By Keshia McEntire
As a child and teen, my favorite genres of books were science fiction and fantasy. In the fourth grade, my teacher assigned my reading group Tuck Everlasting and I was enchanted by the story. This book about a 10-year-old girl who finds a literal fountain of youth tackles themes of life, death, family and love. These are heavy topics for a nine year old, but the book caused me to sit back and ponder questions I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. From there, I read stories from a wide range of authors, from the high fantasy portrayed in C.S. Lewis’ classic Narnia series to modern works by Meg Cabot and Scott Westerfeld. The protagonists in these novels were white. I’m sure there were great science fiction and fantasy novels involving people of color, but I would have needed to seek them out as they were not easy to find at my library or bookstore.
When I was a college intern at The Indianapolis Recorder, I wrote a story that included summer reading suggestions. After writing this story, I challenged myself to read more books by people of color. The first book I picked up was My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due. The story follows a young woman who realizes her husband of ten years is actually an immortal. I wasn’t able to find this book in any bookstores, so I ordered it online. It wasn’t the first story by a black author that I fangirled over, but she was the first black author that I read who explored the realms of science fiction and fantasy.
When I found out that Tananarive Due was going to be speaking at The Kheprw Institute for their series “Afrofuturism Friday”, I decided to attend. Afrofuturism Friday is one of many innovative undertakings that the Kheprw Institute offers the community. This free event takes places on the second Friday of each month from 6 to 8 p.m. and allows attendees to connect with and discuss black authors of science fiction, fantasy and horror while enjoying food, music and a celebration of community.
I figured hearing from Due might spark some of my own creative juices, and I was not disappointed. Due and her husband, Steven Barns, greeted us via skype. Here are my biggest takeaways from the discussion: