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Now is the perfect time to grow your horror fiction collection and make sure your Summer reading list includes some talented Black voices.

Here are 20 riveting reads from Black authors we think you’ll really love — from the influential leaders in the genre to the promising new talent. 

There’s a call to action being sent around the internet this week asking people to support Black voices by purchasing any two books from Black writers. The week-long push to Blackout bestseller lists with more incredibly talented but woefully underrepresented authors runs through Saturday, June 20th. However, as we highlighted in our recent post spotlighting a variety of Black creatives — including artists, authors, podcasters and filmmakers — we think you should be paying attention to, anytime is a good time to be lifting up these voices that have been ignored for far too long.

Whether you want to support the cause of “Black Publishing Power” this week or you just want to tune in to more great writing talent you may have overlooked, we’ve got you covered.

Purchasing a book or two from this list a great way to do something meaningful in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, but you’ll also be discovering some of the genre’s finest literary talent of past and present.

1. Fledgling – Octavia E. Butler

Fledgling is the last novel written by the renowned Black writer Octavia Butler, winner of the MacArthur “Genius” Grant and PEN West Lifetime Achivement Award for her body of work. Butler received critical acclaim for her strong protagonists, social observations, and feminist novels that are even more relevant today that ever.

Fledgling is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly un-human needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: she is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. It’s a captivating novel that tests the limits of “otherness” and questions what it means to be truly human.

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2. Beloved – Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison’s hugely influential, Pulitzer Prize–winning work — first published in 1987 — brought the wrenching experience of slavery into the literature of our modern times. Set in post–Civil War Ohio, it is the story of Sethe, an escaped slave who has lost a husband and buried a child; who has withstood savagery and not gone mad. But eighteen years after her escape, she is still not free. After being haunted for years by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and is referred to simply as Beloved, Sethe comes face to face with her terrible past in a very real and startling way.

Discover why The New York Times chose Beloved as the best American novel of the previous fifty years.

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3. The Good House – Tananarive Due

From the American Book Award winner and author of “one of the most talked about debuts in the horror field since the advent of Stephen King” (Publishers Weekly) comes a terrifying story of supernatural suspense, as a woman searches for the inherited power that can save her hometown from evil forces. Working to rebuild her law practice after her son commits suicide, Angela Toussaint journeys to the family home where the suicide took place, hoping for answers, and discovers an invisible, evil force that is driving locals to acts of violence. This stellar horror novel boasts compelling, well-developed characters, a plot full of satisfying twists and turns, and plenty of creepy atmosphere.

As a bonus, you should definitely check out Tananarive Due on the essential documentary Horror Noire on Shudder to learn more about the history of Black horror.

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4. Crescendo: Welcome Home, Death Awaits – L. Marie Wood

A man, haunted by a family curse, is taken beyond the limits of his sanity to a realm where he has no control over his actions or his fear. James Adams lived a normal life in a New York suburb before the demons dwelling within him awoke from their slumber to reveal unspeakable horror and prophesize his future a his destiny.

Crescendo is the debut novel from psychological horror and suspense author L. Marie Wood, one of a half dozen black female writers who embrace the horror genre label. It’s about fate and the lengths we will travel to avoid the inevitable. Set in tranquil Rockland County, New York, this tale of suspense and horror will take its reader on an emotional roller coaster of anger, anxiety, compassion, and indelible fear.

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5. White is for Witching – Helen Oyeyemi

There’s something strange about the Silver family house in the closed-off town of Dover, England, which has been home to four generations of Silver women. The Silver women have always had a strong connection, and when Lily, Miranda’s mother, passes away suddenly, Miranda begins suffering strange ailments. When she brings a friend home, Dover’s hostility toward outsiders physically manifests within the four walls of the Silver house, and the lives of everyone inside are irrevocably changed.

This spine-tingling Gothic tale about love and loss is also a powerful reflection on race and family legacies. White is for Witching is boldly original and absolutely terrifying.

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6. Let’s Play White – Chesya Burke

White brings with it dreams of respect, of wealth, of simply being treated as a human being. It’s the one thing Walter will never be. But what if he could play white, the way so many others seem to do? Would it bring him privilege or simply deny the pain?

Let’s Play White is a horror anthology that explores how privilege, race, and power dictates Black people’s ability to survive. In each story, Chesya Burke asks what it’s like to escape into someone else’s skin. From the spectrum spanning despair and hope to the stark weave of personal struggles, Let’s Play White speaks with the voices of the overlooked and unheard.

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7. Wonderland – Jennifer Hillier

It’s only Vanessa Castro’s first day as deputy police chief of Seaside, and already bodies are dropping at Wonderland. By day, Wonderland may be a magical place boasting retro charm. But before daybreak, an eerie feeling descends. Maybe it’s the Clown Museum, home to creepy wax replicas of movie stars and a massive collection of antique porcelain dolls. Or maybe it’s the terrifyingly real House of Horrors.

