Visions of Black Future Month During Black History Month

By Rachel F. Fri, February 21, 2020

I know its Black History Month, and we have a ton of programs and resources to share and celebrate, but February always makes me think of the title of N.K. Jemisin’s award-winning collection of stories, How Long ‘til Black Future Month? This got me thinking about sharing some of my favorite Afrofuturism YA-ish titles, and obviously, I’d love to start with our title anthology...

 

How Long ‘til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin
N. K. Jemisin is one of the most powerful and acclaimed speculative fiction authors of our time. In the first collection of her evocative short fiction, Jemisin equally challenges and delights readers with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption. In these stories, Jemisin sharply examines modern society, infusing magic into the mundane, and drawing deft parallels in the fantasy realms of her imagination. Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow South must save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story "The City Born Great," a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis's soul.

 

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
When global climate change and economic crises lead to social chaos in the early 2020s, California becomes full of dangers, from a pervasive water shortage to masses of vagabonds who will do anything to live to see another day. Fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina lives inside a gated community with her preacher father, family, and neighbors, sheltered from the surrounding anarchy. In a society where any vulnerability is a risk, she suffers from hyper empathy, a debilitating sensitivity to others' emotions. Precocious and clear-eyed, Lauren must make her voice heard in order to protect her loved ones from the imminent disasters her small community stubbornly ignores. But what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: the birth of a new faith... and a startling vision of human destiny.

 

War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi
The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky. In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life. Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, hope, and a future together. And they're willing to fight an entire war to get there.

 

 

 

Slay by Brittney Morris
By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer—not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the "downfall of the Black man." When a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for "anti-white discrimination." Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

 

E.X.O.: The Legend of Wale Williams by Roye Okupe
A superhero story about redemption, set in a futuristic 2025 Africa! Wale Wiliams, an impetuous young man who inherits a suit with superpowers after his father goes missing, is tricked into returning home to Lagoon City, Nigeria following a five-year absence. Wale embarks on a journey to investigate his father's mysterious disappearance. As he comes to understand the suit's powers, Wale realizes he must restore hope to his city by preventing catastrophic attacks from the sociopathic Oniku, the leader of an extremist group called the CREED. (Okay - this one doesn't come out until March but I couldn't not share it because it's amazing and you can put a hold on it to get first dibs!)

 

 

A Phoenix First Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell
Sixteen tales by bestselling and award-winning authors that explore the Black experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic. Evoking Beyoncé’s Lemonade for a teen audience, these authors who are truly Octavia Butler’s heirs, have woven worlds to create a stunning narrative that centers Black women and gender-nonconforming individuals. This book will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines shine brightly and you will never forget them. Authors include Elizabeth Acevedo, Amerie, Dhonielle Clayton, Jalissa Corrie, Somaiya Daud, Charlotte Davis, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Justina Ireland, Danny Lore, L.L. McKinney, Danielle Paige, Rebecca Roanhorse, Karen Strong, Ashley Woodfolk, and Ibi Zoboi.

 

These are just some of my afrofuturistic favorites! Did I miss yours? Let me know in the comments!

<i>Afrofuturism 2.0: The Rise of Astro Blackness</i> book cover design by John Jennings
Afrofuturism 2.0: The Rise of Astro Blackness book cover design by John Jennings

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