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10 new speculative books from Latinx authors

speculative fiction Latinx recommendation

Tomorrow marks the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15) in the United States, and we’re delighted to bring you 10 new books by Latinx authors released in the last year or so, to update our 2020 list of Fifty Latinx Authors and Books and grow your TBR list even further! Some are names longtime Sirens will recognize, others we hope will become new favorites—and it goes without saying that this list is far from comprehensive.

(Note: We know the identifier “Latinx” continues to be contentious in many circles; as a conference on gender in speculative literature, Sirens uses the term to signal inclusivity to genderqueer, nonbinary, and nonconforming individuals that share markers of language, geography, and race—and will follow the lead of Latin American queer scholars. There are a number of articles addressing the history and usage of the term such as in Mother Jones, NPR, and Pew Research.)

Happy reading!

Queen of the Cicadas by V. Castro
1. Queen of the Cicadas by V. Castro

Told in dual timelines, this mythic novel features Belinda in modern-day Texas at her friend’s wedding, at the same site where farmworker Milagros was brutally murdered in the 1950s. Milagros’s death ignored by everyone in the town except by the Aztec goddess of death, Mictecacíhuatl. Belinda realizes that the urban legend La Reina de Las Chicharras (The Queen of the Cicadas), meant to scare children, is actually real… and her fate is irrevocably tied to the events of 70 years ago.

Children of Chicago by Cynthia Pelayo
2. Children of Chicago by Cynthia Pelayo

Interweaving horror and fairytale, police procedural and thriller, Pelayo features Chicago’s Humboldt Park communities in this modern-day retelling of the Pied Piper. Detective Lauren Medina is determined to get to the bottom of what’s happening to the city’s young victims, even if it means unearthing her own painful family secrets.

Mañana: Latinx Comics From the 25th Century edited by Joamette GilMañana: Latinx Comics From the 25th Century edited by Joamette Gil
3. Mañana: Latinx Comics From the 25th Century edited by Joamette Gil

From 2021 guest of honor Joamette Gil, this crowd-backed speculative comics anthology is in its final stage of fulfillment with physical copies imminent. 27 young adult stories set in 2490s Latin America span 300+ pages, envisioning radical futures from Latinx creators throughout the diaspora, including post-apocalypse, liberationist utopia, and slice-of-life magical realism. Released simultaneously in both English and Spanish.

The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore
4. The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore

Sirens attendees from 2018 might recall guest of honor Anna-Marie McLemore’s seminal keynote. The Mirror Season centers on Graciela who develops a tentative friendship with a boy she barely knows, after discovering they were sexually assaulted at the same party. With a magical bakery, an otherworldly secret forest, and mirrored glass with complex magic, McLemore pens a testament to survival and a love letter to their queer Latinx communities.

Lotería by Karla Arenas Valenti, illus. by Dana Sanmar
5. Lotería by Karla Arenas Valenti, illus. by Dana Sanmar

With chapters structured through the ancient game between best friends Life and Death, a girl’s fate hangs in the balance. A middle grade magical realist adventure that interweaves themes free will, choice, and destiny, Clara embarks on a portal fantasy to find her missing cousin. Rich with symbolism and imagery in the cards dealt, this book asks readers of all ages all the big, philosophical questions.

Sanctuary by Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher
6. Sanctuary by Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher

A YA envisioning of a horrific future United States where a wall has been built between US and Mexico. It’s 2032, and everyone is chipped and tracked—but Vali is undocumented, and when her mother’s chip malfunctions, their family’s carefully set life in Vermont is uprooted. Vali and her younger brother must make their way to California, a sanctuary state, on foot, in a journey that’s visceral, heartbreaking, and all-too-possible.

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova
7. The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova

2017 Guest of Honor Zoraida Córdova makes her adult debut with this sweeping, multi-perspective family story. The Montoyas know not to question inexplicable things, but when they flock to their ancestral home to attend the funeral of their matriarch, Orquídea Divina, they’re left with more questions along with their inheritance gifts. Seven years later, four descendants travel back to Ecuador to uncover Orquídea’s buried secrets before a hidden figure destroys their family tree.

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
8. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

From the acclaimed author of the Sirens-favorite short fiction collection Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado uses literary tropes and genres (such as the haunted house, the romance novel, and choose your own adventure) in her stunning, inventive memoir. In it, she tackles difficult personal subject matter—her experience in an abusive queer relationship— with wit and incisive commentary.

We Light Up the Sky by Lilliam Rivera
9. We Light Up the Sky by Lilliam Rivera

Rivera reclaims the first-contact, alien invasion story for her communities by featuring three Latinx teens in near-future Los Angeles. In this new YA, Pedro, Luna, and Rafa are peripherals at the same high school when The Visitor lands—a Visitor that looks suspiciously like Luna’s cousin Tasha, who died two years ago from COVID-19. The three teens must work together to save the city, and themselves, when they’re not sure who the true enemy is: the Visitor, or their fellow humans?

Fire with Fire by Destiny Soria
10. Fire with Fire by Destiny Soria

This YA urban fantasy romp features dragon-slayer siblings in contemporary rural Tennessee—what’s not to love? Dani and Eden are a pair of Mexican American sisters, both trying to find their way in the world. When Dani bonds with a rare dragon, the sisters find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict and playing with magic more dangerous than they know. To what lengths will they go to save each other?

#SirensPride: 30 Queer AF speculative books to celebrate Pride Month

pride lgbtq speculative fiction recommendations

As a conference and community exploring gender in fantasy literature, with one of our primary goals to uplift works by women, nonbinary, and transgender people, we celebrate Pride all year long here at Sirens! We hope you know us as a destination for discovering glorious, wondrous, splendiferous books by LGBTQIAP+ authors, so we’re pleased to recommend 30 speculative works released in recent years.

It was nearly impossible to narrow this list down to 30, so please consider these works nothing more than a starting point in your glorious, wondrous, splendiferous trip through queer speculative fiction. Some listed here are new books by established favorites, others are dazzling debuts. Along the way, you’ll meet queer witches, nonbinary werewolves, angry bisexual dragons, trans necromancers, inclusive families, and queernormative worlds—as well as terrifying future worlds, reinterpretations of myth and folklore, complex political sci-fi, and bold, shimmering writing. (And if you’d rather get these recs on Twitter, we’ve been—and will continue!—tweeting a book out each day in the month of June at the hashtag #SirensPride.)

1. The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo Nghi Vo
Vo tackles Gatsby, folks, and it’s decadent, dangerous, utterly exquisite: a shining veneer of golf and champagne, a darker undercurrent of magic and mystery, all swirling around a queer, Vietnamese immigrant and socialite.

2. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas Aiden Thomas
In Thomas’s celebration of identity and romance, trans boy Yadriel is determined to prove himself a brujo—and accidentally summons the wrong ghost. Now he’s stuck with a very cute, very uncooperative, and very dead bad boy.

3. Snapdragon by Kat Leyh
Snapdragon by Kat Leyh Kat Leyh
A delicately human graphic novel about finding yourself, whoever that person might be, and finding a community, however unexpected that might be—replete with skeletons, the town witch, and a sob-fest, happy ending about second chances.

4. The Unbroken by C.L. Clark
The Unbroken by C.L. Clark C.L. Clark
People, Clark’s alternate North Africa-set work is a sapphic epic, a brutal military fantasy, a searing deconstruction of colonialism—and an un-put-down-able tale chock-full of spies, lies, assassinations, rebellion, humanity, and love.

5. When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey
When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey Sarah Gailey
When We Were Magic opens with an accidentally burst penis, but what’s truly explosive about Gailey’s first foray into YA is the unrelenting hope. Six queer witches, despite the chaos around them, looking to the future with such anticipation.

6. A Pale Light in the Black by K.B. Wagers
A Pale Light in the Black by K.B. Wagers K.B. Wagers
Max’s Near-Earth Orbital Guard team, gearing up for the Boarding Games, is instead left shaken by a routine mission gone wrong, a mysterious enemy, and a dangerous secret. Rollicking, queer, propulsively readable hopepunk.

7. Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker, illustrated by Wendy Xu
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker, illustrated by Wendy Xu Suzanne Walker Wendy Xu
This adorable graphic novel features two Chinese American teens, one a queer witch and the other a nonbinary werewolf, in a “spooky” New England town. Themes of family dynamics, young love, and finding yourself abound.

8. Firebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace
Firebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace Nicole Kornher-Stace
Firebreak is terrifying: a too-easy, too-near-future, siren-call book where corporations control what’s left of America. Aro/ace Mal is a low-level gamer scrabbling to get by in a war-torn city—and it all goes to hell from there.

9. Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon
Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon Rivers Solomon
Solomon’s consistently scorching dissection of the trauma inflicted upon Black bodies is on full, furious display in faer transformative new work. In fleeing a cult, intersex, pregnant Vern runs right into a Gothic nightmare.

10. Heartwood: Non-Binary Tales of Sylvan Fantasy edited by Joamette Gil
Heartwood: Non-Binary Tales of Sylvan Fantasy edited by Joamette Gil Joamette Gil
Gil curates a collection of nonbinary creators’ graphic works about finding yourself and your power in that most mystical of places: the wood. Buy the gorgeous gilt-edged hardcover if you can!

11. Burning Roses by S.L. Huang
Burning Roses by S.L. Huang S.L. Huang
In this fairytale remix, Huang gifts readers with two middle-aged lesbian heroes, called to service once more, but reckoning with their own monstrousness and the opportunity for forgiveness. A blazing, fierce, thought-provoking work.

12. In the Ravenous Dark by A.M. Strickland
In the Ravenous Dark by A.M. Strickland A.M. Strickland
Blood magic, undead spirits, and Greek influence abound in Strickland’s twisty YA fantasy. As pansexual Rovan seeks to escape her fate, she finds herself falling for both a captivating princess and a hunky undead guardian.

