This post is part of the Reading Writers of Color 2021 challenge hosted by Lonely Cryptid Media’s staff writer and editor, Dan Michael Fielding.
We’re approaching March, when we will be reading a work of fiction by a writer of color. I wanted to share with you some of my favorite works of fiction by authors I deeply enjoy.
My reading tastes lean towards science fiction, which this list definitely reflects, but I also chose to highlight a few books that are more literary as well as one graphic novel. It was such a joy to go back through the books I’ve read and pull out a few to share with you.
What works of fiction by authors of color have you read? Which ones would you recommend to others reading along with the challenge? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Standing Woman by Winona LaDuke
Winona LaDuke has authored and co-authored nearly twenty books. Last Standing Woman was her first novel. Deeply rooted in Ojibwe history and resistance, LaDuke intertwines the stories of Ishkweniibawiikwe (Last Standing Woman) and Lucy St. Clair. Both women find themselves embroiled in colonial wars and U.S. persecution at different points in history. LaDuke knows her history and uses it as a base to imagine a near future of revolution on Tribal lands.
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Sympathizer is part spy novel, part war story, part political treatise, and part immigration narrative. The narrator is a member of the Viet Cong who has escaped Vietnam along with the family of General, all headed for America. His task is to observe the General on behalf of the Communist cause. But life in America is more banal than anyone expected, and throughout the novel it becomes clear that the narrator is hiding more than he’s letting on–and with good reason. The narrator is a mess of contradictions, and as you read you’ll be alternatively enticed to believe him and horrified that you could fall for his story.
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
In this stunning science fiction novel, Solomon brings to life the HSS Matilda, a generational star ship that is home to Aster Gray, a brilliant young botanist and healer who has made a home for herself in the slums of the ship. Her days are spent doing back-breaking labor at the plantations, and in what snippets of free time she has she reconnects with the legacy of her lost mother and attempts to unravel the mystery of why the ship is experiencing dangerous blackouts. This novel is notable for its stark and honest presentation of racism on board Matilda, its neuroatypical main character, and for its exploration of queer and transgender experiences.
An Excess Male by Maggie Shen King
This speculative fiction novel by Maggie Shen King follows the romantic foibles of Wei-Guo as he attempts to navigate a dystopian China and court May-Ling and her two husbands. The consequences of China’s One Child policy are taken to the extreme: men are in excess in this version of China, and women are few and far between. State-sanctioned polyandrous relationships attempt to rectify this, but love is difficult to come by as the characters navigate what has become an intense security police state. King explores patriotism, masculinity, queer identity, and the meaning of love in this novel that draws the reader in from the beginning and keeps them guessing until the end.
Trouble on Triton by Samuel R. Delany
Although better known for his epic science fiction novel Dhalgren, the classic science fiction author Samuel Delany has written a number of novels and short stories that are worth a look. Trouble on Triton (first edition just “Triton”) is an excellent introduction to his work. Delany is known for his intense creativity in regards to plot and characterization, as well as his detailed imaginings of future technology’s role in shaping race, gender, and sexuality. His books sometimes defy easy summary. Triton explores the inner life of Bron Helstrom after he moves from working as a male prostitute on Mars to a far more open and carefree life on Triton. Despite living in a more relaxed environment, Bron still has difficulty adjusting, and the novel swirls around his interpersonal relationships. Delany is a brilliant author whose creativity allows even the human characters to feel almost alien in their approaches and perspectives.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
It’s no secret that Louise Erdrich is one of my favorite authors and, luckily for fans of her work, she’s also a prolific writer. I’ve mentioned her work before and now I’d like to tell you about The Round House. Narrated by a lawyer reflecting on his coming-of-age on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. After his mother is assaulted he finds himself embroiled in tribal politics, colonial laws, and deepening interpersonal relationships. At turns deeply sad, emotionally turbulent, and funny, The Round House is a must read for fans of coming-of-age stories, those who are interested in a realistic depiction of tribal law, and all those in between.
The Shadow Hero by Sonny Liew, Chu Hing, and Gene Luen Yang
A little different from the other picks on this list, The Shadow Hero is an homage to the golden age of comic books. The little-known hero The Green Turtle gets a glow up and a backstory, and is rewritten as the first Asian American super hero. Anyone who enjoys a good super hero romp will love this book, which is filled with intrigue, mystery, and enough comedy to keep you feeling lighthearted even during the comic’s dark turns. If you’re a fan of the work you may also be interested in Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel American Born Chinese.
He, She, and It by Marge Piercy
Marge Piercy brings her background as a Jewish woman to every moment of this classic science fiction novel. Set alternately in the near future and centuries past, He, She, and It follows Shira, recently divorced and having just lost custody of her son as she escapes the clutches of a multi-national company and into the safety of the Jewish free town Tikva. There, she reunites with family and meets the mysterious Yod, a cyborg created to protect the city. The story is intercut with stories from the past as a Golem is created to protect a Jewish ghetto near Prague from being destroyed by a Christian mob. The story discusses what it means to be human in ways that are still creative an fascinating now, thirty years after it was first published.
The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King
Filed under books that make you say, “Wow.” Rendered in absolutely beautiful prose, The Back of the Turtle tells the story of Gabriel, a brilliant scientist whose work lead directly to an environmental disaster in his home of Smoke River. When he returns, intending to make amends by throwing himself into the sea, he finds a person in the water. He rescues her, and then another person, and then another, beginning a story that is both fantastical and deeply grounded.
Ad free isn’t free. Consider making a donation to Lonely Cryptid Media to help keep our site ad free and support our mission to elevate queer, pro-feminist, and anti-racist media.