For our April HerStory, we are heading out of the non-fiction we’ve been immersed in, and heading to some other-worldly reading with NK Jemisin, who is widely considered to be the best of the best in science fiction. She’s a best-seller, an award-winner (she won 3 Hugo awards in a row, for all three books from her Broken Earth Trilogy), and is a MacArthur Genius. She’s also an all-around badass who centers Black voices in her stories and stands up to racists in the sci-fi community.
Jemisin became enamored with all things science fiction as a child, and consumed everything she could in the genre. As she visited her local library and read sci-fi book after sci-fi book, she realized that many had one thing in common: a decidedly white-centering slant. Even those writers of color who were enjoying success in the 1980s were encouraged to hide their race, so as to appear non-threatening (read: white) to the (white) reading public. Even the truly inimitable Octavia Butler was not immune to this pressure; as she began to read Butler, Jemisin had no clue she was a Black woman, as her book covers often featured images of white protagonists, even if those protagonists were people of color. All of this informed Jemisin’s writing, where Black voices are centered, most especially the Black woman.
As her love of reading sci-fi grew, so did her belief that publishing it just wasn’t in the cards for a Black woman. She began publishing fan fiction (and still does, to this day, anonymously) while working as a career counselor in various colleges throughout the East and Midwest. She could not shake the need to write, and took a workshop in which she was encouraged to delve into short-story writing, and boy, are we glad she did!
Jemisin’s writing is considered both sci-fi and speculative fiction. Her world-building is full, brutal, and beautiful; it often comes to her in dreams. In talking about the protagonist of the Broken Earth Trilogy, you can imagine that she pulls her story from Jemisin. It’s a beautiful thought and has such powerful imagery. We decided to channel the gorgeous covers of her Hugo-winning trilogy, Broken Earth, for our Broken Earth colorway. The vibrant blues and greens, paired with the earthy browns and greys are so evocative of the world-building Jemisin is so good at; we hope you visit those worlds with us this month.
Books by NK Jemisin:
- The Broken Earth Trilogy
- How Long Until Black Future Month?
- The City We Became
- The Inheritance Trilogy
- The Killing Moon
Want more like this? Here are some other authors we suggest you read/listen to:
- Octavia Butler
- Nnedi Okorafor
- Tomi Adeyemi
- Ursula K. LeGuin
- Nalo Hopkinson
- Kameron Hurley