The following awesomeness is from poet, author, and activist Olivia A. Cole, whose non-fiction writing has made me a loyal fan, and whose brand new book, Panther in the Hive, currently has me engrossed. This was re-posted from her blog with her permission.
It’s been written about before: the problem with mainstream post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction and its absence of people of color.
In the imaginations of so many writers of these genres, people of color don’t ever seem to survive the apocalypse, or somehow the series of events that led to the dystopian society that has banned smiling (or dreaming, or whatever the big “gasp” factor is) wiped out people of color along the way.
Post-apocalyptic fiction is a craze, and not a new one: we have always, on some level, wondered what happens next, after we destroy ourselves, for a long time. (Think about it: the Bible’s versions of Heaven and Hell are a kind of dystopian fiction in itself.
A book talking about what happens next if we keep f@&#ing up the way we have been? Just saying.) Yet somehow the versions of these stories that make it into the mainstream—and don’t get me started on Hollywood—almost invariably star white people, and especially white girls.
But in case you’ve ever looked at the whitewashed array of dystopian and post-apocalyptic books that line the shelves and asked yourself, “Do people of color survive the apocalypse?” the answer is yes. Read these books.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Environmental and economic crises lead to societal disintegration in Parable of the Sower. Lauren Olamina is the daughter of a minister who loses her entire family when the chaos of the outside world enters her home compound.
She ventures out into the wasteland of America alone and what follows is her journey to a new future in the face of almost certain death. Octavia Butler was a genius and you should read everything she’s ever written. Pronto.Purchase
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
The setting for this post-apocalyptic future is Saharan Africa, in a world that is ruined by rape and genocide. A young girl named Onyesonwu—which means Who Fears Death?—is raised in the midst of a society that hates her; a society that she must overcome if she is to 1) survive and 2) save the world from the evil that plagues it.
She is not only extremely brave, but flawed, funny, and powerful, and the story involves magic, self-discovery, and analyses of racism and sexism. In short: it rocks.Purchase
Panther in the Hive by Olivia A. Cole
Chicago hasn’t really gotten its fair shake when it comes to post-apocalyptic stories, and this book takes place in a Chicago of the not-so-distant future, following the story of Tasha Lockett, an oddball brown girl who finds herself alone in the city when a cybertronic disaster overcomes the States.
It’s a coming of age story that takes on healthcare, racism, sexism, and political corruption. Oh, and I wrote it. Just throwing that in there.Purchase
Zone One by Colson Whitehead
The story follows Mark Spitz, a survivor in a civilian sweeper unit who is clearing Zone One of straggler zombies. It’s deep, dark, and literary, and it will leave you thinking.Purchase
Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
But Brown Girl in the Ring suits the purposes of this blog, following the story of Ti-Jeanne, a new mother who finds herself alone in a Toronto that has collapsed into violence and gang rule, with the rich and privilege having fled the city and barricaded everyone else inside. A little bit of voodoo. A little bit of love. A lot of adventure.Purchase
There are others: this is just five. Do you have a favorite that isn’t listed here? Share it in the comments. There’s a shortage of these stories in fiction, so let’s collect them here.
Check out more recommended reads in the Sinuous Magazine Bookstore.