Anthologies have been a saving grace for quick introductions to new authors and easy access to multiple narratives surrounding various themes. With the rise of collections by and for people of colour, reading A Phoenix First Must Burn was a no-brainer. Each of the writers brings their own style and perspective to this book which has created a wide enough introduction to the African diaspora and the ways these women prod and pry their way into spaces meant to keep them out. A Phoenix First Must Burn encapsulates the layers and complexities of a Black Woman – from the women of our past to the women of our future – and all the ways we exist within our societies and rebel our given molds. The stories are refreshingly diverse; featuring gender nonconformity and other LGBT+ representation, exploring love, betrayal, strength, and resistance. Even the choice of genre for this collection is a rebellion in itself. As I mentioned with Black Girl Unlimited by Echo Brown, there’s a space being carved in genres we aren’t always offered leading spaces in.
Thankfully, with this collection, we aren’t only gifted strictly with broad fantasy and science fiction but also reimaginings of folktales and fairytales, and everyday stories that prove that representing us will never hinder a story nor does it always need to be a cacophony of stereotypes to be “accurate”.
It was amazing to see so many recognizable names were present and also the names that were definitely going to make they way on my radar to keep an eye out for. I hope this book will open more eyes to the opportunities that Black speculative fiction has always had to offer. It’s only right to mention the authors included: Elizabeth Acevedo, Amerie, Dhonielle Clayton, Jalissa Corrie, Somaiya Daud, Charlotte Davis, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Justina Ireland, Danny Lore, L.L. McKinney, Danielle Paige, Rebecca Roanhorse, Karen Strong, Ashley Woodfolk, and Ibi Zoboi.
It would be a disservice to spoil all the stories but I can’t help but rave about my top four favourite stories!
Gilded by Elizabeth Acevedo
Elizabeth Acevedo has an undeniable lyrical prowess and in Gilded, she proves this again. This story follows an enslaved girl in what is now the Dominican Republic and her coming to terms with what is really need of her to save her people.
Wherein Abigail Fields Recalls Her First Death, and, Subsequently, Her Best Life by Rebecca Roanhorse
I never thought I’d see myself like any type of Western but when it involves surviving a gunshot and making deals with the forces of the desert for revenge, you can really change a girl’s mind.
Tender-Headed – Danny Lore
This is my first contact with Danny Lore and they won me over with Tender-Headed. The story weaves (pun-intended) what first seems like a girl trying to win back clients for her hairdressing hustle from a supposed witch into a look at how the Black experience doesn’t truly give space to properly process trauma and address toxic behaviours in our community. Definitely a story that felt cathartic beyond belief.
Kiss the Sun – Ibi Zoboi
I don’t think I’ve ever properly heard of the mythology of the soucouyant and it was more than fascinating. Ibi Zoboi does a great job of beautifully unleashing the myth and making the characters really bring to life such vivid imagery and intimacy between the reader and the culture. Kiss the Sun unpacks the very real issue of colourism in the Black community. It not only speaks to how “the white influence” has tainted our self-image but also, for us in the Caribbean, direct taint our way of life. Through tourism and finding business opportunities that include tearing down our land to build their investment. Zoboi doesn’t hide that it warps people’s views on power and influences the lengths people will go to achieve a life that has been ingrained as the ideal. This story certainly had one of the strongest impacts for me.
I honestly believe there are stories for many black experiences presented and its mere existence has created a space to properly see the lives and plights of Black Women. More and more, with the addition of this collection, there’s something for every young Black teen to find themselves in and I hope that this visibility will help them rise.
A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope
Anthologies have been a saving grace for quick introductions to new authors and easy access to multiple narratives surrounding various themes. With the rise of collections by and for people of ...
- Blackness Present5.0