Horror has always allowed readers to dive deep into the unknown and fearful. From monsters and paranormal to exploring psychological terror, horror can give you sleepless nights or help you self-actualize. Horror has also given authors a voice to blur the lines between real-life horror and fantasy to relay a greater message. The following authors do that and more. As we near the end of our celebration of African American History Month, I'd like to suggest honoring African American voices in Horror year-round with these reads.
Winner of several awards including the 2021 Hugo & Shirly Jackson Awards, Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark tells the story of Maryse Boudreaux and her monster hunting group as they travel through America confronting supernatural monsters embedded into the KKK. I really loved reading when Maryse contacted her Aunties or talked with her Gullah speaking Nana Jean because they reminded me of my Caribbean heritage and family members I am close with. While the subject matter seems heavy, there are spots of humor sprinkled throughout. Ring Shout is a fascinating horror novel that includes historical events and themes that are relevant even today. Clark delivers a shining message about hate in the most entertaining way.
Ballad of Black Tom tells the story of Tommy Tester and is set in 1924 Harlem. Tommy is a small-time hustler trying to make ends meet to provide food and shelter for himself and his father. Through a terrifying series of events, including some harsh realities that happened to African Americans in the early 1900s, Tommy evolves into Black Tom. What I love about this novella is that while Black Tom becomes something horrific in nature, we do see the contributing factors that lead to his evolution into Black Tom. The Ballad of Black Tom is also a remake of Lovecraft’s The Horror at Red Hook which is where the fantasy and sci-fi elements come in. Although I’ve never read any Lovecraft, I still enjoyed those elements and didn’t feel they took away from the story at all.
Tade Thompson’s The Murders of Molly Southbourne & The Survival of Molly Southbourne are books I ended up purchasing because they were so well written. The first in the series, The Murders of Molly Southbourne, follow Molly as she navigates life with a very unusual condition, every time she bleeds another molly is born from that blood. These new molly’s are bent on destroying the Original Molly. As Molly grows up, she continually finds herself fighting clones of herself and wondering how to avoid creating new ones. The second in the series, The Survival of Molly Southbourne, follows one of Molly’s clones as she maneuvers everyday life as a clone. Personally, the second book is a favorite because it made me think of changelings and possibly what they go through. Tade Thompson writes an incredible story with strong female characters. I absolutely recommend reading the Molly Southbourne series if you get a chance.
If you have read any of these recommendations and want more, check out these titles:
This blog was written by Jennifer N. and first appeared in February 2022.