The US election left many of my friends feeling frightened and angry. It left me worried for their safety and livelihoods. At first, I felt helpless all the way over here in Australia. But I’m a big believer in the power of small things. So I started tweeting book recommendations. Since it seemed to help a few other people, I thought I’d recap the lists here. I’ve also included a few additional resources.
Reading for Comfort
When I need to escape for the world for a little while or I need to be reminded of the strength and beauty of people, these are some of the stories I turn to.
Intisar Khanani is an American Muslim whose work I adore. I particularly recommend Memories of Ash (reviewed here) which upholds justice as something worth fighting for and where the characters act out of more than just their own selfish interests. However, you should probably start with Sunbolt, since it is the first in the series.
If you’re looking for sci-fi with heart and diversity, I’d recommend The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers. These books look at the ways we forge relationships across species, cultures and differences. These books are primarily about connection and family but also about personal safety.
Superior by Jessica Lack is an adorable superhero m/m romance with some crunchy goodness about moral codes. It’s available for free on the Book Smugglers’ website or you can purchase your own copy.
Lynn O’Connacht chimed in with her own list of comfort reading. She has a lot of excellent suggestions. I particularly second her recommendation for Courtney Milan’s Trade Me. It’s a contemporary f/m romance featuring the poor daughter of Chinese immigrants and a billionaire’s son who is struggling with an eating disorder. The chemistry between the characters is excellent and the book digs into issues of privilege in some really thoughtful ways.
Lynn also recommended Becca Lusher’s Sing to Me, which is a sweet f/f fantasy romance. I’d add in a qualification, however. Sing to Me is a follow-up novella to Orion’s Kiss. I can’t recall how well it stands on its own and I would not recommend reading Orion’s Kiss for comfort.
Instead, I’d recommend Becca’s Wingborn serial. Which I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing me talk about by now. But what’s not to love about regency-influenced fantasy with adventure, romance & giant eagles?
Lynn is also offering several of her books for free for a limited time. She is an excellent author to read for comfort, so I’d recommend taking a look at her descriptions of what’s on offer.
If you’re looking for more YA and Middle Grade comfort reads, the Book Smugglers have a great list.
Reading for Defiance
When I’m not looking for safety, when I’m angry and looking for ways to defy societal oppression, these are some of the stories I turn to. Most of these are #ownvoices books.
I recommend Ambelin Kwaymullina’s series The Tribe at every opportunity I get. The series (review) features a dystopia that will look very familiar to Australians. It deals with issues of race and oppression with sensitivity and hope.
I found Gillian Polack’s The Wizardry of Jewish Women (review) resonated very strongly in the wake of the election, perhaps because it’s a book about feeling unsafe and fighting the quiet fight.
Juliet Marillier’s historical fantasy series Blackthorn and Grim (review) is about the oppression of women, being a voice for others and facing your abuser.
I originally listed Intisar Khanani’s Thorn (review) with the rest of her work among the comfort reads, but in retrospect I feel it’s more appropriate here. It deals with family abuse, class divides and the devaluing of women’s voices.
The first issue of Twisted Moon magazine is full of lush, erotic, queer, speculative poetry that both comforts and unsettles.
Defying Doomsday (review) is full of great stories of disabled people surviving the apocalypse.
I can’t rightly recommend N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. Its portrayal of exclusion and oppression was too real for me and I had to put it down. However, I’ll definitely be coming back to it.
Nnedi Okorafor’s sci-fi novella Binti has been talked about a lot, but this list wouldn’t be complete without it. It’s about being an outsider both within and outside of one’s culture. It’s also about making peace with trauma. If you haven’t read it already, you can check out an excerpt.
That’s all from me for now. However, if you’re looking for more along these lines, try checking out #booksfighthate, started by Justina Ireland.
Share an under appreciated book featuring underrepresented perspectives using the #booksfighthate and support those authors.
— Justina Ireland (@justinaireland) November 13, 2016
Over on Book Riot, Kay Taylor Rea offers 20 SFF books to help you through the stages of grief.
And if you have any of your own recommendations, please share them!