You need Nora Keita Jemisin.
Hear me out, I am well aware that Jemisin is considered more of a science fiction author, but I’d prefer to think of her as a contemporary fantasy or urban fantasy author for the purpose of recommending her amazing novels in this series.
The author wrote on her website, “Jemisin’s most frequent themes include resistance to oppression, the inseverability of the liminal, and the coolness of Stuff Blowing Up,” but I just like to call it refreshing. In a genre dominated by white, often male, main characters in worlds that literally have endless possibilities yet refuse to apply that same mindset to race, Jemisin’s interpretation is beyond necessary.
Jemisin is known for The Broken Earth trilogy, for which she won the Hugo Award for Best Novel for all three books (ALL three), as well as her Inheritance Trilogy. And you know she’s for real because her “Books” section of her website has two pages.
Her commitment to her characters, worlds, and using her writing as a mode of resistance make her stand out from the sometimes monotonous sea of fantasy, which sounds ironic but unfortunately can be true for Black and brown readers. (She even shares on her website that she used to “self-publish” her writing, binding her stories in cardboard with yarn.)
Not all authors that shoot for diversity, or sending a message about our larger world through their fantasy works, hit the mark. Jemisin is not one of those authors.
Dazzling worlds, rich stories, and contemporary outlooks on what the genre can become await future readers of Jemisin’s novels. Readers of all ages are growing tired of the classic green grove, pixie dust enemies-to-lovers fantasy. While those aspects remain beloved elements of fantasy, they can feel almost like the low-hanging literary after a few novels.
You might be thinking, so she’s a Black woman, writing fantasy. That’s new. Funny you should say that, because Jemisin has already heard it before.
“I understand why these questions are important. It is disheartening that people keep asking them, however, or some version of them. At this point, for me, these questions are a reflection the larger problem – that for those of us who are Other, we are constantly called upon to explain our existence. Therefore I ask that interviewers stop doing it, and think of something more interesting to ask.”
If her eloquent response to this tired question doesn’t make you want to read her novels out of sheer desire to see what else her beautiful mind can come up with, I don’t know what to tell you.
THE RECOMMENDATION: The City We Became (first in the Great Cities trilogy)
Jemisin grew up in New York, so her story about the great city is an electric ode to the volatility and vitality.
The New York Times bestselling author explores the core of our monumental cities and how they can be both corrupted and protected in The City We Became.
“Every great city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got six,” says the blurb on her website.
“But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs in the halls of power, threatening to destroy the city and her six newborn avatars unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.”
Who doesn’t want to see New Yorkers try and work together to save the very core of their city?
The novel seamlessly combines elements of fantasy, like souls hanging in the balance and a motley band of strangers, with sci-fi in the dystopian city and personification of the industrial.
The preview alone sets the mind of readers alight with the possibilities of the story, and better yet, the influence it will have on other writers, pushing them to reimagine what parts of our real world can reanimate into something just as alive as we are.