13. The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado, illustrated by DaNi, with Tamra Bonvillain
The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado, illustrated by DaNi, with Tamra Bonvillain Carmen Maria Machado, DaNi, Tamra Bonvillain
Machado’s trademark fuck-you feminism infuses this super-creepy, queer as hell exploration of secrets, misogyny, and small-town horror. The uncanny art alone will keep you up all night!

14. The Girl and The Goddess by Nikita Gill
The Girl and The Goddess by Nikita Gill Nikita Gill
Gill’s blazingly personal bildungsroman in verse draws upon Hindu mythology to help her queer heroine—struggling with everything from the heteropatriarchy to the wake of the Partition—gloriously, inexorably find herself.

15. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir Tamsyn Muir
Gideon hates every fucking second of her time as cavalier primary to Harrowhark, master necromancer, as they navigate an impossible puzzle in a house of death in space. Muir’s work is ferociously ambitious, defiant—and hilarious.

16. This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone Amal El-Mohtar Max Gladstone
Spy vs. spy, enemies to lovers, and nature vs. technology…and how they come together in a queer story about forging a connection beyond the boundaries of time. Wordplay fans, this one’s for you!

17. We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia Tehlor Kay Mejia
If you’ve ever wished that two girls fighting over a boy would just run away with each other instead, this YA fantasy’s for you! And the power dynamics, shifting alliances, and Latinx-inspired worldbuilding enthrall.

18. Tarnished are The Stars by Rosiee Thor
Tarnished are The Stars by Rosiee Thor Rosiee Thor
A rebel with a clockwork heart, the Commissioner’s son, and an assassin collide—and become friends—in this dangerous, secret-filled, steampunk YA that celebrates queerness (including aro/ace rep!), adventure, and rebellion.

19. Bestiary by K-Ming Chang
Bestiary by K-Ming Chang K-Ming Chang
Chang’s wildly inventive, fabulist debut opens with a girl who grows a tiger tail and proceeds to exquisitely decant a multi-generational story about immigration and belonging, roots and hauntings, queer stories and transformations.

20. Victories Greater than Death by Charlie Jane Anders
Victories Greater than Death by Charlie Jane Anders Charlie Jane Anders
Tina is literally a second chance: a secret clone of a renowned hero, disguised as an Earth human. But in Anders’ rollicking hopepunk, she’ll need her BFF, an amazing crew, and a cute girl to save the worlds.

21. Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco
Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco Rin Chupeco
Many clever fairytale retellings wrapped up into one all-too-real queer contemporary tale of magic, adventure, a lost kingdom, a dick firebird, ICE agents with magic, and a group of excellent, messy, hilarious warrior-teens.

22. Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim
Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim Tara Sim
In this queernormative, genderbent Count of Monte Cristo, Amaya, finishing her time on a debtor’s ship, is offered the opportunity for revenge. Plots, backstabbing, corruption, rich worldbuilding, and bravura characters abound!

23. Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee
Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee Yoon Ha Lee
Gyen Jebi paints, including magical sigils on automaton soldiers—until they learn of the government’s corruption and then they steal a dragon automaton… A magnificent story of the power of art, told with Lee’s peerless craft.

24. The Four Profound Weaves by R.B. Lemberg
The Four Profound Weaves by R.B. Lemberg R.B. Lemberg
Lemberg’s work impresses with its intricate worldbuilding, meticulously crafted language, and genuinely complex characters. Themes of healing, faith, family, and friendship echo throughout the thoroughly queer universe.

25. The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke
The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke Hannah Abigail Clarke
After doing magic at a party, misfit Sideways stumbles into, impossibly, friendship with her school’s queen bees. Queer witches, slippery magic, rage, revenge, and feminist transgression abound in Clark’s gritty, glittery debut.

26. We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker
We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker Sarah Pinsker
A single family—two moms, two kids—serves as a human touchstone in Pinsker’s nuanced SF exploration of technology and consequences. Pinsker shines at writing empathy, compassion, grace against the world—and she dazzles here.

27. The Deep & Dark Blue by Niki Smith
The Deep & Dark Blue by Niki Smith
After a political coup, twins go into hiding with women who spin the threads of reality—and one twin discovers her identity as a trans girl. Smith’s magical, affirming graphic novel cleverly unravels and weaves stories anew.

28. Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore
Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore Anna-Marie McLemore
McLemore’s gorgeous, lyrical craft continues to weave wonders—and in Dark and Deepest Red, they use red dancing shoes of fairy tales and a modern-day magical framework to tell a tale of history, identity, terror, and ultimately love.

29. This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron
This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron Kalynn Bayron
Bayron somehow stuffs deadly plants, a magical girl, a dilapidated house, family secrets, dangerous mysteries, nefarious strangers, awesome moms, and an enigmatic hot girl into a deliciously dark, compulsively readable YA.

30. Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells
Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells Rebecca Kim Wells
All we need to say, really, is angry bisexual dragon. But Wells’s smart, bold YA fantasy also critiques colonialism and entrenched power structures, and features a heroine who learns she’s more powerful than she ever imagined.

50 Shining, Speculative Works by AAPI Authors

In May, the United States celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month—though at Sirens, we know that one month is not enough to ponder the people, histories, and cultures of such a vast region. To identify as Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) is to choose solidarity. How else can one compress hundreds of ethnic groups, languages, immigrant generations, income disparities, and consequences of American imperialism into one acronym?

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are not a monolith. We fully commit to uplifting Indigenous, Middle Eastern, Pacific Islander, South Asian, and Southeast Asian voices—aware that “Asian” is not synonymous with East Asian—as well as transracial adoptees, Black Asians, and multiracial Asians. And these past few months, from attacks on Asian elders to the horrific shootings in Atlanta, the devastation of COVID-19 in India to the violent apartheid in Palestine, the Asian community has been in pain. We must Stop AAPI Hate. But we must also cling to our joy—and to each other.

If you’ve already read your Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, your Yōko Ogawa, and your Eugie Foster—and we hope you have!—allow us to suggest 50 shining works of speculative fiction by AAPI women, nonbinary, and trans authors. Tales that feature majestic tigers, mischievous tricksters, or vengeful ghosts—as well as overbearing aunties, brilliant generals, and fierce matriarchs. Stories that interrogate and smash stereotypes, or incorporate mythology and folklore from the author’s origin or acquired cultures. 50 incredible novels, short stories, and poetry collections that span epic fantasy, fairytale retellings, fabulist memoir, portal adventure, sci-fi thrillers, and contemporary with a magical twist. Most of these works feature characters living in the diaspora, some are translated into English—and believe us when we say this list is far from comprehensive; in compiling, we realized we could have included 50 more.

If you’d like to buy these books (and we hope you do!), you can find a list of Asian- and Pacific Islander-owned bookstores, courtesy of We Need Diverse Books. You can also support AAPI voices at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and the Asian Author Alliance.

In solidarity and rest,

Faye Bi
Communications Director

1. The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith
The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith Violet Kupersmith
Ghost stories, yes, but also retold Vietnamese folktales, an indictment of the Vietnam War, an exquisite exploration of loss. Kupersmith’s settings are palpable, her characters human, her work unforgettable.

2. Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco
Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco Rin Chupeco
Many clever fairytale retellings wrapped up into one all-too-real contemporary tale of magic, adventure, a lost kingdom, a dick firebird, ICE agents with magic, and a group of warrior-teens you will love every bit as much as Bardugo’s Dregs.

3. We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry
We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry Quan Barry
In 1989 Massachusetts, a truly terrible girls’ field hockey team makes a deal with the devil—and starts winning. Barry’s clever, hilarious romp tackles necessary themes of transgression, stereotypes, power, and claiming yourself.

4.The Bloodprint by Ausma Zehanat Khan
The Bloodprint by Ausma Zehanat Khan
An epic tome of adventure and revolution. More importantly, a timely and carefully crafted depiction of the unrelenting importance of knowledge and justice in a world of lost legends and increasingly authoritarian rule.

5.A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat
A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat Christina Soontornvat
This luminous retelling of Les Misérables for young readers makes tangible the light and the dark, and highlights the themes of morality, oppression, and justice—all in a Thai-inspired fantasy world with a Light Market to dazzle all the senses.

6.Great Goddesses by Nikita Gill
Great Goddesses by Nikita Gill Nikita Gill
Want some gorgeous words to spear your soul? This prose-and-poetry collection meditates on sexuality, relationships, flexible conceptions of womanhood, creation, destruction, self-mythologizing, and the power of writing our own stories.

7.Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee Yoon Ha Lee
Lee’s Hexarchate galaxy of calendrical warfare is the backdrop for his virtuoso story of crashhawk Kel Cheris, not great at following directions, and her brain’s occupation by long-dead Shuos Jedao, exceptionally brilliant and utterly homicidal.

8.Monstress by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda
Monstress Marjorie Liu Sana Takeda
A feast for the eyes, this fantasy comic set in fantasy Asia has six volumes, epic worldbuilding, and Middle Eastern myths—and did we mention the huge, supremely powerful monster growing out of the stump of our heroine’s arm?

9.The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig Heidi Heilig
Nix’s dad can navigate to any map, any time, anywhere—and he wants to change history. Obsessive love, a small heist, a motley crew, time-travel paradoxes—and Heilig’s marvelous prose is so transportive that it’s like you’re RIGHT THERE.

10.The Black Tides of Heaven by Neon Yang
The Black Tides of Heaven by Neon Yang Neon Yang
In an Asian-inspired society where the default gender is nonbinary—children choose a gender when ready—the bond of twin children of a ruthless dictator is put to the test against an inventive backdrop of magic, religion, and politics.

