Blackout Bestseller List Day 5

There’s a movement to buy two books by Black writers this week (6/14-6/20), so I’m posting recommendations of authors/books.
Today is classics. Some of these you may have read at school (but probably only one because sadly the “canon” favors straight white cis dudes.)
In Kim McLarin’s workshop, we talked about writers who were only good at short stories and writers who were only good at novels. It’s hard to do both well, but that’s exactly what Zora Neale Hurston did, as well as collecting folklore. You may have read Their Eyes Were Watching God, but “The Gilded Six-Bits” is one of the best short stories I’ve ever read. She died in poverty, but you can keep her legacy alive here.
Maya Angelou is someone else you may have read in high school, but don’t stop there. You’ve got to read more of her work. She’s a spectacular poet and her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is hilarious and filled with joy. Get more here.
James Baldwin is amazing. The Tulsa library has a lot of his works on audiobook and yours should too. He’s a great essayist, novelist, and short story writer. The Fire Next Time feels as relevant now as it did fifty years ago, but everything he wrote fits this political moment so well. Maybe none better than the short story “Going to Meet the Man,” written from the point of view of a white police officer. Find Baldwin here.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a writer who I hope will find his way onto the high school reading lists sooner rather than later. His essays are great, and he’s done great work writing both Black Panther and Captain America for Marvel comics. Learn more hereLearn more here.
If you’ve been waiting on buying books, today is the day to start! Please buy two! Happy Juneteenth!

Blackout Bestseller List Day 4

There’s a movement to buy two books by Black writers this week (6/14-6/20), so I’m posting recommendations of authors/books.
 
I’ve been doing 3 a day, but for speculative fiction I bumping it up to 5.
 
I reviewed Sheree Renée Thomas’s short story collection Nine Bar Blues for Cyn’s Workshop in February, where I wrote that it’s “a spellbinding collection of short stories that takes readers on a journey through haunted fields that bloom with laughter and music and ends in the readers’ own heart.” Buy it here.
 
I shouldn’t need to tell you to read Colson Whitehead because he’s won two National Book Awards and Pulitzer Prize for his last two books. My favorite of his isn’t either of the more recent novels, but Zone One, a novel about trying to retake New York City after the zombie apocalypse. You can read him before he wins the Nobel Prize he’s heading for here
 
Octavia Butler is one of the best speculative fiction writers to ever pick up a pen. Kindred is an excellent standalone novel where a woman in the present day is sent back before the Civil War. She’s not sure why she alternates back and forth, but it’s an excellent read. So are the rest of Butler’s novels and stories. Find them here
 
Jeffery Renard Allen is a poet, but his novel The Song of the Shank is spectacular. It’s a historical novel, following the life of Blind Tom, a musical genius forced to perform. The paragraphs are huge, but the language in them keeps them from feeling tedious. Give it a shot here
 
Jesmyn Ward, like Whitehead, is someone you should know because she won the National Book Award for her novel Sing, Unburied, Sing. It’s a powerful ghost story. Don’t sleep on her work, which is available here
 
Tomorrow: Classics.

Blackout Bestseller List Day 3

There’s a movement to buy two books by Black writers this week (6/14-6/20), so I’m posting recommendations of authors/books.
 
Going to be more today and tomorrow because I read more speculative fiction than anything else.
 
Victor LaValle may be my favorite writer working today. There’s an amazing energy in his prose, making each paragraph, sentence, and individual word electric. His most famous work (which I teach in all of my Comp I classes) is his H.P. Lovecraft reclaiming novella, The Ballad of Black Tom. Find out more about him here
 
Lesley Nneka Arimah debut collection What It Means When Men Fall From the Sky is incredible. The stories are magical realism with a lot of bite. There’s an image with a snake in it’s death throes that she burnt into my brain. Fantastic writer. Get her book here
 
Justina Ireland has been writing for a while, but I first got exposed to her work with Dread Nation. The premise sells itself: a young woman with duel sickles fights zombies after graduating high school in an alternate history. See Dread Nation and her other work here
 
Nnedi Okorafor is on her way to HBO with George R.R. Martin adapting her book, Who Fears Death. You can be like those insufferable Game of Thrones fans who brags about knowing what’s about to happen if you read the book now. Her story collection Kabu Kabu is excellent. Learn more here
 
Tananarive Due is a hero in the horror community. She produced Shudder’s amazing documentary on Black horror films, Film Noire as well as writing her own terrifying novels. My favorite of those I’ve read is The Good House, a deeply creepy book that examines inherited sin. Get all of that here
 
Tomorrow, more speculative fiction.

