Four Great Audiobooks by Black Authors and Narrators
Happy Juneteenth! Here are four of my favorite audiobooks, in no particular order, written and narrated by some incredibly talented black folx. Can...can you tell that I really really love fantasy/sci fi/speculative fiction?
An Unkindness of Ghosts is spellbinding post-apocalyptic afrofuturism, and Cherise Boothe does an incredible job of with all of the individual character voices. The world that Rivers Solomon creates is so rich and real and captivating, and I didn't want the book to end! I remember feeling a bit sad that it was over. The story takes place on an enormous spaceship, where society very much mirrors life in the United States during the Jim Crow era. The main character, Aster, is a neurodivergent and intersex scientist who provides medical treatment to many of her fellow residents on the lower decks of the ship.
Nnedi Okorafor is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. Her novel Lagoon is next on my reading list. Most of her work is set in Nigeria, and in Akata Witch (the first novel in the Akata Books series) she draws deeply from West African and especially Igbo spiritualism to create a many-layered Africanjujuist world that exists in secret alongside the human one. Yetide Badaki effortlessly bounces between voices for characters of many different ages and birthplaces. Sunny is a Nigerian-American young teen who has recently moved to a small town in Nigeria with her family. In many ways she's just an average kid who loves soccer and does okay in school, but she gets teased a lot because she is albino. Soon she makes friends with Orlu and Chichi, who recognize that Sunny is a Leopard Person - someone with magical powers. As Sunny begins learning about juju and the world of the Leopard People, a serial killer begins making himself known in their town. Eventually, it is up to her and her friends to stop him.
What can I say about Rosewater? If you enjoy analytical and highly technical speculative fiction with some espionage and a few fantastical elements thrown in for good measure, you'll love Rosewater. Tade Thompson weaves an intricate story set about sixty years in the future, which jumps back and forth through the narrator Kaaro's memories in a way that slowly reveals tantalizing detail after tantalizing detail. This novel has everything: a mysterious alien biodome, secretive government agencies, a strange virtual network only accessible by Sensitives (people with psychic-like abilities), and a chain of murders. Bayo Gbadamosi handles the many characters and surreal circumstances with ease.
I have to say that as a white person, before reading this book I thought I understood what it was like to be black in the United States. I was obviously wrong (never assume you understand what it's like), but after listening to The Hate U Give I think I understand a little bit better. Bahni Turpin's incredible acting brought a whole other dimension of realness to Angie Thomas' already excellent writing. If you are a non-black person reading this post, and you haven't read The Hate U Give, I strongly encourage you to do so (even if you've seen the movie - read the book!). All of that aside, this is a really great young adult novel in its own right, and everyone can relate to the awkwardness of being sixteen even if you can't relate to everything that Starr goes through over the course of the novel. Starr Carter is a sophomore in high school, who lives in the hood and attends a fancy private school. On top of the difficulties of being a teenager, she is constantly code-switching between her school friends and her neighborhood friends. At a party, she reconnects with her childhood best friend Khalil, who offers her a ride home. On their way, they are pulled over and Khalil is shot and killed by a police officer. As the only witness, Starr is suddenly confronted with a great deal of responsibility on top of her grief. This novel is particularly poignant right now as our country is swept up in the Black Lives Matter movement.
I hope you enjoy these audiobooks as much as I did! I've linked to the authors' and narrators' other works on Audible above, so that you can explore their other projects. Please support them and other Black creatives, today and every day.