Acclaimed author Jennifer Hillier’s edgy thriller is an insidiously creepy, fast-paced roller coaster ride that hurtles towards a shocking and bloody conclusion.

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8. We Cast a Shadow – Maurice Carlos Ruffin

How far would you go to protect your child? Like any father, our narrator just wants what’s best for his bi-racial son Nigel, whose black birthmark is growing larger by the day. In this near-future society plagued by rampant racism and segregation, he faces an impossible decision. Does he risk the safety of his son in this dangerous society that devalues and dehumanizes him, or does he put Nigel through an experimental new medical procedure that promises to save lies by turning people white?

This gripping, hallucinatory novel is a sharp satire on surviving racism in America as well as a profoundly moving story of a father’s love and the sacrifices we willingly make to protect those who mean the most to us.

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9. The Ballad of Black Tom – Victor Lavalle

Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table and keep the roof over his father’s head, selling dangerous magic items to people desperate for magic. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping.

This Lovecraftian horror novel is a retelling/alternate version of The Horror at Red Hook. It specifically plays off the racism in Lovecraft’s story (perhaps his most racist story). You don’t have to have read Lovecraft’s original to enjoy this one, but it definitely helps to appreciate the beauty of how skillfully LaValle flips that tale on its head.

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10. Who Fears Death – Nnedi Okorafor

In a post-apocalyptic Africa, the world has changed in many ways; yet in one region, genocide between tribes still bloodies the land. A woman who has survived the annihilation of her village and a terrible rape by an enemy general wanders into the desert and gives birth to an angry baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand. It doesn’t take long for the girl to understand that she is physically and socially marked by the circumstances of her conception. But even as a child, she manifests the beginnings of a remarkable and unique magic. As she grows, so do her abilities, but she learns something terrifying: someone powerful is trying to kill her.

This World Fantasy Award-winning novel blends myth and magic with harsh and brutal reality. At times hard to read due to the depictions of savage violence, it’s also balanced by great humanity. This book has been optioned for a TV series for HBO, with executive producer George R.R. Martin.

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11. The Gilda Stories – Jewelle Gomez

Author Jewelle Gomez is considered one of the foremothers of Afrofuturism. The Gilda Stories introduces the title character as a slave girl in Louisiana, 1850. Some years later, she is made into a vampire. Each story relates a segment of her long and fascinating life. With strong echoes of Interview with a Vampire, the narrative of Gilda’s life progresses over a 200 year trajectory, as Gomez brilliant weaves together a series of narratives that are as poignant and thought provoking as they are thoroughly entertaining.

Gomez also infused this vampire novel with a great deal of Black Feminist/lesbian perspective, making it the perfect companion to something like Carmilla. The Gilda Stories is also currently in TV development.

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12. Brown Girl in the Ring – Nalo Hopkinson

Set in the wasteland future version of Toronto, the affluent have fled the city and barricaded the roads so that the poor and mostly people of color can’t get out. And as the poor must find creative ways to survive, including reverting back to the barter system and homegrown herbs for medicine, they must also find ways to defend themselves from the rich who threaten to harvest their bodies for spare parts. With nowhere to turn, a young woman must open herself to ancient truths, eternal powers, and the tragic mystery surrounding her mother and grandmother.

A startlingly original story, Brown Girl in the Ring is an example of Caribbean magic realism. Hopkinson has a great deal to say about inequality and the horrors that arise when we lose sight of our empathy and compassion for other humans, or when we choose to exploit others for our own survival.

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13. Babel-17 – Samuel R. Delany

Samuel R. Delany has opened doors for black writers in the genre, including Octavia Butler, whom he mentored. Delany’s 1967 Nebula Award-winning Babel-17 is a fascinating tale of Rydra Wong, a spaceship captain, who is intrigued by a mysterious language called Babel-17 that has the power to alter a person’s perception of themselves and others, and possibly brainwash her to betray her government.

Babel-17 is all about the power of language, and it’s surprisingly fresh for a novel written in 1966. Lyrical and though provoking, it’s full of interesting ideas — a must read for those passionate about linguistics and lovers of science fiction. The impact of this novel is made all the more remarkable when you consider that Delany was just 23 years old when he wrote it.

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14. Minion – L.A. Banks

There is one woman who stands between us and the eternal night. All Damali Richards ever wanted to do was create music and bring it to the people. By day, she is a successful spoken word artist. But come nightfall, she hunts vampires and demons. After a series of brutal murders has rocked the city, Damali realizes she is up against the most powerful vampire she’s ever met. Soon she finds herself being pulled deeper into the vast and horrifying vampire world.

L.A. Banks was a prolific, award-winning writer whose work spanned multiple genres. Her horror opus was The Vampire Huntress Legend Series — a twelve book series centered around a young woman named Damali Richards, part of a long line of humans who are born once every thousand years to fight the Dark Realms. The entire series is based on the never ending struggle between good and evil, religion and love. Start with the first book in the series, Minion, which is widely considered a classic.