11.Not Your Sidekick by C. B. Lee
Not Your Sidekick by C. B. Lee C. B. Lee
Jess, daughter of heroes, has no superpowers of her own and just wants an internship. And she finds one—working for a supervillain. Lee expertly crafts an uproarious story that nonetheless has something important to say about growing up.

12The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard Aliette de Bodard
In the aftermath of a Great War fought by fallen angels, Paris is a chessboard for Great Houses deploying resources in a game of power. Come for the history; stay for the incisive criticism of colonialism.

13.Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo Nghi Vo
This lovingly crafted tale is a delight that ends all too soon (but don’t worry, the sequel is already out). It centers female and queer voices as it explores the nature and consequences of power in a fantasy empire.

14.Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi Roshani Chokshi
Books about female friendship are too few and oh-so-far between, but Chokshi’s magnificent middle-grade adventure, featuring lonely Aru and anxious Mini as reincarnated Pandava brothers, will make your heart sing.

15.Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories by Vandana Singh
Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories by Vandana Singh Vandana Singh
Singh, a theoretical particle physicist, crafts stories full of wonder and very human wondering: Is time truly linear? Can you make a case for an Anti-Occam’s Razor Theory? Can one person change the course of the universe?

16.Black Water Sister by Zen Cho
Black Water Sister by Zen Cho Zen Cho
You know Cho for her portrayals of vengeful ghosts, mysterious gods, and meddlesome family members—in her latest, Jess’s Ah Ma is all three, and Black Water Sister all about the ties that bind: to family, duty, and destiny.

17.We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal Hafsah Faizal
Both Zafira and Nasir seek a magical object capable of great magic—but Nasir seeks to kill Zafira as well. Except, you know, there’s more kissing than killing, more adventure than anything, and a cliffhanger ending, so you’ll need the next one.

18.Food of the Gods by Cassandra Khaw
Food of the Gods by Cassandra Khaw Cassandra Khaw
Rupert Wong has been very bad indeed, and now must serve as a cannibal chef. But that’s only the beginning: brazen impertinence, absurdist bureaucracy, seemingly endless blood. You’ve never read anything like this!

19.Displacement by Kiku Hughes
Displacement by Kiku Hughes Kiku Hughes
Hughes’s autobiographical timeslip graphic novel beautifully threads the needle between the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII and today’s social justice movements—and calls us to open the books of our own family histories.

20.Jade City by Fonda Lee
Jade City by Fonda Lee Fonda Lee
In a fantasy Asia, where magic is channeled through jade and the future is uncertain, three siblings fight to keep their clan’s power. If you miss powerful women in the first half, just wait for the meeting between Shae and Mada in the second.

21.The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso K.S. Villoso
If you love heroines who don’t give a crap if they’re likeable, you’ll like Queen Talyien. This fresh new adventure reads like classic epic fantasy, with a shrewd narrator who’s as funny as she is ferocious.

22.Machinehood by S.B. Divya
Machinehood by S.B. Divya S.B. Divya
In this thinky sci-fi thriller set in 2095, humanity is dependent on pills to keep them competitive with a gig economy dominated by AIs. Cut your teeth on sentience, labor rights, and what late-late capitalism could do to society.

23.When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller
When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller Tae Keller
Lily and her mom and sister move in with her sick grandmother, when a tiger appears—just like the ones in halmoni’s stories—to strike a bargain. An intergenerational tale about grief, family, and growing up, as well as the stories we tell ourselves.

24.Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake Kendare Blake
Triplet girls—one a poisoner, one a naturalist, one an elementalist—are destined to fight to the death in their sixteenth year. Winner takes the crown. Wait for it, because those girls are going to find their ambition.

25.The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang
The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang
War orphan Rin has shamanic powers that may help her save her people, but the god who favors her may demand her humanity in recompense. Enthralling and brutal, this epic spares the reader nothing.

26.The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi
The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi Karuna Riazi
A mysterious board game sucks Farah and her friends into a strange world—where they must solve puzzles, conquer challenges, and rescue Farah’s brother. For adventurous readers—or anyone disappointed that their board games aren’t quite so mysterious.

27.Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen by Marilyn Chin
Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen by Marilyn Chin Marilyn Chin
Very short stories about Moonie and Mei Ling, Chinese-American girls who deliver Americanized Chinese food, but want to grow up to be something more. Equally hilarious and profound, with a cleaver-wielding terror of a grandmother.

28.All the Names They Used for God by Anjali Sachdeva
All the Names They Used for God by Anjali Sachdeva Anjali Sachdeva
Where faith and fantasy overlap is often wonder: people awestruck by the ineffable. Here, a man meets a mermaid, two girls practice something like witchcraft, a woman explores a subterranean cave, and more.

29.Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki
Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki Jillian Tamaki
This juxtaposition of everyday teen issues with a high school for mutants and witches is chock-full of sly humor, surprising twists, and unexpected delights—not to mention inimitable illustrations and visual style.

30.Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar
Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar Shveta Thakrar
Sheetal misses her mom, a star who returned to the heavens years ago. But as Sheetal’s birthday approaches, she finds herself in those same heavens, navigating the sparkling, glass-edged world of Thakrar’s glorious imagination.

31.Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly
Lalani and the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly Erin Entrada Kelly
A brave girl from an island village surrounded by dangerous waters must venture out and save her world. Kelly sensitively handles themes like bullying and belonging, wrapped gorgeously in this ode to Filipino myths and legends.

32.The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad
The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad Nafiza Azad
A sumptuously wrought story of humanity and empathy, feminism and romance, defiance and courage. You’ll love the Silk Road setting, the complicated growth of the female characters, and the kissing.

33.Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamed
Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamed Premee Mohamed
Nick’s best friend Johnny is a genius—but when she invents a clean reactor, she awakens primal Ancient Ones set to destroy humanity. As Nick and Johnny try to save the world, Beneath the Rising reaches for the stars and asks really big questions.

34.This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone Amal El-Mohtar Max Gladstone
Spy versus spy, enemies to lovers, and nature vs. technology…and how they come together in a story about forging a connection beyond the boundaries of time. Wordplay fans, this one’s for you!

35.When Fox Is a Thousand by Larissa Lai
When Fox Is a Thousand by Larissa Lai Larissa Lai
Lai weaves three voices in her reconstruction of the myth of the Fox: the thousand-year-old fox itself, Taoist poet Yu Hsuan-Chi, and modern-day Artemis. This is a fairytale, a legend, and a parable, all entwined with Lai’s lyricism.

36.Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng
Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng Jeannette Ng
In Ng’s filigreed Gothic novel, Victorian missionaries travel to the mysterious heart of Arcadia, testing their faith as they seek to bring Christianity to a foreign people. But things in Arcadia are not always as they seem…

37.Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn
Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn Sarah Kuhn
Superheroines in San Francisco! The Devil Wears Prada meets the X-Men as Evie Tanaka balances working for her famous friend, raising her sister, a budding romance, a demonic invasion, and her own superpowers.

38.Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin Grace Lin
Minli, seeking to change her family’s fortune, goes on an extraordinary journey through the legends of Chinese folklore—and befriends a dragon. Buy the hardcover version for the magnificent illustrations!

39.Bestiary by K-Ming Chang
Bestiary by K-Ming Chang K-Ming Chang
Chang’s wildly inventive, fabulist debut opens with a girl who grows a tiger tail and proceeds to gorgeously decant a multi-generational story about immigration and belonging, roots and hauntings, queer stories, and all sorts of transformations.

40.The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh Renée Ahdieh
Shahrzad comes to the king so that she can kill him in revenge for her best friend’s murder, but she finds a bigger conspiracy to unravel. Pretty prose and satisfying fight scenes mark this One Thousand and One Nights retelling.

41.Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells
Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells Rebecca Kim Wells
When a corrupt emperor’s agents kidnap Maren’s girlfriend, the obvious response is to steal a dragon, right? Dragon lovers, this one’s for you! And read on for a lost prince, a strange underground beast, and a prophecy that could upend an empire.

42.Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani https://www.sirensconference.org/news/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Chanani.jpg
A gorgeous graphic novel about Priyanka’s desire to know more about India and her family there—and her mother’s refusal to tell her. But then Pri finds a magic pashmina that seemingly transports her to India. Or does it?

43.The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi
The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi Nahoko Uehashi
A young, unassuming girl trains to be a doctor to fearsome beasts in a world where mastery of said beasts is levered for political advantage. Epic worldbuilding rife with complex questions of morality, ritual, and resistance.

44.Ash by Malinda Lo
Ash by Malinda Lo Malinda Lo
A groundbreaking retelling of Cinderella. In the wake of her father’s death, drowning in grief, Ash dreams of fairies—and then meets one who can give her everything she wants. But then she also meets the King’s huntress and love blooms—and Ash must choose.

45.Markswoman by Rati Mehrotra
Markswoman by Rati Mehrotra Rati Mehrotra
Need we say more than “female assassins with magical knives”? Perhaps not, but as Mehrotra’s work opens, the order is rent by death and politics, and Kyra goes on the run—to find not only succor, but a chance to seek justice—or vengeance.

46.Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker, illustrated by Wendy Xu
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker, illustrated by Wendy Xu Suzanne Walker Wendy Xu
Queer, adorable, and magical are words to describe this graphic novel featuring a hard-of-hearing witch and a nonbinary werewolf. Read to enjoy unconventional families, bookshops, cute towns, and banter to rival the Gilmore Girls!

47.The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo Yangsze Choo
In this historical fantasy set in 1930s colonial Malaysia, an apprentice dressmaker moonlighting as a dancehall girl crosses paths with a houseboy on a mission. How could we not love a juxtaposition of creepy severed fingers against a lush, dreamy atmosphere.

48.Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri Tasha Suri
In this Mughal India-inspired fantasy, Mehr’s status as the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an oppressed race of magicians draws all the wrong attention–and she’ll need all her cleverness and resilience to save her world.

49.The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart Andrea Stewart
Transgression and revolution are the heart of Stewart’s epic fantasy, as Lin, daughter of a failing emperor, must fight to reclaim her magic and her throne. Intricate, eerie, and propulsive, you won’t be able to put this down.

50.Burning Roses by S.L. Huang
Burning Roses by S.L. Huang S.L. Huang
In this fairytale remix, Huang gifts readers with two middle-aged lesbian heroes, called to service once more, but reckoning with their own monstrousness and the opportunity for forgiveness. A blazing, fierce, thought-provoking deconstruction.

Sirens at Home: We’ve tracked thousands of fantasy books by women, nonbinary, and trans authors for our Sirens bookstore. This is what we found

Once upon a time, we realized that Sirens attendees were looking for a different kind of bookstore. A bookstore that didn’t just stock commercial bestsellers or the same list of ten fantasy “classics” written by dead white cisgender men, but one that highlighted the luminous literature of our conference: the women, nonbinary, and trans authors publishing brilliant books in the fantasy and speculative space. Books written by and featuring people of all races, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, religions, ages, and bodies. These would be the books found in prime placement on tables, face-out at eye level on bookshelves, or enthusiastically recommended in a book talk. Books in which our voraciously well-read community could discover something new, something surprising, something personal.

Sirens Bookstre 2018 Sirens Bookstre 2018

Those who have attended our conference know our bookstore is a once-a-year pop-up that takes a few folks on our bookstore team a year to exhaustively research and our entire on-site conference staff a half day to lovingly unpack and arrange. Each year since 2012, it has grown in size, to over two thousand titles lining the shelves and tables in our community room, where conference attendees can browse and purchase as many books as they desire. And because we cannot gather safely in person in 2020, we’re offering a unique look behind the scenes as part of Sirens at Home: a peek into our data for bookstore sourcing for the past five years.

Why tracking this is important

Each year, in order to accurately and broadly stock our pop-up bookstore with books by women, nonbinary, and trans authors, we spend countless hours prowling through catalogs, new book lists, publisher websites, social media, and bookstores. We attempt to track and identify authors who identify as LGBTQIAP+ and authors who identify as BIPOC to ensure that our lists are inclusive as possible. We showcase some of this work in our annual suggested reading list and reading challenge, our monthly new release book lists, as well as specially curated lists by affinity or identity, like our list of 150 queer speculative works, 50 brilliant speculative works by Black authors, and 50 Latinx authors and books to celebrate Latinx Heritage Month.

We’ve prided ourselves on knowing exactly what is being published in this space, and when, and by whom. Over the years, we’ve realized that our efforts are singular; we don’t see anyone else tracking this kind of data so we’ve had to do it ourselves. The data presented below begins with 2016, the first year we had meaningful complete data to draw conclusions from.

We know that not many women, nonbinary, and trans authors—particularly those who also identify as LGBTQIAP+ or BIPOC—get major publisher support or wide distribution in sales channels. We know that even major publishing houses have modest margins and depend on their backlist in order to be able to acquire and publish new voices. In the age of Amazon, we know how challenging retail environments are even in pre-pandemic times, and how many bookstores rely on those bestsellers and classics to keep the lights on. But that is exactly why we are especially scouring the catalogs of small independent presses and looking to international markets, and that is also exactly why the Sirens bookstore exists. For a few days each year, we make real our kind of bookstore—one that is queer, diverse, intersectional, and fiercely inclusive.

What this data is

We know any data project is imperfect. At its core, we are basing this project off of the thousands of books published in 2016-2020 that we’ve tracked and researched, for consideration to stock in our Sirens bookstore. In the data we’re about to present, we have chosen only to highlight 1,600 of those books that fulfill the following criteria, and thus are:

  • What Sirens defines as speculative literature. We know that the lines that delineate genre categories are thin and arbitrary. We are a conference on gender in fantasy literature, and while that includes second-world fantasy, horror, dystopia, contemporary and urban fantasy, fabulism, space opera, and paranormal romance, we cannot claim to comprehensively include science fiction even though we stock it—and we fully know some of the books in these subgenres are listed as such.
  • Books that may not be categorized as fantasy or science fiction, but befits this definition. This includes titles that might be shelved as literary fiction, mystery, thriller, magical realism, and others.
  • Published in or translated to English, particularly by or through an American publisher. Though we do track books published in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, if an American edition exists, that is the year and publisher it is listed under.
  • Novels, novellas, graphic novels, or collections of poetry or short stories. Novels, novellas, and graphic novels may have two or more contributors to a single narrative; poetry or short fiction collections only have one contributor.
  • Newly published standalone works or the first book in a series. Because our Sirens bookstore prioritizes discovery, we rarely stock sequels, movie novelizations, or reissues. Occasionally we will stock a special edition or sequel (usually by our guests of honor).
  • Intended for an adult, young adult, or middle grade audience. We do not yet include chapter books, picture books, or other formats or age groups, though we know that books for even younger readers have even more potential for fantasy and speculative elements.
  • Published by third-party publishers, which includes traditional presses including Big Five publishers and independent publishers of various size, but not self-published works. We have specifically looked at small independent publishers leading the way, since we know many of the works we source are not often acquired or supported by major presses; at the same time, we cannot keep track of all self-published works in this space.
  • Our best attempt to track authors who identify as LGBTQIAP+, BIPOC, or both. Our disclaimers and reasoning are explained in their respective sections below, and while it will be stated many times, our numbers reflect only authors who publicly identify as such.

What this data isn’t

As comprehensive as we aspire our data to be, and as many identities and experiences as we aim to uplift at Sirens, some aspects are nearly impossible for our small volunteer team to track and verify. Our survey of 1,600 books does not span:

  • Books written by cisgender men as the sole author(s). All books in this dataset are speculative fiction and have at least one female, nonbinary, or trans collaborator, since we know some books—particularly comic books or serial novels—have teams of writers. We cannot comment on the state of speculative fiction publishing as a whole.
  • The breadth of comics publishing, though we often did include first collected volumes of superhero comics like Wonder Woman or Shuri (but not individual issues).
  • Books that have been released eBook or eAudio only—we’re a pop-up bookstore so we’ve only tracked books that have a print version available.
  • Disability and neurodivergence. Though we so deeply admire authors who have publicly discussed their disability or neurodivergence—and even become outspoken advocates—we know many choose not to disclose their condition for reasons personal to them.
  • Religion. While we track some of this information if we are able to find it, such as authors who publicly identify as Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu, we don’t have enough comprehensive data. While there is much to unpack about fantasy and allegory, religion, too, is deeply personal for each author and individual.
  • Body diversity. We value all body types and sizes at Sirens, and more so in speculative literature where we are not limited to the homogenous standards of beauty presented in our day-to-day lives. But this data, too, is difficult to track in a significant way.

Though not reflected below, our bookstore also stocks: anthologies; select nonfiction as it relates to feminism, gender, intersectionality; and literary criticism and scholarly work on speculative fiction that befits our educational mission.

What we tracked

If we held Sirens in-person this year, we would have stocked over 2,000 individual titles, with over 1,000 of these from this dataset of 1,600. The question of whether we got better at tracking is certainly up for debate, but it looks like the years 2019 and 2020 we significantly increased our number of books tracked—or very likely, expanded our definition of speculative fiction. We noticed that fewer books were being published this year, from 440 in 2019 to 368 in 2020 (likely from COVID-19-related publishing delays).

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors by Year

Out of the books in this data set, these were the rough categories we’ve imposed for our own bookstore research, sourcing, and organizing:

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors Fantasy vs. SF

Nearly all books in the “Both” category were short story collections by a single author that spanned both fantasy and science fiction.

For our own sorting, we separated out Adult, Young Adult, and Middle Grade categories. The two others require a bit more explanation:

  • Graphic: This includes graphic novels or comics, but doesn’t include middle grade books with spot illustrations. It also includes all age groups.
  • Short: This includes short fiction collections and novellas. It also can either be for young adults or adults, though most of these books are adult.

We told you it wasn’t perfect!

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors Fantasy by Category

But because we’re Sirens, what we really wanted to see was how many of those books were written by an author with a publicly verified LGBTQIAP+ and/or BIPOC identity:

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors LGBTQIAP+ and/or BIPOC Authors

We also took a look at the 1,000+ books from this data set of 1,600 books that we would have stocked in this year’s Sirens bookstore—and it turns out that, of those 1,000+ books, 48% (almost half!) would have been by at least one creator who identifies as LGBTQIAP+, BIPOC, or both. That translates to nearly 500 books out of this data set alone!

By publisher

As stated above, we have intentionally looked beyond major publishers to also include smaller independent presses and works published in English from non-U.S. markets. How have those numbers compared to the works published by the Big Five publishing houses here in the United States? The Big Five publishers are: Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster and their in-house imprints under their respective umbrellas (Tor at Macmillan, Del Rey at Penguin Random House, for instance). These imprints under their parent companies have in-house marketing, publicity, and sales teams.

Publishers out of the Big Five range from small to midsized and even large in some other spheres of publishing. Educational giants such as Scholastic and entertainment companies like Disney have trade divisions as well as their own marketing, publicity, and sales teams, as do midsized publishers like Abrams and Workman. Some publishers like BOOM! Studios, Candlewick, and Chronicle are distributed by one of the Big Five, which means that they share a sales team but may have their own marketing and publicity teams. Smaller independent presses are distributed by yet other channels. The list of non-Big Five Publishers is truly exhaustive, but we’d like to give a shout-out to: Aqueduct Press, Small Beer Press, Sourcebooks, and Tachyon Publications—all presses whose books we stock often in our bookstore, as well as UK presses like Angry Robot and Titan.