Blackout Best Seller List Day 2

There’s a movement to buy two books by Black writers this week (6/14-6/20), so I’m posting recommendations of authors/books.
Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric is an amazing book of poetry. She includes some fascinating essays about the Williams sisters in tennis (who I grew up watching in the Pilot Penn tennis tournament in New Haven) too. It deservedly won or was nominated for nearly every big prize in writing. Buy it here. 
Magic City Books sent me Rudy Franciso’s Helium as part of their poetry care packages to get people through social distancing. He’s a slam poet, and there’s a great musicality in his work because of it. He also verbalizes what it’s like to have anxiety in a way that few authors do. Support him here.
Brionne Janae went to Emerson with me. She’s an awesome person, and her collection After Jubilee is spectacular. Without a doubt, she’s one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. If you’re not reading her, you’re missing out. Fix your life here.
Tomorrow and Thursday: Speculative Fiction.

Blackout Best Seller List Day 1

There’s a movement to buy two books by Black writers this week (6/14-6/20), so I’ll be posting recommendations of authors/books everyday.
 
There were three spectacular Black professors at Emerson while I was there, and I highly recommend reading their work.
 
Jabari Asim is the head of the MFA program. While I didn’t get to take his workshop, he was a great judge for the Words Apart writing contest. You can see his books here: http://jabariasim.org/booksprojects/
 
Kim McLarin taught my last workshop, and it was one of the better ones I was in. Her essay collection Womanish is as insightful as her feedback. You can see that, and her other books here: https://www.kimmclarin.com/
 
Jerald Walker taught the only non-fiction workshop I took, and it was my favorite because he pushed hard to be better writers and better people. He made us take our writing seriously. I’m so grateful to him. He doesn’t have a website, but see his work here: https://www.emerson.edu/faculty-staff-directory/jerald-walker
 
Tomorrow: Poetry.

The Unsuitable Will Suit You [Book Review]

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice opens, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Molly Pohlig’s debut novel The Unsuitable stands as a direct refutation. Set contemporaneously to Austen, the novel tells the story of Iseult Wince, a twenty-eight year old woman whose father wants to marry her off and be rid of her.

Iseult doesn’t want to be married. She’s driven away the suitors her father has invited to dinner for a decade. There are so many Iseult needs a journal to tell them apart. Her success is genuinely funny to read about because, “Iseult derived a real satisfaction from causing a true, panicky silence.” As repulsive as her behavior is, her circumstances scare suitors off as well.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

The Butcher of Paris #5 “Beating Chance” [Comic Review]

The Butcher of Paris #5 “Beating Chance” closes out the series with a whimper. Writer Stephanie Phillips and artist Dean Kotz have great intentions. They’re putting a much needed spotlight on a real-life serial killer who preyed on the most vulnerable of victims: Jewish people fleeing the Holocaust in France during World War II. It’s too bad the series doesn’t do the subject matter justice.

The closest it comes to paying tribute to the murdered is at the end of this final issue, when it lists the names of “Petoit’s confirmed victims” in between panels in which Petoit is executed by guillotine. Since the first issue, it’s one of the only times the series has focused on the victims at all. Instead The Butcher of Paris has mostly followed those tasked with capturing Petoit, and eventually Petoit himself.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

Sequelland: A Story of Dreams of Screams [Book Review]

Randy Meeks says, “Sequels suck” in Scream 2, which is ironically a good sequel. He sparks a debate in his film class with the students trying to come up with examples of good second entries into franchises. Outside of James Cameron and The Godfather 2, they don’t agree on much. In his book, Sequelland: A Story of Dreams and Screams, Jay Slayton-Joslin conducts a series of interviews with the creatives behind horror sequels, which, to quote Randy Meeks, “Suck.”

The interviews are excellent. Slayton-Joslin chats with 11 directors, all of whom are well-spoken. They talk frequently about why they decided to make these movies. Some, as Ernie Barbarash puts it, do it because, “It was either, ‘Do the movie and have a job, or don’t do the movie and nobody gets paid.’” Others, as Slayon-Joslin says in one of the collections many wrap-around essays, “take the jobs for love of the franchise.”

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

The Dead Lands is the Māori Buddy Cop Horror You Didn’t Know You Needed [Series Review]

The Dead Lands has a brilliant premise. Waka (Te Kohe Tuhaka) is a Māori warrior, notorious for his ruthlessness. He’s lived a life without honor but has conquered much of the lands surrounding his and is feared by the neighboring communities. When he dies, he goes to the afterlife and at the gates of heaven, he’s charged by another warrior.

He pounds on the door, asking to be let in, as the other warrior gains ground. When Waka realizes no one is coming, he turns and fights. Quickly, he cuts the other man’s throat. The unnamed warrior’s head tilts back, dead. But then he begins fighting again, despite the killing blow.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!