2019 Reading Challenge: Book by an Author of Color

In 2019, OPL invites patrons to take part in the reading challenge! Each month, OPL will highlight a theme and offer suggestions for titles to read or listen to. As you’re working through the challenge, feel free to tag @omahalibrary on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to let us know which read you picked up this month!

OPL's May reading challenge is to read a book by an author of color. This year's summer reading program theme is A Universe of Stories, and I am a science fiction reader, so I would like to highlight science fiction and fantasy writers. I have included writers of other genres in this list, in case you are more interested in reading something different.

Samuel R. Delany is one of the most celebrated writers in science fiction. His bold and experimental writing has won many awards and challenged conventions since the 1960s. You can see the wide range of his writing in “A, B, C: Three Short Novels, opens a new window,” which collects three very different works of his in one book. One of his best known works is the short story “Aye, and Gomorrah,” which appears in the compilation “Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction From the African Diaspora, opens a new window,” along with his excellent essay “Racism and Science Fiction.”

“Dark Matter” contains stories by a number of talented writers, including Octavia Butler. She is best known for her bleak, post-apocalyptic "Parable of the Sower, opens a new window” and for “Kindred,” the devastating time travel novel of the antebellum South. She is a great science fiction writer for people who do not usually read the genre, as her work is more grounded.

Check out some more recent contributors to the genre. Nnedi Okorafor has a trilogy of novellas, “Binti, opens a new window,” “Home” and “The Night Masquerade,” which tell of leaving home, loss, and the effects of war. Okorafor is critically acclaimed for her skill with world building within personal stories, and she is one of the leading voices in the subgenre of Afrofuturism.

Ted Chiang is a master of using unconventional and thought-provoking short fiction. I recommend starting with either “Stories of your Life and Others, opens a new window” or his soon to be released “Exhalation.” The title story of “Stories of Your Life” is the basis for the film “Arrival.”

Carmen Maria Machado is a new author. Her debut collection of stories “Her Body and Other Parties” is both creepy and compelling as it explores the horror of many women’s experiences.

Malka Older’s Centenal Cycle of “Infomocracy, opens a new window,” “Null States,” and “State Tectonics” is a cyberpunk dystopia of conspiracies and greed where a telecommunication monopoly has undue control of how the people engage with the political process.

N.K. Jemisin recently broke a record for the Hugo Award by winning best novel three years in a row for each book in her Broken Earth trilogy: “The Fifth Se, opens a new windowThe Fifth Seasonason,” “The Obelisk Gate” and “The Stone Sky.” They are some of the few apocalyptic books that question whether the world is worth saving. Jemisin also recently published the short story collection “How Long ‘til Black Future Month?”

There are many talented authors of color, both in the genres I focused on, as well as others. See more on this list.