Note: Because the data reflects the years 2016-2020, we have included Harlequin in HarperCollins’s numbers as it was acquired in 2014, but Disney Hyperion would remain separate from Hachette until 2020.

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors by Publisher

Though Penguin Random House is the largest publisher and has absorbed many speculative fiction imprints of yore, Macmillan has a larger percentage of titles we track perhaps because of their robust publishing programs from Tor, Tor.com, and various young reader imprints—and do recall, we are particularly tracking new voices in gender and speculative fiction, not series. A portion of HarperCollins’s numbers are YA—particularly fantasy—which dropped off significantly from 2019 to 2020.

The books we stock in the Sirens bookstore follows this breakdown closely, with a few percentage points in favor of Macmillan and Non-Big Five publishers, but not enough to be statistically significant. Curious to see which imprints and presses have the most books in our bookstore?

Top Presses and Imprints in the Sirens Bookstore

Note: We know a lot of children’s and young reader imprints are doing great work, but due to the consolidated nature of children’s publishing, individual imprints at Big Five houses share the same marketing, publicity, and sales teams. The number of young adult and middle grade books we ended up stocking were relative to the publisher’s size.

LGBTQIAP+ authors

Sirens is first and foremost a conference about gender in speculative literature, and one of our goals is to uplift authors who identify as queer, which encompasses lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, asexual, pansexual, and other identities (LGBTQIAP+) on a wide spectrum. We acknowledge that our numbers reflected here only include authors who are publicly out, either in an official biography, in a public interview, or on social media.

We are unable to provide a further breakdown of LGBTQIAP+ authors by category because these labels are rightfully fluid and may include multiple identities, and people often simply use “queer” to self-identify publicly. Please note that these books reflect number of standalone or first-in-series books by queer authors in this time period.

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors LGBTQIAP+ Authors by Year

Although the trend is encouraging, it must be observed that only 18.1% of new books by women, nonbinary, and trans authors in the speculative space in the past five years have at least one LGBTQIAP+ creator. Again, with a grain of salt that our tracking has gotten better each year since 2016, the percentage has risen as well, to 2020 being 22.0%.

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors LGBTQIAP+ Authors: Publishers vs. Sirens Bookstore

BIPOC authors

At Sirens, we acknowledge the lasting and deep-seated traumas of colonialism. Our data reflecting authors who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) is even less perfect, as is our attempt to break down the category of People of Color. Like with our authors who identify as LGBTQIAP+, our numbers reflected here only include authors who have publicly identified as BIPOC, either in an official biography, in a public interview, or on social media.

We have separated our data for BIPOC into the following categories, again fully acknowledging they are deeply imperfect: Black, Indigenous, Latinx, East Asian/Southeast Asian/Pacific Islander, South Asian/Middle Eastern, and Multiracial which contains more than one of the above categories. If authors identified as one of these categories and white, they were counted in that category. We also fully recognize that Latinx, as a colonialist construct, is a complicated identifier meant to include the communities of Mexico, Central America, and South America, but also includes white women of European descent. We have listed Afro-Latinx folk under Multiracial.

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors BIPOC Authors by Year

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors BIPOC Authors Breakdown

2020 marked a significant increase of around 9% of the previous years, 2016-2019, with an average of still only 21.9% of published titles in our criteria being authored by BIPOC. Current U.S. Census data [source] shows that only 60.1% of Americans identify as white, non-Hispanic, whereas we have included our Hispanic-identifying folks under Latinx. It is interesting to see that the categories of East/Southeast Asian/Pacific Islander and South Asian/Middle Eastern have a combined percentage of around 10%, despite being only 6% of the U.S. population. All other groups are underrepresented, especially published authors identifying as Indigenous and Multiracial.

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors BIPOC Authors: Publishers vs. Sirens Bookstore

Conclusions

Over the past five years, we have observed—truly, with our imperfect data—that publishers of speculative fiction have indeed published more LGBTQIAP+ and BIPOC new voices, even if the increases are slight and a small piece of the overall publishing landscape befitting our criteria. These are our takeaways:

  • The increase has primarily been 2019 to 2020, with a 5% jump for LGBTQIAP+ voices and a 9% jump for BIPOC voices. There are many possible explanations for this, with 2020 being a singular year in several respects: the COVID-19 pandemic, social movements supporting Black Lives Matter and transgender individuals, and one of the most fraught election years in U.S. history. We can deduce—loosely—that while fewer books were published from 2019 to 2020, a greater percentage of the books that were published were authored by LGBTQIAP+ and BIPOC voices. This is a trend worth noting, but at Sirens, we lament that it took this extraordinary set of circumstances to see these increases.
  • Given that our LGBTQIAP+ and BIPOC data is publicly verified by authors, we also acknowledge that, in the 2020 literary landscape, more authors may have felt more comfortable publicly acknowledging and discussing these aspects of their identities, when they may not have previously.
  • Even with these percentages, it is significant to note that out of all the new books we tracked by women, nonbinary, and trans authors from 2016-2020, two thirds of them—around 65%—were being written by cisgender, heterosexual white women. Only in 2020 has that percentage come down to 55%.
  • Big Five publishers—Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster—are slightly below LGBTQIAP+ and BIPOC percentages than non-Big Five publishers, around 4.1% and 3.5% respectively. We can’t say this is statistically significant, but we can say…
  • In the Sirens bookstore, we do our best to provide a larger selection of books relating to gender in speculative fiction by marginalized creators. Out of the 1,600 books we tracked in this dataset, we would have stocked over 1,000 of them in this year’s Sirens bookstore—and of those 1,000 titles, 25.0% would have been by LGBTQIAP+ authors, and 30.9% would have been by BIPOC authors. Given that some creators of course identify as both LGBTQIAP+ and BIPOC, 48% of those 1,000 works that we would have stocked—or nearly 500 titles—would have been by creators who identify as LGBTQIAP+, BIPOC, or both. (And as a reminder, our bookstore would have stocked over 2,000 titles in total this year!)

Sirens is a conference on gender in fantasy literature, presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. If you appreciated this analysis or support our mission of discussing and celebrating gender diversity in speculative spaces, and you are able, please consider making a monetary donation here.

Sirens at Home is holding a virtual Books and Tea on Saturday, October 24 at 4:00 p.m. Mountain Time (6:00 p.m. Eastern Time) with some of our bookstore staff, who will share books they love and books they’re excited to read. Please learn more about Sirens at Home here, and register to receive your event links via Zoom.

 

Fifty Latinx Authors and Books to Celebrate Latinx Heritage Month

Happy Latinx Heritage Month! September 15-October 15 is federally recognized as National Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States. While every month is worth examining the colonialist histories, commemorating the cultures, and recognizing the contributions of individuals with heritage from North, Central, and South America, we at Sirens would like to take a moment to feature the extraordinary speculative work of fifty of these individuals.

In taking this moment, we would also like to acknowledge the complexity of the terms “Latinx” and the even less perfect “Hispanic.” Both are words rooted in European imperialism and its subsequent violent transgressions against Black and indigenous bodies, and these terms are still exclusionary. We are committed to interrogating the power structures that have historically pushed light-skinned, Spanish-speaking women to the forefront—those who come to mind when presented with the term “Latina”—as well as uplifting Afro-Latinx and Indigenous voices.

There’s so much more to Latinx speculative work than the incomparable work of Isabel Allende and Laura Esquivel, and we encourage you to ponder our incredible list of fifty speculative works by fifty magnificent Latinx women, nonbinary, and trans authors. Some of these works are written by immigrants or diaspora members a few generations beyond; others are translated into English from Spanish. They follow rich literary lineages of magical realism and fabulism, or remake SFF entirely on their own terms. They look to the past or the future or sit in the complicated present. They skewer colonialism with an incisive point or gently weave in regional myths and folklore. Fifty works of novels, short stories, and poetry—all blazing and all magical.

And if you’re looking to buy these books, check out this list of bookstores owned by Latinx folks, courtesy of Latinx in Publishing!

  1. Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera
    Never Look Back Lilliam Rivera

    This modern retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice in the Bronx pulses with the bachata rhythm of hazy summer nights. Come for the cute romance, stay for the examination of colonialism, toxic masculinity, mental health, and intertwined mythologies.

  2. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
    Her Body and Other Parties Carmen Maria Machado

    Fuck-you feminist stories about men who can’t leave well enough alone, the exploitation of women by popular culture, what it means to be a hysterical woman, and more. Breathtaking, dazzling, shattering.

  3. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
    Cemetery Boys Aiden Thomas

    A Latinx trans boy with a traditional family tries to prove he’s a brujo by summoning a ghost. But he summons the wrong boy—and falls for him instead! A cozy, heartfelt book about strength, affirmation, and honoring your truth.

  4. Heartwood: Non-Binary Tales of Sylvan Fantasy edited by Joamette Gil
    Heartwood: Non-Binary Tales of Sylvan Fantasy Joamette Gil

    Gil curates a collection of nonbinary creators’ graphic works about finding yourself and your power in that most mystical of places: the wood. Buy this one in hardcover if you can: It has gilded edges!

  5. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
    Gods of Jade and Shadow Silvia Moreno-Garcia

    In 1920s Mexico, Casiopea opens a box while cleaning her grandfather’s house and accidentally frees the Mayan god of death. In this swingin’ blend of fantasy and Mexican folklore, she makes a bargain that starts an odyssey.

