The postmodern and resoundingly positive reception of science fiction author Octavia E. Butler has been one of the most important revivals of a literary figure in Black and American literature. Two books—her lesser-known novel, 1987’s “Dawn” and the new nonfiction book, “A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler” by author and essayist Lynell George—highlight her brightness of imagination, wit, and African American science fiction infused with folklore.
I was also happy to see the publication of author and professor Francesca T. Royster’s new follow-up to her excellent nonfiction music history book, “Black Country Music” published last fall. “Choosing Family: A Memoir of Queer Motherhood and Black Resistance” is a pivot from her musicology scholarly work—a memoir offering a glimpse into Royster’s world: her family, and her relationship and alignment with the inner and external reality of Black queer life.
These books, written by Black women of great intelligence and stature and published from two different eras, are exciting and allow readers to see similarities and poignantly inspiring differences from the 1980s to the 2020s.
“Dawn” by Octavia E. Butler | Grand Central Publishing
Butler is of the ilk of great literary masters, and the preservation and republishing of the volumes of her visionary contribution is of measurable note and celebration. “Dawn: Book 1,” the first in a three-part collection of science fiction novels, “Lilith’s Brood Trilogy,” is a compelling work of imaginative fiction that includes humanoids, a nuclear war-scorched Earth, and a voice from the unknown that guides Lilith Iyapo to a new planet where she experiences salvation. “Hopeful and thought-provoking, this post-apocalyptic narrative deftly explores gender and race through the eyes of characters struggling to adapt during a pivotal time of crisis and change,” writes Grand Central Publishing.
“A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler” by Lynell George | Angel City Press
Angel City Press writes of the new nonfiction offering “A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky”: “There’s a great resurgence of interest in Butler’s work. Readers have been turning to her writing to make sense of contemporary chaos, to find a plot point that might bring clarity or calm.” It’s wonderful to see nonfiction books examining Butler’s work and telling her story in unique ways from the voices and consciousnesses of Black women. “A Handful of Earth” explores Butler’s unique writing process. It’s “about creating a life with what little you have—hand-me-down books, repurposed diaries, journals, stealing time to write in the middle of the night, making a small check stretch—bit by bit by bit,” says Angel City Press.
“Choosing Family: A Memoir of Queer Motherhood and Black Resistance” by Francesca T. Royster | Abrams Press
Author and professor of English Francesca T. Royster has returned this year with a new memoir of great emotional proportion. In her new book, “Choosing Family: A Memoir of Queer Motherhood and Black Resistance,” her vulnerability shines in a work written through the lens of Black queer womanhood—a praxis written extensively by authors like Audre Lorde and Alice Walker. Royster illustrates, according to Abrams Press, “configurations that sit outside the white normative experience and are the richer for their flexibility and generosity of spirit. A powerful, genre-bending memoir of family, identity, and acceptance.”