• Shea Robinson

How Long 'til Black Future Month? Book Review

Category: Camellias on Moss-a story that transcends the human experience

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Short Story Anthology

Do you need anything more than that title? It should make you stop, pause, do a double-take. What’s the colloquial phrase? Black History Month. And what is this saying? Black Future Month. It’s a title where you feel pulled to ask, What’s wrong with this picture? Let’s look at why it might be problematic to only celebrate a person’s past. What does it say about a society that can’t imagine a future for its people? What intentional act of erasure is happening here? And what’s N. K. Jemisin got to say about that? You can start by reading the article that spawned this awesome title, or you can dive right in to this short story collection.

Then you’ve got the gorgeous cover that makes you lose your breath, makes your hands tingle straight down to your fingertips, everything about it is legendary.

How Long 'til Black Future Month? is divided into 22 short stories that read like a full-length novel. You hear science fiction and fantasy and you think you know what you’re about to read, but Jemisin has you board a spaceship and then as you do that first look at the little blue planet you find that you don’t recognize anything at all. It’s disconcerting and freeing and you freefall back to earth hoping to understand why you’re feeling so seen and so vulnerable at the same damn time.

I want to tell you which story to start with, which one to choose, but I can’t choose a favorite story because they’re all that good. The City Born Great is an ode to the city, is Inception on acid, is somehow human and nonhuman at the same time, is David and Goliath, and is me. L’Alchimista is a good home-cooked meal, is “come get out of the rain and sit by the fire”, is be afraid of strangers, is “shouldn’t getting old be the reward for the journey”, is feminism, and is hope. Cloud Dragon Skies is climate chaos consuming the earth, is the story of native peoples tricked again, is youthful love, is heartbreak, and is history.

I must cease, before I find myself celebrating every story in the collection. The stories are fresh and exhilarating and seductive. I love Jemisin’s use of language. Sentences depart suddenly into all caps, she includes scene directions as for a play, she changes up the POV so that you're pulled in to take part in the drama, and all of it is in service to the story. You’re reading and marveling and getting lost and recognizing the word play and laughing because you’re tickled and becoming unnerved and dreaming and falling or maybe floating because who really knows which end is up?

The world is crazy out there but maybe you can find a little understanding in these pages. Pick up a copy at your local independent bookstore and check out Crawford's Books.

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