Let’s read books by Black authors!

I made the spur of the moment decision to compile a list of the books I have reviewed by Black authors in a handy masterpost for Black History Month. I have a vague recollection of doing something similar for Pride month years ago when I was still operating primarily on Tumblr, and this seems like as good a time as any to pick that idea up again. The reviews will be (mostly) in order from oldest to newest, with that “mostly” being that I will be lumping reviews together if they’re books by the same author.

1. An Anthology of Fiction by Trans Woman of Color edited by Ellyn Peña and Jamie Berrout

I first reviewed this book back in April 2016 and fell head over heels in love with it. At the time it was only published as an ebook on Gumroad by the Trans Women Writers Collective. Sadly, the collective is no long active. It was forced to shutter in the middle of publishing an expanded edition of the anthology under the new name “Nameless Women: An Anthology of Fiction by Trans Woman of Color.” Despite the shuttering of the collective you can still find “Nameless Women” in hardcopy through Amazon’s self publishing service. As of November 2018, editor Jamie Berrout reported than any remaining royalties and sales would be donated to organizations supporting trans women of color.

2. Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born Canadian writer. I acquired this book as part of a Humble Bundle of LGBTQ fiction, again, back in 2016 and it is honestly one of my favorite books from that collection. A short story anthology, “Falling in Love with Hominids” is a beautiful blend of urban fantasy, queer identity and more. I found it to be an incredibly refreshing read and it definitely revitalized my interest in the fantasy genre. While the aforementioned book bundle has long since ended, you can get a copy of the “Falling in Love with Hominids” here.

3 + 4. StreetSlam: Wishes of a Broken Time and StarLion: Thieves of the Red Night by Leon Langford

“StreetSlam” was the debut novel of author Leon Langford. It is an action packed sci-fi/superhero story with fight scenes right out of a Final Fantasy game. Another review from 2016, it was self published as an ebook, but I’m not sure that it’s available anymore.

We aren’t at too much of a loss however, because “StarLion” came out just last year and it is absolutely riveting. A superhero academy novel, it is the first novel of a series and I, for one, will be watching excitedly for the next book. If you’re looking for a YA novel with a complex and passionate Black protagonist, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. You can find it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Bookshop.org.

5. The Opal Charm series by Miri Castor

There are four books in this series so far. I first began reviewing these books with “Path to Dawn” in 2016, followed by “Hope in Nautical Dusk” in 2017; then came the prequel novel, “The Path to Dusk,” in 2019; and, most recently, “Melody of Astronomical Dusk” in 2021. The “Opal Charm” series is a unique take on the “inherited powers emerge at puberty” trope that deals heavily in family legacy and the very real consequences of child heroes through the protagonist’s (our titular Opal) journey to save both her world and the world of her ancestor. The books can be found on Amazon.

6. The Known World by Edward P. Jones

Another review from 2016, this book was brought to my attention during a college course I took on early slave narratives. “The Known World” is a novel set in antebellum Virginia that explores the story of a Black slave owner and the slaves he owns. A beautifully written book, it shows a part of history that isn’t often seen when it comes to popular modern media about the history of slavery. Jones noted, in the Q&A he gave to our class, that he had been inspired by a single footnote about Black slave owners in an old textbook. Definitely worthwhile if this is a time period you are interested in reading about.

7. Bingo Love by Tee Franklin

Now writing for DC, my first introduction to Tee Franklin was through her graphic novel “Bingo Love,” which tells the story of two women of color who fell in love as teenagers, were separated and then reconnected and fell back in love as older women. It’s a wonderful, heartfelt story and, I think, much needed representation for queer individuals who came into their own at an older age. I first reviewed this in 2018 and there are now three editions, with various levels of bonus content. All three editions can be found here.

8. Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity by C. Riley Snorton

“Black on Both Sides” is an excellent and much needed exploration of how race and transgender identity has overlapped in history. Providing a solid theoretical frame work, the book takes us from mid-nineteenth century slave narratives to present day narratives of race and gender. I said it before and I’ll say it again, the discussions of the Brenden Teena archive and the Christine Jorgensen narrative are some of my absolute favorite. I would highly recommend it to anyone studying the history of gender and queerness. Pick up a copy here.

A few honorable mentions:

The following books are all short story/comic anthologies, which I was able to confirm contain stories by Black creators, though not every story is, for which reason I did not want to put them in the same list as the above books.

  1. The Dates anthologies, edited by Zora Gilbert and Cat Parra
    • Of Arms and the Man I Sing written by Paige S. Allen
    • Lulu and Diana by Joamette Gil
  2. Wayward Sisters: An Anthology of Monstrous Women, edited by Allison O’Toole
    • Solid Shadows written by Rachel Simon with art by K. Guillory
    • Cold Call written and illustrated by Xia Gordon
  3. 99% Chance of Magic: Stories of Hope and Strength for Transgender Kids from Heartspark Press
    • The Sisters from the Stars and Melody Song & the Hymns of the Infinate Sadness written by Amy Heart and illustrated by Wriply M. Bennet

An Anthology of Fiction by Trans Woman of Color edited by Ellyn Peña and Jamie Berrout

[Edit: Originally posted on April 11, 2016]

I wish there was more. 

I cling dearly to every work of trans created literature I own. Which now includes two anthologies, one of poetry and now this one of fiction.

I loved all the stories, they felt real and intense and were beautifully crafted, every one. Some of them were realism, they took place in the real world, dealing with the struggles and the lives of trans women of color in the world. Jasmine Kabale Moore’s The Girl and the Apple was like that, but there were others that dip into genre fiction, like the two stories I’ve reviewed more in depth below.

Lisa’s Story: Zombie Apocalypse by Gillian Ybabezabout a trans woman who ventures out of her home for the first time after the start of a Zombie apocalypse. She has a run in with a zombie who used to be a cop, and a store owner who tried to salvage what he could from his store after it was raided after everything started. And Lisa’s transness? Vital to the story. Her choices throughout the story reflect the fact that she is a trans woman of color, and it wouldn’t be the same story without it. I don’t think I’d be interested in reading the story without it. But I would read a whole novel about Lisa. I’ve never been the biggest fan of zombie stories, but if there’s any way to get me into a genre it’s to give me something with a trans character.

There was another story that I felt like I wanted to read a whole novel of and that was Space Hunters by Lulu Trujillo. It kind of reminded me of the television show Firefly, but like, a million times better. The four person crew of the ship The Arbiter are looking for their next job. Penny’s impatient but the captain, Gretchen, has something lined up. It was short and fun and even with the shortness of the piece we were given a bigger universe behind the story. There was history. A single line about a war between humans and an alien species that had occurred “only a century before”. That tells us so much about the history of the universe these characters live in. We don’t get told about the war, it’s not important to this particular story, but like all history, it’s still there. It let’s us know that there’s more to this world than just an isolated story, we just don’t need the details. To me, it says, “Look at this universe, things could happen here again.” When I write science fiction, this is always the part I struggle with the most, so when I see it in other peoples work I try to stop and look to see how they’re doing it.

Update 5/19/22: Sadly, this specific collection is no longer available for purchase, but you may still be able to get an updated (and expanded) edition through Amazon.

More information about the anthology can be found at their blog @twocfictionanthology

Related Reviews: Falling in Love with Hominids

No snaps this time, because it’s an e book, which I haven’t figured out how to get good relatively clean snaps of.