During Covid, a post crossed my Facebook feed of new science fiction and fantasy books written by Black women. It was awesome to see so many new diverse voices in scifi and fantasy, so I jumped on it!
I picked some that sounded fun, and checked them out on Libby (one of the library’s ebook apps). I started reading it quickly because I only had so long to read it and then the next one would be ready to check out. It was so much pressure.
It turned out to not even be a problem because this book was so good that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I had to know what happened next.
Since then, I’ve almost exclusively read Young Adult Afrofantasy novels, and it’s given me a few thoughts.
I believe there is value in reading books by authors who don’t share your same background. I have learned so much about Yoruba culture and African American culture reading all of these books.
I was exposed to a mythology and folklore that I otherwise would know nothing about.
We live in a very diverse world. There are so many cultures we don’t have access to without books.
I have also learned a little bit about the experience of going through the world as a Black woman. That’s an experience that I can never have, but through these novels, I can almost absorb parts of the experience through the writing.
For example, the book “Legendborn” by Tracy Deonn isn’t about Black women’s hair, but it does have a scene where people touch the main characters hair and she has to tell them that that is not okay and why.
In having exposure to these lived experiences, I’ve been able to subtly change the way I interact with people. I have an appreciation for the struggles and values of different cultures. Not to mention, I’ve been able to support Black women authors.
Books provide invaluable experiences to us all. We become so invested in the characters that their joys become our joys and their sorrows become ours. It is almost a magic portal into someone else’s life.
We create such an emotional connection with the characters that it becomes easier for us to understand what it’s like to take up space in a place we are not welcome or to mourn our ancestors at their unmarked graves all while enjoying the plot of the book.
The first few books I read were: “Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi, “Akata Witch” by Nnedi Okorafor, “Kingdom of Souls” by Rena Barron, and “A Song of Wraiths and Ruin” by Roseanne A. Brown.
Whether you like fantasy books or not, books can bridge the gaps in our experience. I may not know a lot of people, but through books, I can know so many more than I ever imagined.
This article first appeared in the O’Fallon Weekly.
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