t help that her skin has become covered with a mysterious sticky black substance. In an effort to take her mind off her predicament, Scotch goes out with her brother one night, but he’s taken, claimed by the Chaos. Soon, the Chaos threatens the city, turning everyone Scotch cares about into crazy creatures. Scotch needs to get to the bottom of the mysterious events before everything she knows and loves disappears. An epic supernatural read, The Chaos blends fantasy and Caribbean folklore while focusing on themes of identity and self-acceptance.

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Lagoon

Lagoon

by Nnedi Okorafor

What do you get when you combine a famous rapper, a biologist, a rogue soldier, and an alien ambassador? There’s no joke here; that is the question that the African magical realism adventure Lagoon aims to answer. Aliens have landed in the waters outside the world’s fifth-largest city of Lagos, Nigeria, and after word spreads on the Internet, anarchy ensues. Everyone from the military to thieves is trying to control the message online. Earth’s superpowers want to preemptively strike, but it’s up to the aforementioned group to prevent mass extinction. Talk about high stakes!

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Legendborn

Legendborn

by Tracy Deonn

I was lucky enough to read an early copy of Legendborn by Tracy Deonn, and even though the book doesn’t come out until September, I already know it’s going to be in my top 5 books of 2020. Personally, I think it’s a disservice to call Legendborn simply a twist on the King Arthur legend. It’s so, so much more than that.

Bree Matthews begins the Early College program at the University of North Carolina with a chip on her shoulder and grief in her heart. After her mother dies in a tragic car accident, all Bree wants to do is start fresh, far away from home where the reminders of her mother are plentiful. But then Bree witnesses a magical attack on campus. A teenage mage attempts to wipe Bree’s memory of the events of that night, but when he fails, Bree’s unique magic is revealed. She’s able to remember that on the night of her mother’s accident, another mage attempted the very same memory wipe.

Determined to get to the bottom of her mother’s death, Bree finds herself embroiled in the Legendborn secret society. It’s a world of scions and oaths and the descendants of King Arthur’s really really old white legacy. A war is coming, and Bree has to decide how far she’s willing to go to get at the truth, and whether or not she will use her magic to join the fight. More than just a tale of fantasy, Legendborn is a powerful look at institutionalized racism in the South, whitewashing and gatekeeping of history, black girl magic, and what legacy truly means.

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Photo Credit // iStock / tomertu

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Nicole Sam contains multitudes. She is a huge fan of graphic novels, SFF stories, and reality TV. When she isn’t at the office, you can find her attending cons around the country to experience her favorite fandoms IRL.