Are you looking to diversify you bookshelves, celebrate Black lives, and support Black creators while still reading all of the queer SFF that your heart desires? Well is this ever the list for you!
It’s important to not only read non-fiction, address racism in your life, and bring attention to Black suffering, but to also celebrate Black joy and read fiction with Black protagonists. Exposure to different stories and perspectives is key to working toward anti-racism.
What are some of your favourite queer books by Black authors?
1. The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez
I have heard fantastic review of this from other queer readers and can’t wait to get my hands on it.
The winner of two Lambda Literary Awards (fiction and science fiction) The Gilda Stories is a very lesbian American odyssey. Escaping from slavery in the 1850s Gilda’s longing for kinship and community grows over two hundred years. Her induction into a family of benevolent vampyres takes her on an adventurous and dangerous journey full of loud laughter and subtle terror.
2. Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden
Escaping Exodus is one of the weirdest, but also most memorable, queer sci-fi novels I have read this year. You can read my full review of it here.
Seske Kaleigh is heir to the command of this biological city. But, as they begin the process of remodeling a new beast, everything that could go wrong begins to go wrong. Seske struggles to fit into the form of the ideal matriarch and her conniving sister, who shouldn’t exist in the first place, hinders her every move. And, the beast itself holds a terrible secret.
Escaping Exodus has some big environmental and class statements. I loved that we saw the story from the perspectives of people on the upper echelons of society and the very bottom.
3. Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
This is a book I am still trying to wrap my head around after reading it a few months ago. Definitely check out all of the content and trigger warnings listed in various reviews. This is a dark and violent book. You can expect this when Marlon James calls it an African Game of Thrones.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf follows Tracker through a twisting story told to an inquisitor. It isn’t strictly linear, but eventually takes us down the path on one of his jobs. Engaged to track down a boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone. Finding himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.
4. The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden
The Prey of Gods is set in a near future South Africa. Personal robots are simplifying lives, the government has switched to renewable energy and is providing infrastructure for the poor, and the genetic engineering industry is lifting the economy.
But, there are a few problems. A new drug is sweeping the nation, there might be a little bit of an AI uprising, oh, and a ancient demigoddess is back for blood.
It’s up to a young Zulu girl powerful enough to destroy her entire township, a queer teen plagued with the ability to control minds, a pop diva with serious daddy issues, and a politician with even more serious mommy issues to band together to ensure there’s a future left to worry about.
5. The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin
The City We Became hardly needs an introduction.
Called a love letter to New York, The City We Became is an urban fantasy novel that turns lovecraftian horror on its head. This is an incredibly diverse story with a very queer cast.
New York City is waking up, spreading it soul into the bodies of five protectors. But it all couldn’t have come at a worse time. The city is under attack by an ancient evil whose been waiting for this opportunity. It will be up to these five protectors to band together despite their differences to protect the city they all love.
6. The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
Demane is a demigod who straddles two worlds – that of mortals, and that of gods. Since leaving his homeland he has been labeled a sorcerer. He travels as the soldier of a caravan, tending to the other men of the guard.
Demane follows the Captain, a beautiful man with song for a voice and hair that drinks the sunlight. The two of them are the descendants of the gods who abandoned the Earth for Heaven. They will need all the gifts those divine ancestors left to them to keep their caravan brothers alive.
I loved the use of language in this. Demane has to constantly code switch between the speech of the merchants, and the speech of the common men. To illustrate the way that Demane flits between these two groups while truly belonging to neither, Wilson utilizes a mix of different dialects including New Orleans French, AAVE, and standard American English.
7. A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson
A Taste of Honey takes place in the same world as The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, but is a very different story.
Long after the Towers left the world but before the dragons came to Daluça, the emperor brought his delegation of gods and diplomats to Olorum. As the royalty negotiates over trade routes and public services, the divinity seeks arcane assistance among the local gods.
Aqib bgm Sadiqi, fourth-cousin to the royal family and son of the Master of Beasts, has more mortal and pressing concerns. His heart has been captured for the first time by a handsome Daluçan soldier named Lucrio. In defiance of Saintly Canon, gossiping servants, and the furious disapproval of his father and brother, Aqib finds himself swept up in a whirlwind romance. But neither Aqib nor Lucrio know whether their love can survive the hardships coming their way.
8. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
While not necessarily strictly fantasy, Freshwater does push its way into magical realism through its use of mythology.
Freshwater is a beautifully written autobiographical novel. Ada begins her life in Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence. But, as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: Asụghara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves–now protective, now hedonistic–move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.
9. An Unkindess of Ghosts By Rivers Solomon
Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, who they consider to be less than human.
When the autopsy of Matilda‘s sovereign reveals a surprising link between his death and her mother’s suicide some quarter-century before, Aster retraces her mother’s footsteps. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sowing the seeds of civil war, Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she’s willing to fight for it.
10. The Deep by Rivers Solomon
The Deep is lyrical story that covers topics including communal trauma.
Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past is too traumatic to be remembered regularly. It is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.
Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.
11. The Space Between Worlds by Michaiah Johnson
Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total.
But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined—and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.
12. Babel-17 by Samuel R Delany
Babel-17 is one of the earliest modern queer sci-fi novels.
The commander of the Earthpeople’s Alliance journeyed into the bizarre depths of Transport Town to seek Rydra Wong, the cosmic poetess whose words reached across space and whose mind could perceive the meaning of all the world’s tongues. And his request placed her into the heart of the vile interstellar war between the Alliance and the Invaders.
The new weapon of the Invaders was Babel-17, a menacing hum clogging up Alliance space communications. Rydra had to decipher the communications power of Babel-17 before it could lead to intergalactic defeat. And to do that, she would have to be the target of the next outer-space attack.