  6. Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina García
    Dreaming in Cuban Cristina García

    Set against the backdrop of the Cuban revolution, Dreaming in Cuban explores the lives of three generations of Cuban women and their magic. Transcendently beautifully crafted, wrought with magical realism, and full of complex women.

  7. Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore
    Dark and Deepest Red Anna-Marie McLemore

    No one writes queer fairytales like McLemore, and this one will swallow you whole with its luscious prose, swoonworthy romance, and inexplicably cursed shoes. You’ll want to sink into this glorious work that spans centuries.

  8. Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez
    Nightlights Lorena Alvarez

    A gorgeously illustrated exploration of fear, bravery and creativity. Sandy is a daydreamer trying to navigate a world of rules and schedules—but a mysterious new girl helps her realize the value of her art and, yes, math.

  9. The Tiger’s Daughter by K Arsenault Rivera
    The Tiger’s Daughter K Arsenault Rivera

    An elegant, lavish epic fantasy about two fierce girls—one a future empress, the other a warlord—and their blazing, unstoppable love for each other, even with so much of an empire against them.

  10. American Street by Ibi Zoboi
    American Street Ibi Zoboi

    When her mother is detained by immigration, Fabiola continues to Detroit to stay with her raucous cousins. Zoboi’s magical work melds hard, unfamiliar Detroit with Haitian Vodou and Fabiola’s perceptions of America to create something new.

  11. Love, Sugar, Magic: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano
    Love, Sugar, Magic: A Dash of Trouble Anna Meriano

    This book gathers you up with scents of cinnamon and cardamom and baking bread and sugary cookies, and then delivers a smart girl-power story about growing up and making mistakes and claiming your place.

  12. The Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia
    The Murmur of Bees Sofía Segovia

    Historical fiction meets magical realism in the first of Segovia’s work translated into English. During the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish flu pandemic, a child cloaked in bees is born with a cleft palate and visions of the future.

  13. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
    Labyrinth Lost Zoraida Córdova

    Alex is a magic-hating bruja, so she casts a canto to rid herself of her powers. But it backfires (obviously) and she must embrace her power (and find her courage) to save her family. Bursting with adventure and humanity.

  14. Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega
    Ghost Squad Claribel Ortega

    A charming book for lovers of spooky things and found family, centering a plucky Dominican-American girl and her spunky best friend. Ortega adds a magical cat and a witchy grandma, and conjures an adventure that’s also a tender portrayal of grief.

  15. Blud by Rachel McKibbens
    Blud Rachel McKibbens

    McKibbens’s fierce poetry collection is unflinching, essential reading. Her precise language paints the clearest of pictures, while giving the reader space to breathe—and consider her examination of trauma, violence, heartbreak, and ultimately beauty.

  16. On These Magic Shores by Yamile Saied Méndez
    On These Magic Shores Yamile Saied Méndez

    An unapologetic deconstruction of Peter Pan, On These Magic Shores sings the stories of immigrant children who have no choice but to grow up. After her mom disappears, young Minnie cares for two sisters—but who says there can’t be some pixie dust?

  17. Infomocracy by Malka Older
    Infomocracy Malka Older

    In this political, techy, futuristic thriller that made all the Best of Year lists, geographical borders span continents and the heroes are data analysts, stats wizards, and cyberpunks. You’ll race through Older’s brilliant take on microdemocracy.

  18. The Island of Eternal Love by Daína Chaviano
    The Island of Eternal Love Daína Chaviano

    The most-translated Cuban book of all time, The Island of Eternal Love is a multigenerational tale of hauntings and great loves, and that complicated, magical place that Cuba occupies in the hearts of exiles living in Miami.

  19. We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
    We Set the Dark on Fire Tehlor Kay Mejia

    Thoughtful worldbuilding lights up this all-Latinx dystopia, where girls are trained to become the wives of powerful men. Walled borders, immigration politics, and a swoony queer twist await you; read when you want to burn it all down.

  20. Curse of the Night Witch by Alex Aster
    Curse of the Night Witch Alex Aster

    On a magical island, folks are born with a marking that determines their fate. But Tor doesn’t like his, so he embarks on a quest for the Night Witch. Aster’s gem of a story about stories interweaves Latinx folktales (and monsters!).

  21. Diamond City by Francesca Flores
    Diamond City Francesca Flores

    A kickass assassin girl—unloved and unwanted by society—finds her worth and takes down false idols in an industrial fantasy setting. Be prepared for blood, magic, an irresistible city setting, and a blistering fast pace. Did we mention murder?

  22. Submerged, Volume 1 by Vita Ayala, with Lisa Sterle
    Submerged, Volume 1 Vita Ayala

    Siblings are at the heart of this ethereal comic that begins in the NYC subways during a storm. The themes of queer identity, complex family dynamics, and infusion of Greek myth all invite readers to dive right in.

  23. Iron Cast by Destiny Soria
    Iron Cast Destiny Soria

    A speakeasy-style novel, set in Boston 1919, where two inseparable friends can do magic—illegal magic. And in this world of persecution, Iron Cast delves deep on the bravery, humanity, and support required to be someone society doesn’t privilege.

  24. Muse Squad by Chantel Acevedo
    Muse Squad Chantel Acevedo

    A Cuban-American girl happens to be the muse—yes, from Greek myth—of epic poetry. And there are other junior muses! Magic! And a Muse Headquarters! An adorable book about being moved by something, whether that’s to create art or change the world.

  25. Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin
    Mouthful of Birds Samanta Schweblin

    These twenty mesmerizing, eerie short stories translated from Spanish carry on the rich tradition of psychological horror mixed in with the surreal and fantastical. Try not to read before bed, though; they are meant to make you shiver.

  26. The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante
    The Grief Keeper Alexandra Villasante

    When a Salvadorian girl is caught crossing the border, she can stay in the US, legally, by absorbing grief into her own body to save a life. A gentle work of immigration, class, queer love, and traumas that bury those with few options.

  27. Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
    Summer of the Mariposas Guadalupe Garcia McCall

    Five Mexican-American sisters cross the border—and end up in their own reinvented Odyssey, full of monsters and magic. Sometimes, you very much need your sisters—all your sisters—to get you through.

  28. Kingdom of Women by Rosalie Morales Kearns
    Kingdom of Women Rosalie Morales Kearns

    In the near future, vengeful women wreak vigilante justice and the only female Catholic priest left becomes a reluctant hero. Kingdom of Women deconstructs justice, morality, and mercy within oppressed systems too close to our own.

  29. The Haunted Girl by Lisa M. Bradley
    The Haunted Girl Lisa M. Bradley

    Tinged with autobiography, queer Tejana Bradley’s poetry runs vast and wild, as she explores monstrousness, danger, decay, and unexpected beauty in this collection. Bradley looks into the abyss in her work. Will you?

  30. Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez
    Woven in Moonlight Isabel Ibañez

    Lovers of complex court intrigue, rejoice! In a fantasy Bolivia, a decoy royal finally gets an opportunity to exact revenge on her oppressors—but rebellion is always more complicated than one hopes. Also: the opulent banquet descriptions!

  31. Lobizona by Romina Garber
    Lobizona Romina Garber

    When a girl is caught between US immigration hell and the stigma of her starry yellow eyes in her native Argentina, Garber brings in witches and werewolves! With nods to Argentine lore and cozy boarding schools, Lobizona is ultimately about belonging

  32. America, Volume 1 by Gabby Rivera, with Joe Quinones
    America, Volume 1 Gabby Rivera

    Your fave Young Avenger now has her own origin story. Rivera’s America Chavez is surrounded by her Latinx communities, attends college, and ponders her place in the multiverse. And Captain America’s along for the ride.

  33. Beastgirl and Other Origin Myths by Elizabeth Acevedo
    Beastgirl and Other Origin Myths Elizabeth Acevedo

    Award-winning poet Acevedo’s slim but impactful volume of poetry centers on Dominican-American identity and culture. The work is contemporary, infused with mythology and a dash of folklore, celebrating fierce, beastly girls.

  34. Trinity Sight by Jennifer Givhan
    Trinity Sight Jennifer Givhan

    Weaving together Chicanx and indigenous storytelling with apocalyptic fiction, this tapestry of a novel intertwines science and faith, ancestry and legacy, nature and climate change—and it stars an anthropology professor pregnant with twins.

  35. Nocturna by Maya Motayne
    Nocturna Maya Motayne

    A shapeshifting face stealer matches wits with a grief-ridden prince in this realm based on Dominican culture. But when an evil god is accidentally released from capture, their high fantasy adventure starts—and they must team up to save the world.

  36. Spirits of the Ordinary by Kathleen Alcalá
    Spirits of the Ordinary Kathleen Alcalá

    This magical, multigenerational tale follows a family in northern Mexico at the turn of the last century—and centers faith with its Catholic society, Jewish family, and exploration of the beliefs and persecution of Indigenous peoples.

  37. Women Who Run with the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés
    Women Who Run with the Wolves Author

    Estés collects and explores fairy tales, folklore, and myths surrounding the wild woman archetype—and then argues that women have been suffocated, constrained, civilized out of our magical, feral natures.

  38. Dark Constellations by Pola Oloixarac
    Dark Constellations Pola Oloixarac

    This techy, cyberpunky book of big ideas will confound genre purists but is a reward for lovers of experimental fiction. Three narratives set in Argentina and beyond, over 150 years, are tied together by the dark spaces between the lights.

  39. Category Five by Ann Dávila Cardinal
    Category Five Ann Dávila Cardinal

    Apocalypse already came to Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria made landfall. In its aftermath, a group of teens must solve a paranormal murder mystery, somehow tied to reawakened dead ever since the developers began building the new resort.