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15. The Tempest Tales – Walter Mosley

The Tempest Tales centers around Tempest Landry, an everyday black man who is “accidentally” killed by a cop. Denied access to heaven, Tempest refuses to go to hell, citing racism. He ask how a Black man could be judged guilty in a world already set out to do wrong against him. Confounded, Saint Peter sends him back to Harlem, where a guiding angel tries to convince him to accept Saint Peter’s judgment and acknowledge his own guilt. Even the Devil himself tries to win over Tempest’s soul.

Mosley is a novelist, most widely recognized for his crime fiction and historical mysteries. The premise of his horror novel The Tempest Tales, much like Get Out, challenges the way we view good and evil. Through the street-smart Landry, Mosley poses the provocative question: Is sin for blacks the same as it is for whites? And who gets to decide? In the wake of Black Lives Matter, it’s definitely a story of our times.

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16. Smoketown – Tenea D. Johnson

A generation ago, the city of Leiodare was overrun with a mysterious epidemic believed to have been spread by birds. Now, in the post-climate change United States, birds are outlawed. And what was once a crater in Appalachia is now a tropical, glittering metropolis where Anna Armour is waiting. Anna is a woman of special gifts. She has chosen this beautiful, traumatized city to wait for the woman she’s lost. When one night Anna creates life out of thin air and desperation, no one is prepared for what comes next.

Told through interlocking stories, Smoketown delves into the invisible connections that rival magic, and the cost of redemption.Johnson’s debut novel examines the relationship between art and society, blurring the boundaries between magic and science. Wildly imaginative and strange, it’s a post-apocalyptic novel with dreamy world building. There’s a deep mystery at the heart of this novel that culminates in a breathless climax.

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17. Slice of Cherry – Dia Reeves

Kit and Fancy Cordelle are sisters and best friends. The daughters of the infamous Bonesaw Killer, they are used to feeling like outsiders. Eventually, they start to give into their innate desire to kill, opting only to kill those who truly deserve it. But when Fancy stumbles upon a mysterious and invisible doorway to another world, she opens a door to endless possibilities.

Reeves’ deliciously demented tale is fast moving, unpredictable and extremely engrossing. Her debut novel, Bleeding Violet, was a sexy and gruesome paranormal tale. Her sophomore novel, Slice of Cherry, reads like a twisted childhood fantasy brought to life. Dark and disturbing, it’s definitely not for the feint of heart.

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18. How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend – Linda Addison

From the first African-American to receive the HWA Bram Stoker award, this award-winning collection of both horror and science fiction short stories and poetry reveals demons in the most likely people (like a jealous ghost across the street) or in unlikely places (like the dimension-shifting dreams of an American Indian). Recognition is the first step, what you do with your friends/demons after that is up to you.

Linda Addison an American poet and writer of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. She’s also a four-time HWA Bram Stoker award winner. Her collection of haunting short stories and poems, How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend, is as visceral as it is melodic.

A film inspired by her poem, MOURNING MEAL, by award-winning filmmakerJamal Hodge is set to release this year. The screenplay won Best Unproduced Short Screenplay at the 2018 NYC Horror Film Festival. Checkout the first trailer: Mourning Meal Trailer.

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19. Dread Nation – Justina Ireland

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville — derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few. Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s not a life Jane wants. But when families begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

Cleverly bringing together history and the undead, Dread Nation is provocative and frightening — addressing the devastating impact of racial tensions while delivering a fearless and inspiring heroine of color living in the era of Reconstruction. Author Justina Ireland is the former editor in chief of FIYAH Literary Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, for which she won a World Fantasy Award.

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20. Old Farmer’s Road – Isaiyan Morrison

After moving to Minneapolis, Cecilia is befriended by Isaac and Elsie, siblings who have kept a dark secret hidden about their past for countless years. As her body is taken over by a demonic force, she finds herself an Impa, a rare and supernatural creature who lives off the flesh and essence of her victims to stay alive. With the bloated bodies of missing teens beginning to resurface, the voice of the ratchet Old Farmer’s voice inside her head begs for “Just One More.”

Old Farmer’s Road is a chilling, gore-filled paranormal mystery novel that will keep you enthralled from the first to last page. Heavy on the horror and the creep factor, this tale features otherworldly creatures, unsettling urban legends, murder, mystery, soul-eating Impas, a witch and hope for saving a lost soul. It’s a dark, tension-filled story that is sure to get you in a Halloween frame of mind.

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2 Comments

2 Records

  1. Avatar
    on June 23, 2020 at 8:19 pm
    Will wrote:

    The author of Let’s Play White is named Chesya Burke, not Chesya White. Both the header and the body of the entry for that book misidentify her.

    Reply
    • The Angry Princess
      on June 24, 2020 at 5:10 pm
      The Angry Princess wrote:

      Thank you so much for catching that mistake. it’s been corrected in the post.

      Reply

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