All Hallows Read is upon us and ’tis the season to give (or acquire for yourself) a scary book to read. If you’re not up on AHR, here’s the FAQ to catch up so you can start posting your recommendations on Twitter at #AllHallowsRead.
So you don’t have to run off to check that hashtag, here are a few of my recommendations for horror written by and about people of color. Some are older, some newer, and there are even a few links to POC horror you can read immediately.
How’s that for a gift?
Japan has made a name for itself in the horror film scene, but I come across few people who delve into the written (and translated) words of Nippon horror. Details are painted with elegant brutality, all encased in the mores of Japanese society.
Morino is the strangest girl in school – we’ve all been there, haven’t we? – obsessed with murder. The more brutal, the better. Good thing she lives in a town that’s a magnet for serial killers, making it easy to investigate the slayings. But she and doesn’t want to stop the killer, she simply wants to understand…
Mou ichido, onegai shimasu (One more time, please.)
Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko
Leslie Marmon Silko is a Native American writer of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, and one of the key figures in the First Wave of what literary critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renaissance. In Almanac, Silko puts Western, Euro-centric culture on trial and the evidence she cites is pretty damning.
This isn’t a feel-good read, or one to approach if you’re tender in any way, but if you can stand the brutality, it is a fierce, eye-opening novel.
Triggers: racism, homophobia, sexism, pedophila.
Voodoo, family curses, political ambitions and a quest for power are dominant in this roller coaster ride set in Louisiana. I don’t recommend books on conjure magic lightly, as many authors aggrandize the practice, and make it something isn’t. But Amaru has done his research, pulling from his experiences living in small town America and in magic-loving countries like Brazil.
Governor Randy Lafitte is popular and beloved after battling back from brain cancer, but his political success has come at a price. When his daughter is kidnapped, Lafitte is confronted with a past he thought died a long time ago. However, what hasn’t caught you, hasn’t passed you. And what comes for Lafitte may be way more than he or the forces behind him can handle as he fights the literal demons from his past.
Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones
Stephen Graham Jones is a Blackfeet Native American author of experimental fiction, horror fiction, crime fiction, and science fiction. Mongrels is dark humorous horror about a boy and his family who struggle to survive in a world that shuns and fears them.
They are mongrels, mixed blood, living a life of narrow escapes and midnight runnings to stay ahead of the law. As they free across the South, the boy comes of age and the family has to decide if he is one of their unusual breed or not. Bloody, grisly, and strangely moving.
Prefer to sample some of Graham Jones’ short stories first? Try The Ones that Got Away.
Do you love horror that is gut-wrenching? That will leave you staring blankly at the screen with its beauty, but send you scurrying for a blanket to combat the lingering chill it leaves? Then you want to read Sharma’s short story at the link above.
Triggers: child abuse, incest, rape.
Glen Grant’s Chicken Skin Tales: 49 Ghost Stories from Hawaii
The late Glen Grant was a historian of Hawaii and all of her melting rainbow of cultures. If you can’t get to Honolulu to experience on of the ghost tours still occurring today, pick up a copy of this volume. It’s the first in Grant’s series to give the reader “chicken skin” or goosebumps, while celebrating the diversity of fear that is Hawaii.
Crota by Owl Goingback
Crota won the 1996 Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel, and was one of four finalists in the Best Novel category. Bodies are found torn apart in the woods. Some think it’s a bear, but others know the truth: the beast whispered about around campfires for generations, is real. Goingback draws on Choctaw lore to create a monster—ursine, serpentine, ancient.
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
I was lucky enough to get an advanced reading copy of Moreno-Garcia’s upcoming release. Yes, it’s about vampires, but not as Hollywood—or even other bloodsucker literature— has portrayed them: with Aztec heritage.
Atl is a Tlāhuihpochtlin, the last of a clan of matriarchal vamps from the pre-Spanish colonization of Mexico able to take on an avian aspect. Her family slaughtered by a rival clan, Atl’s mission is to escape capture and finally make her way out of Mexico. Weak from lack of food when the young, vampire-obsessed Domingo happens by, he’s a distraction she doesn’t need. Grab a copy when it’s released on October 25th.
Haunting Bombay by Shilpa Agarwal
The Mittals desperately try to contain the secrets that have been locked behind a mysterious bolted door, but to their shame, the supernatural always finds a way in. Forbidden love and the absolute sacrifice enhance the painful horrors brought about by the oppressive weight of family and of expectation.
Mumbai-born Agarwal’s early writings explored how colonialism and the chaos of dislocation shaped human interaction, but Haunting Bombay delves into the world of the slum-dwellers, prostitutes and hermaphrodites who survive on the peripheries of Indian society.
Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong
Wong is a self-proclaimed writer of tiny horrors. She’s also been a finalist the Bram Stoker & Shirley Jackson Awards. Her short story, which you can read at the link above, won the 2015 Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Bringing a new aspect to shapeshifters, a favorite of the horror genre, Wong threads queer identity and Chinese-American culture into a gruesome, chewy read. As you’ll see, I use the word “chewy” for a reason.