  40. All of Us with Wings by Michelle Ruiz Keil
    All of Us with Wings Author

    This punk-rock coming-of-age novel about found family and recovery from trauma is set in an alternate, witchy San Francisco. Sometimes the journey to find yourself is filled with twists, magical beings, and a whole lot of free love.

  41. Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
    Echo Pam Muñoz Ryan

    A true opus that traces a magical harmonica through the lives of three children in 1930s/40s. Framed as a fairytale with a heart of historical fiction, Echo illuminates the power of music to inspire hope, kindness and courage in the most difficult times.

  42. All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry
    All the Wind in the World Samantha Mabry

    Set in a wasteland post-environmental collapse, multiracial Sarah Jac works on a farm in the Southwest with her forbidden sweetheart. All the Wind in the World is a western at its core, musing on the ways land and its workers have been pushed to the brink.

  43. All These Monsters by Amy Tintera
    All These Monsters Author

    You think this is a dystopian novel about fighting giant scarabs, large monsters that are threats to humans across the globe, but it’s really about how a biracial Mexican-American girl learns how to break the cycle of abuse and begin to heal.

  44. Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
    Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

    Three years ago, after ICE raids and a trek across the border, Sia’s mom disappeared. But then Sia discovers a spacecraft—and her mom. A magical, lyrical look at grief, reconciliation, and humanity.

  45. Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes
    Chilling Effect Valerie Valdes

    Who doesn’t want space opera with pirates, alien emperors and psychic cats? Or kidnapped sisters, shady jobs, and shadowy crime syndicates? With lovable characters and a delightful Latinx cast, you’ll want to be on Captain Eva Innocente’s crew.

  46. Wings Unseen by Rebecca Gomez Farrell
    Wings Unseen Rebecca Gomez Farrell

    Wings Unseen has all the juicy things you’re looking for in an epic fantasy: magical young people, a prophecy, political tensions between two kingdoms, mysterious religious cults, the world’s fate in the balance—and of course, a baddie.

  47. United States of Banana by Giannina Braschi
    United States of Banana Author

    This cheeky, allegorical story of Puerto Rican statehood features a Puerto Rican prisoner held under the Statue of Liberty for a hundred years. Once freed, political and economic implications compound. It’s a thinky book of big ideas.

  48. The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes
    The Storm Runner J.C. Cervantes

    Set in New Mexico, scrappy young heroes—one who walks with a cane, the other a shapeshifter—must outwit wily gods in this action-adventure woven with Mayan mythology. Who knew the volcano in the backyard led to another world?

  49. Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias
    Ink Sabrina Vourvoulias

    What if anti-immigrant rhetoric manifested into institutionalized population tracking? Vourvoulias’s America tattoos barcodes on everyone with their immigration history, and the ink muddles further the ideas of home, citizenship and community.

  50. Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez
    Sweet Black Waves Kristina Pérez

    Feuding kingdoms and forbidden romance abound in this lush, feminist retelling of Tristan and Eseult, but from the point of view of Branwen, Eseult’s lady’s maid. You’ll love Branwen’s powerful magic—and also that she’s had enough!

 

50 Brilliant Speculative Works by Black Authors

Black lives matter.

One might hope that speculative spaces—limited by only our imaginations—would be the vanguard of inclusion, representation, and recognizing the full humanity of marginalized people. But in practice, speculative spaces, like so many others, ignore or even silence marginalized voices with devastating regularity. We’ve all read pseudo-European fantasies with all-white casts, hand-waved away with the flagrantly false assertion that people of color did not live in medieval Europe. We’ve all read science fiction worlds with wildly imaginative tech, only to discover that, for all that inventiveness, their creators couldn’t imagine a future with people of color. We’ve all read accounts about the overwhelming obstacles placed in front of people of color who wish to become authors, illustrators, scholars, and publishing professionals, nonsensically explained as simply hiring “a known quantity,” “the best fit,” or “the most qualified.”

One of the goals of Sirens is to make space for, and then actively amplify, marginalized voices. Our society is premised on structures and systems that relentlessly amalgamate power in the hands of white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied men. We are committed to dismantling those structures and systems.

Today, as we are heartbroken, defiant, resolute, and hopeful, we strongly recommend that you put speculative works by Black women, nonbinary, and trans folks at the top of your reading list—and we offer you 50 brilliant speculative works to get you started. Surely you’ve already read L.A. Banks, Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, and Gloria Naylor, so our list includes another 50 authors and scholars, all Black, all brilliant, all blazingly bright.

These 50 works are about Black people, Black communities, about Black people seeking the stars, accomplishing six impossible things before breakfast, and changing the world. They are about Black heartbreak, Black defiance, Black resoluteness, and Black hope.

Read their words. Live in their worlds. Celebrate their power. Pass these messages on. And be sure to buy these—and other works—from Black-owned bookstores.

Black lives matter.

1. Redwood and Wildfire by Andrea Hairston
Redwood and Wildfire Andrea Hairston
This epic love story between a Black woman and a Seminole-Irish man at the turn of the last century is a journey of self and growth, an indictment of the legacy of American slavery, a well-researched history, a tragedy, a redemption. Hairston once shared that this book haunted her until she wrote it.

2. Bodyminds Reimagined by Dr. Sami Schalk
Bodyminds Reimagined Sami Schalk
Dr. Schalk brilliantly explores the intersection of Black feminist theory with disability studies and speculative fiction—by expertly placing the bodymind in the landscape of speculative works by Black women.

3. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Dread Nation Justina Ireland
Ireland has crafted a searing deconstruction of race and America, set post-Civil War, where the dead rise as zombies. Jane, trained in combat with other Black and brown girls, is the sort of subversive, dangerous heroine who gets shit done. You will love her.

4. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Freshwater Akwaeke Emezi
Ada, born “with one foot on the other side,” has a head full of gods. As she gets older, especially after she comes to the United States for college, those gods become increasingly assertive—until Ada herself is lost. A blazing work, with exquisite prose.

5. The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis
The Good Luck Girls Charlotte Nicole Davis
Five girls, sold into slavery as children, escape after one of them accidentally kills a man. Seeking an improbable legend, the girls need each other to survive. Full of Wild West ideas of freedom and revenge, but with Black girls, queer girls, angry girls, and more.

6. Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due
Ghost Summer Tananarive Due
A collection of masterful horror stories, but as you might expect, the horror isn’t born of werewolves and ghosts and monsters, but of ourselves, our society, our lack of humanity, our own monstrousness. The first story, both heart-rending and terrifying, will knock you flat.

7. Black Girl Unlimited by Echo Brown
Black Girl Unlimited Echo Brown
A strong, autobiographical debut where Echo Brown, a teenage girl from the East Side, finds portals to new worlds when she begins attending a rich school on the West Side. Through magical realism, Brown explores poverty, sexual violence, racism, and codeswitching—and the emotional toll they take.

8. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Sing, Unburied, Sing Jesmyn Ward
Ward claims the American road trip as foundation for a distinctively American story: one of race, love, and loss in the post-Katrina South, one of families rent by incarceration, one of the hauntings of American slavery. Sing, Unburied, Sing won Ward her second National Book Award and it’s damn close to perfect.

9. Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender
Queen of the Conquered Kacen Callender
In this Caribbean-inspired fantasy murder mystery, Sigourney is the surviving daughter of a noble lineage and has the power to control minds—and has vengeance on her mind. A cutting exploration of colonialism, slavery, trauma, and power structures, with more than a hefty serving of political intrigue.

10. Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson
Sister Mine Nalo Hopkinson
Twin sisters, born of a god and a mortal, conjoined until just after birth. In the separation one lost part of her leg, the other her mojo. Godly plots ensue. At its heart, this delightfully weird book is all about all-too-familiar family dynamics.

11. Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Bayou Magic Jewell Parker Rhodes
It’s Maddy’s turn to spend the summer with her grandmother in the bayou—but that bayou holds more magic than Maddy could ever have dreamed. A transcendent novel with compelling themes of Blackness, wonder and conservation.

12. Daughters of Nri by Reni K. Amayo
Daughters of NRI Reni K Amayo
Set an ancient, fantasy Igbo kingdom, Daughter of Nri envisions a world without colonialism or slavery, where Amayo’s culture and triumphs are centered and celebrated. Two goddesses grow up believing they are human girls and take down the man responsible for the lost gods.

13. Ancient, Ancient by Kiini Ibura Salaam
Ancient, Ancient Kiini Ibura Salaam
If you want vibrant, sensual, gut-punching, and wildly imaginative speculative stories centered on Black identity, gender, love, body, and becoming—you can do no better than Salaam’s collection here. Take your time with these—they’re stories to ponder and savor.

14. Searching for Sycorax by Dr. Kinitra D. Brooks
Searching for Sycorax Kinitra D. Brooks
An effortless close examination of the works of Black women in horror and how those works—so often ignored by other branches of scholarly inquiry—are both reshaping the genre and decentralizing its whiteness and maleness.

15. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Children of Blood and Bone Tomi Adeyemi
A bravura revolution of a book inspired by Black Lives Matter. Children of Blood and Bone is both a harrowing allegory for institutional racism and a deftly crafted rebel story set in fantasy West Africa featuring a princess with a sword and a sorceress who refuses to quit.

16. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
The Fifth Season N.K. Jemisin
A blazing book full of power deconstructions, desperate magics, and a hostile planet. You may as well buy the two sequels now because you’ll be needing them—and should we mention that all three books in the trilogy won the Best Novel Hugo in a back-to-back-to-back threepeat?

17. The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
The Summer Prince Alaya Dawn Johnson
Once a decade, a near-future matriarchal society in South America kills a boy in sacrifice. But this summer, in this burning, explosive book, June—full of passion, art, and revolution—wants to change Palmeres Tres.

