Excelsior Bev recently asked her students who their favorite African American authors were, and we thought that was a fun question, but that we’d broaden it a bit.
#1: Alexandre Dumas (Jr) hands down– though I didn’t know he was black until recently! He’s not so great with his female characters (who are either paper dolls or evil villains), but his books are so much fun that I forgive him.
After that I know there are a lot of worthy POC authors who write amazing award winning serious fiction (and I did like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and Their Eyes Were Watching God, but as worthy books, not fun books), but I really like popcorn books. I really do. So that means people like Lisa Yee and Justina Chen. I also love almost all of A. Lee Martinez’s books.
Scalzi had a post the other month talking about the “read just women and people of color” challenge someone was doing, and I asked for recommendations for fun light stuff, but the only person who replied has a very different definition of “light” than I do (pro-tip: Stephen King is not light). That post also indicated to me that romance novelist Courtney Milan is a POC, which I didn’t know (I like her stuff!). Recommendations for light stuff welcome in the comments! (I did read some Marta Acosta light vampire stuff, and it was ok, but not worth owning.) (#2 owns the first but not the second book.)
#2 ZOMG, N. K. Jemisin all day long. Saladin Ahmed. Justina Chen Headley (again). Y. S. Lee. Nnedi Okorafor. Dia Reeves. Michelle Sagara (her stuff sometimes makes #1 cry on airplanes). Gene Luen Yang. I recently read Sofia Samatar’s award-winning novel and liked it.
And, as everybody should already know, Octavia E. Butler is objectively one of the best science fiction authors of all time. (But not light!)
Of course, we’re of a couple of minds about these segregated lists. Well, not really. It’s just a nuanced stand. We hate the need for these separate lists and we wish that people would be included on the regular lists of “best of” because many *belong* there. However, society isn’t there yet, so these lists are a way for people to broaden their horizons so that they can come into contact with amazing authors they wouldn’t normally read. Being on one of these segregated lists should in no way preclude someone from going on the more general lists of “best of” and we should think really hard when we make a general “best of” list about composition to make sure we’re not running into implicit biases. A standard procedure is to think about the best POC or female etc. author not on the general list and to compare him or her to the worst person on the general list (iterating to the next underrepresented person etc.). More often than should be the case, that person really belongs on the general list too and was not included because of subconscious biases. Eventually, thinking about people from underrepresented groups while making the list rather than after the list is made becomes more automatic.
One place where there are plenty of authors of color is the banned books list. Boo.
Got anyone else we should read? Spend your tax refund on books! Or save it and use your library.