Blackathon is an annual readathon to celebrate literature by Black voices. While Black authors should be supported and their works read all year round, February does give everyone an opportunity to turn a purposeful focus on Black literature and this readathon sets up a fun structure to do so. Four teams, three prompts, and one group book — it’s no surprise that I chose to side with Team SFF; after all, I’m that eclectic reader who reads more of science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction. Time to list the four books I’ll be adding to my February TBR as part of this readathon. You can read more about Blackathon 2022 here and make sure to use the official hashtag: #Blackathon2022 if you talk about it over on social media!
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The Unbroken by C.L. Clark
Part of the much acclaimed and heavily hyped ‘golden trifecta of sapphic excellence’ —first shared by @yuancube over on Twitter, The Unbroken has understandably been on my radar ever since its cover was revealed. I mean, if a sapphic adult fantasy with a complex narrative on military, colonialism, and revolution wasn’t already exciting me, those ripped arms definitely were. From the setting of a desert kingdom inspired by North Africa and the intertwined destinies of two women to a political undertone that features assassinations and massacres, I’m pretty positive about being blown away by this book. So when one of the prompts for this readathon demanded a story that explored the duality of loyalty and betrayal, The Unbroken checked the box instantly.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
If you’re an avid reader of this blog, you would know how weak I am for genre-bending novels, and I’ve recently found some excellent titles that actually fit —or don’t, if you know what I mean— the box. Whether it’s the mind-blowing, absolutely epic adult lush tale of intertwined fates set in a secondary fantasy world: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse or the story of star-crossed lovers that transcends time, space, and place in a tale for true romantics: For All Time by Shanna Miles, I’ve truly found myself falling head over heels for works that twist genres. So, again, it’s no surprise that Pet has been on my TBR ever since I saw Ibi Zoboi’s (co-author of the latest, Punching the Air, a young adult novel-in-verse) review of the then newest book by Emezi over on The New York Times, calling it a “beautiful, genre-expanding debut young adult novel”; especially since it promised to bring a Trans girl at the centre of a world that narrates the poetic complexity of good vs evil—of monsters and angels. But for some reason, I couldn’t pick it up in the last three years. No worries, though, because the next prompt of this readathon for a book with Trans spectrum representation easily fits alongside this title and translates to me finally reading it.
The Kindred by Alechia Dow
Books, music, and sci-fi sounded like the perfect blend when I first heard about Dow’s young adult debut, The Sound of Stars, in 2019 and when I did read it, the idea of a secret librarian and a lab-made alien going on a road trip together to save humanity in an aftermath world where otherworldly beings are now in charge of Earth aged in the best way possible. I instantly knew that Dow’s style of incorporating romance into science-fiction (or vice-versa; the inability to fully mark the two in percentiles being the compliment here) effortlessly entertains while exploring difficult dynamics—something quite excellently contrasting to the traditional, heavy sci-fi. And I wanted to experience that same vibe again when The Kindred was announced! Particularly since it’s set in the same universe. From mind-melding and being framed for murder to spacecraft theft and scandalous love, everything about this sophomore novel sounded ‘out of the world’. Recently released and very well received, I’m excited to add this title to my readathon TBR for the prompt: a book between 312 and 387 pages. Especially when Dow, in this interview with The Nerd Daily, describes it in five words: “mind-linked friends to lovers”.
Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden
To be honest, I hadn’t heard about this space opera before seeing it listed as the group book for this readathon’s Team SFF. But when you read a blurb that lays down a generation ship where two young women from different classes meet and fall in love, their complex and forbidden relationship causing a major rupture in the society, you can’t not be interested. Said by many readers to be incredibly queer and diverse has already made me enthusiastic but a matriarchal alien society bringing across a strong discussion of class politics has made me even more eager to pick up Escaping Exodus. This fiction sounds speculative, futuristic, and definitely twisted —basically, absolutely perfect. So I clearly have high hopes for this group book that, the author says, is a “weird and squicky [contribution] to the collective living spaceship trope” in her interview with Clarkesworld Magazine.
Which of these should I read first? 💛