18. M.F.K. by Nilah Magruder
M.F.K. Nilah Magruder
Reclusive Abbie just wants to scatter her mother’s ashes over the mountain, but in a world filled with sandstorms, wild beasts, sleeping gods, and mysterious magic, nothing’s that simple. Fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender will adore the desert world and heartfelt characters in this start of a graphic novel series.

19. Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett
Elysium Jennifer Marie Brissett
Interrelated stories show us breathtaking, earth-shaking love in many forms. Even as the characters, gender and sexual identities, settings, and relationships change, the powerful threads of love and loss remain true through Brissett’s profoundly original work—with a head-scratching twist that will blow you away.

20. American Street by Ibi Zoboi
American Street Ibi Zoboi
When her mother is detained by immigration, Fabiola continues to Detroit to stay with her raucous cousins. Zoboi’s magical work melds sometimes rough Detroit with Haitian Vodou and Fabiola’s perceptions of America to create something wholly new.

21. Slay by Brittney Morris
Slay Brittney Morris
A fantasy-adjacent YA, Slay is a smart musing on safe spaces through the lens of Kiera, one of the few Black kids at her school—who is also the creator of SLAY, a Black-only WoW-style game. A thoughtful book about privilege, safety, and belonging.

22. Two Moons by Krystal A. Smith
Two Moons Krystal A. Smith
An utterly joyful, delightful work full of Black mysticism and queerness: A woman falls in love with the moon. A woman births a goddess—and receives a surprising reward. A woman has a heart-to-heart…with her heart. You’ll never want this to end.

23. Orleans by Sherri L. Smith
Orleans Sherri L. Smith
In this near-future dystopia, the Gulf Coast has been ravaged by one hurricane too many and the region has been quarantined to reduce spread of a deadly disease. Orleans might feel a bit close right now, but the rich and thoughtful worldbuilding impresses, and Fen and Daniel must work together to do what they have to—to survive.

24. Butterfly Fish by Irenosen Okojie
Butterfly Fish Irenosen Okojie
Both wry and tragic, Okojie’s lyrical work alternates between present-day London, 1950s London, and 18th century Benin and centers around Joy, a photographer coping with the death of her mother. The interweaving of narratives speaks volumes on legacy and generational trauma. Lit nerds take note, this is a feast for lovers of form.

25. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin Roseanne A. Brown
A YA fantasy starring a Black princess and a refugee boy in the first of a duology inspired by West African folklore. If you’re a fan of athletic competitions in fantasy, get it! Plus a very slow burn enemies-to-lovers romance…and stabbing.

26. The Dark Fantastic by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas
The Dark Fantastic Ebony Elizabeth Thomas
A thoughtful criticism of the lack of diversity in speculative works as a fundamental lack of imagination. Focusing on four Black characters, Thomas incisively deconstructs how they’re treated both on the page and by consumers.

27. Power & Magic: The Queer Witch Comics Anthology edited by Joamette Gil
Power & Magic Queer Witches Comics Anthology Joamette Gil
15 original comics by a variety of creators, collected and edited by Afro-Cuban Joamette Gil, all on a theme of queer witches of color. This collection is all about finding and claiming your power—and finding and claiming yourself.

28. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
Who Fears Death Nnedi Okorafor
In a fantasy Sudan, Onyesonwu is born a daughter of weaponized rape. As she finds her path and ends the genocide of her people, unapologetically angry and immensely powerful Onyesonwu is the sort of heroine we all need.

29. Mother of the Sea by Zetta Elliott
Mother of the Sea Zetta Elliott
Elliott weaves Yoruba folklore seamlessly into the brutality of the Middle Passage in this riveting tale of horror, grief, and ultimately salvation.

30. The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez
The Gilda Stories Jewelle Gomez
A protagonist who is Black, a lesbian, and a vampire, in a book that is unrepentantly feminist and features powerful themes of found family. If you need a book about finding your place in an unwelcoming world, The Gilda Stories is that book.

31. The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
The Belles Dhonielle Clayton
Clayton tackles the pretty-girl competition trope, first by crafting a revolution led by gorgeous girls, but more subversively, deconstructing our racist stereotypes of beauty. A must-read for anyone rejecting beauty myths.

32. The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell
The Old Drift Namwali Serpell
A tour de force that begins in 1904, along the banks of the Zambezi River—and ends generations later, after years of wrongs, losses, and retributions among three families. The fairytale backdrop is simply spectacular, Serpell’s analysis of colonialism in Africa even more so.

33. What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky Lesley Nneka Arimah
Highly perceptive, impossibly original stories that feature Black characters and deconstruct our need to be connected: sometimes to other people, sometimes to a community, sometimes to an idea of place or home or culture. The violence of the first story is shocking, profound, heartbreaking.

34. Everfair by Nisi Shawl
Everfair Nisi Shawl
A spectacular alternate history, in which Shawl explores what might have been—in a steampunk Africa—if the Africans had developed technology before the colonizers. Tremendously complex, full of real insight, both human and political.

35. Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope
Song of Blood and Stone L. Penelope
As war looms, soldiers looking for shelter—and with erstwhile spy Jack in tow—commandeer biracial outcast Jasminda’s home. Jasminda and Jack help each other escape, and while romance blooms, they save millions of people.

36. The Deep by Rivers Solomon
The Deep Rivers Solomon
Descendants of the unborn babies thrown overboard during the Middle Passage still live in the Atlantic—but when Yetu rises to the surface, she discovers the world her people lost long ago. A powerful work about ancestral pain—and the possibility for joy.

37. The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow
The Sound of Stars Alechia Dow
Now that the aliens have invaded and all art is illegal, Ellie’s hoarding a secret library…except it’s found by a young Ilori commander. Though M0Rr1S was engineered to be devoid of emotion, he finds himself inexplicably drawn to human music, and their paths collide on road trip that might save humankind.

38. The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden
The Prey of Gods Nicky Drayden
An African-set tale of revolution, in which a very evil demi-god lady is defeated by a cross-dressing politician, a boy and his friend-maybe-boyfriend, a pop star and her dealer, an army of sentient droids, and a seriously powerful small girl.

39. Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron
Kingdom of Souls Rena Barron
Arrah is born into a family of witchdoctors but without (evident) powers of her own. When the Demon king stirs with a hunger for human souls, it’s up to Arrah to save the world. This West African-set fantasy features a dauntless girl and complex, powerful family dynamics.

40. Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Washington Black Esi Edugyan
A Jules Verne-ish adventure, told through the eyes of Wash, a slave in Barbados, an assistant to the plantation master’s brother in his scholarly pursuits. But also a story of a white man and a slave boy, and a nuanced look at Caribbean slavery.

41. Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves
Slice of Cherry Dia Reeves
Set in Reeves’s YA Portero universe, two Black sisters—daughters of the famed Bonesaw Killer—begin carving people up, leaving a trail of vigilante justice. Reeves’s work claims violence for Black women in this searing work of feminist revenge.

42. Lakewood by Megan Giddings
Lakewood Megan Giddings
Lakewood is a scientific research facility with the promise of wonders: medication to cure dementia and depression, eyedrops to make brown eyes blue. When a Black millennial has to pay back her family’s debts, being a test subject there sounds like a…solution? This chilling novel explores medical experimentation on Black bodies and the moral dilemmas the poor face in order to survive.

43. A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney
A Blade So Black L.L. McKinney
McKinney’s take on Alice in Wonderland is set in Atlanta and a fantastical Wonderland full of monsters. This Alice must grapple not just with teenage hormones and romance, but also fear of police brutality and family obligations—all while she kicks major ass taking down Nightmares.

44. The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste
The Jumbies Tracey Baptiste
The Haitian folktale “The Magic Orange Tree” is just a jumping off point for The Jumbies, the beginning of Baptiste’s middle-grade adventure series. Immerse yourself in Baptiste’s fantastical world inspired by Caribbean myths, and cheer for the gutsy, island-saving Corinne!

45. Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
Redemption in Indigo Karen Lord
When Paama finally leaves her awful husband, she attracts the attention of the djombi, who give her the Chaos Stick—but one of the djombi thinks the stick should be his. Utterly hilarious and utterly familiar to women the world over.

46. The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
The Icarus Girl Helen Oyeyemi
Oyeyemi’s impressive bibliography is full of gems, so we’ve listed her debut here, where she explores doppelgangers, split selves, and the theme of literary doubles in biracial Jessamy. She writes ambivalence and cultural displacement set against a backdrop of childhood, and her work here is equal parts surreal and devastating.

47. A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
A Song Below Water Bethany C. Morrow
Black mermaids in alternate Portland! In Morrow’s YA urban fantasy, Black girl sirens are maligned and considered dangerous, so they hide their identities and abilities in order to survive. Beautiful use of mythos to examine racial identity, sexism, and the myriad ways Black women are othered and oppressed—and you’ll love the sisterhood.

48. Conjure Women by Afia Atakora
Conjure Women Afia Atakora
Weaving narratives across two generations, Atakora’s debut is a masterpiece of historical fiction set before and after the Civil War. Miss May Belle and her daughter Rue are conjure women, folk healers who keep their community’s secrets while navigating an unconventional path to freedom.

49. A Phoenix Must First Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell
A Phoenix Must First Burn Patrice Caldwell
16 bright, shining tales of Black girl magic by renowned Black women and genderqueer writers, compiled by author and former children’s book editor Patrice Caldwell. Stories range from retold folktales to futuristic societies, centering Black girls as rebels, scientists, vampires, and more.

50. Remembrance by Rita Woods
Remembrance Rita Woods
An epic historical fantasy spanning two centuries and four points of view, Remembrance tells the impressive, head-spinning story of Black women creating safe haven and community—from 1700s Haiti to antebellum New Orleans to present day.

 

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