9 Afrofuturist Books to Enjoy if You’re Homesick for Wakanda
Must-reads for fans of ‘Black Panther’
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Are you suffering from Wakanda withdrawal? Don’t worry. You’re not alone; we’re all homesick for the fictive world of Marvel’s historic Black Panther. Whether viewed once, twice, or weekly, the movie’s ability to envelop its audience in a visually arresting re-imagining of Africa never gets old. It’s difficult to witness T’Challa’s determination, Princess Shuri’s brilliance, and Killmonger’s passion without yearning for more and wishing that all of it was real. After the first five minutes of Black Panther it’s clear that Ryan Coogler has created an Afrofuturist masterpiece well-deserving of acclaim. So, if you find yourself daydreaming about booking a flight to Wakanda, head to your local bookseller instead and pick up one (or all) of these books.
Consider each title a homesickness remedy.
Patternmaster by Octavia E. Butler
The first of Octavia Butler’s Patternist series to be published, Patternmaster places readers to a distant future where the world is ruled by oppressive telepaths. The result of generations of selective breeding, the clairvoyant tyrants use their power to enslave those who lack psychic abilities. Throughout the pages of Butler’s narrative, the telepaths simultaneously make the lives of “mutes” and “clayarks” (those who lack telepathy) difficult and cause dissension amongst the Housemasters, the government officials who rule the world with greedy hearts and iron fists. A tale of political and familial division, human cruelty, and resilience, Patternmaster is a haunting critique of capitalism, colonization, and exploitation.
The poetry of Afrofuturist and jazz legend Sun Ra is undeniably cosmic. Comprised of galactic visions and futuristic musings, the luminescence of each stanza is infused with stardust and an ancient wisdom that examines the complexity of the cosmos and humanity. Much like his musical compositions, Sun Ra’s poems thread together mythology, mysticism, and sci-fi, offering his audience a unique glimpse into the mind of a visionary. This Planet is Doomed volleys between retrospection, humor, and joy. The prophetic urgency of his work transcends time. The worlds that his poems conjure will leave you in awe.
Blood Colony by Tananarive Due
The third novel in Tananarive Due’s African Immortals series is set in the wake of the AIDS/HIV pandemic and centers around Fana Wolde, a teen immortal whose blood gives her the power to heal miraculously and read minds. When her close friend — who is a mortal — is captured by Fana’s family, Fana makes attempt to right her family’s wrong and risks her own safety in order to rescue her friend. Once the two escape, they become a part of the underground network of smugglers who are being strategically slaughtered by an ancient sect of immortals bent on destroying the sale of a life sustaining drug called “glow.” Determined to uncover the murderous sect’s obsession with an archaic prophecy and the motivation for their violence, Fana fights tooth and nail to determine her own destiny and protect those she loves. Blood Colony is a story about sacrifice and the cost of survival.
Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor
Penned by Black Panther: Long Live the King’s Nnedi Okorafor, Zahrah the Windseeker takes place in the Ooni Kingdom, a region where children born with vines growing in their hair are considered magical. The novel’s heroine Zahrah Tasmi is one of these children, despite how ordinary she considers herself to be. As time passes and the plants in Zahrah’s hair grow, so do her abilities, which makes her an outsider amongst her peers—save for her best friend Dari. When the two embark on an adventure in the Forbidden Greeny Jungle, Dari is bitten by a deadly snake, forcing Zahrah to embrace what makes her different: her magic. Though aimed at younger readers, Zahrah the Windseeker is an immersive and heartwarming story for people of all ages, celebrating the power of friendship and self-acceptance.
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
River Solomon’s deservedly buzzworthy debut unfolds on a massive ship in outer space. Aboard the H.S.S. Matilda, the novel’s protagonist Aster struggles to uncover the truth about her mother’s death while grappling with demons of her own. Coupled with the horrors of the racially segregated hierarchy of the H.S.S. Matilda and its sovereign’s ailing health, Aster’s quest for truth becomes intertwined with the fate of the entire ship. This dystopian tale examines how confronting the past can lead to revolution. Like Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred, the pages of An Unkindness of Ghosts will transport you to another time and world.
Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson
Daughters of a demigod and a human mother, formerly conjoined twins Makeda and Abby grow apart when one sister develops magical abilities and the other does not. Without the powers that her sister possesses, Makeda decides to leave the childhood home that she shares with Abby in order to find her place in the world of those without magic. By doing so, Makeda discovers a new sense of independence and fulfillment until her father disappears and she and her sister are forced to work together in hopes of finding him. From start to finish, Nalo Hopkinson’s Sister Mine is as much about family as it is about autonomy and courage.
Electric Arches by Eve L. Ewing
In her noteworthy debut, Eve L. Ewing writes, “I am magic. Life / and all its good and bad and ugly things, / scary things which I would like to forget, / beautiful things which I would like to remember / — the whole messy lovey true story of myself / pulses within me.” Seamlessly teasing the lines between poetry, memoir, and fiction, Electric Arches’ pages prove that words are magic too. Whether conjured through “Affirmation” or the “The Device,” Ewing’s way of looking at the world feels ancestral, futuristic, and intimate all at once. Each line pulsates with truth.
Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora by Sheree R. Thomas
Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora is a touchstone text. Edited by Sheree R. Thomas, Dark Matter features quintessential voices like Octavia E. Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Tananarive Due, Jewelle Gomez, and Steven Barnes. Through stories, essays, and novel excerpts, Thomas’ anthology gives readers an mesmerizing survey of the wealth of talent, vision, and craft that can be found in the stories by Black speculative fiction and sci-fi writers. This necessary collection reminds the world that writing about the future has been and will always be inextricably linked to the Black literary canon.
Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction by André M. Carrington
André M. Carrington’s Speculative Blackness surveys the way race is depicted in fantasy, sci-fi, and dystopian narratives and how fictive imaginings of Black identity impact contemporary culture and communities. Throughout this inarguably timely book, Carrington grapples with what these genres mean to Black Americans and their ability to shape the future in an empowering way. Whether analyzing the way race is handled in Marvel comics or the implications of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Benjamin Sisko, Speculative Blackness is an accessible and academic meditation on the limitless potential of Black storytelling.