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Black History Month Series: Fiction
For Black History Month, we’re bringing you dedicated weekly roundups of new and recently published books by Black authors all month long. Today’s featured fiction includes three must-read novels that speak to identity politics and family life; a linked short story collection that captures the experiences of Black, queer, and trans people; and a collection of ten-minute monodramas about the future of Blackness.
The Glint of Light by Clarence Major (At Bay Press)
Clarence Major’s latest offering is a novel about identity politics, love, and family following the life of a thirty-something mixed-race environmental scientist dealing with the painful loss of his mother. He’s also navigating a relationship with his twin sister and reconnecting with his high school girlfriend as the world around him spirals with concerns about climate crisis and white nationalism. A thought-provoking read and New Yorker Best Books of 2023 selection, Major’s novel is an emotional and intensely relevant portrait of the nuances of an everyday life and a broader social commentary of rising societal inequalities.
Find The Glint of Light here on All Lit Up.
The Sleeping Car Porter by Suzette Mayr (Coach House Books)
Although it’s not new, we’d be remiss to not include Suzette Mayr’s multi-acclaimed novel in our roundup. Winner of the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize, this story is an important and overlooked part of North American Black history, as it sheds light on the daily life of Baxter, a queer Black sleeping car porter, who contends with racism and anti-queer social norms in 1929. As the story unfolds, in which we learn that Baxter is an aspiring dentist, we’re taken on a crisscrossing journey where time bends and sleep deprivation leads to hallucinatory fantasies.
Find The Sleeping Car Porter here on All Lit Up.
21 Black Futures, edited by Obsidian Theatre
(Playwrights Canada Press)
For its twenty-first anniversary, Toronto-based Obsidian Theatre, tasked twenty-one Black artists with creating twenty-one new stories about imagined Black futures, scripting a ten-minute monodrama each. The result was a communal, unapologetically Black offering that brought Black artists together to create something empowering and compelling with artistic director Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu at the helm. And all twenty-one pieces are time capsuled in this collection, including works by GG-winner Amanda Parris, Cheryl Foggo, Shauntay Grant, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, Lawrence Hill, Djanet Sears, and many others.
Find 21 Black Futures here on All Lit Up.
The Rage Letters by Valérie Bah, translated by Kama La Mackerel
In these 13 linked short stories, Quebec-based writer and filmmaker Valérie Bah sets out to capture the experiences of modern Black, queer, and trans people, from the burnout to the magic of their everyday lives. Translated into English by multidisciplinary artist Kama La Mackerel, the characters in this new collection navigate social violence, traumas, and the contradictions of their circumstances. A compelling and celebratory piece that explores the nuances of queer friendship with humour and insight.
Find The Rage Letters here on All Lit Up.
Naniki by Oonya Kempadoo (Dundurn Press)
Readers of Oonya Kempadoo are familiar with her very capable and captivating storytelling that touches on identity, culture, and social connections filtered in a Caribbean context. In her latest novel Naniki, shape-shifting beings Amana and Skelele, their essence intertwined with Taino and African ancestry, embark on an archipelagic journey shaped by their naniki (active spirits). The first order of business? Go back in time to the source of the First People’s knowledge. Along the way, they encounter the strange future they dreamed of, and must surmount historical and mythological challenges.
Find Naniki here on All Lit Up.
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Stay tuned next Thursday for our Black History Month non-fiction picks!