December 2020 Book Review-A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope by Partice Caldwell

Yes! This is how we are ending the year! We made it! Just like the Phoenixes are are! Black Girl Magic is real! -JBHarris

Vampires.

Space missions.

Witches.

Ancestral fire children.

Warrior mermaids.

Leaders of resistance movements.

A Phoenix Must First Burn is a collection of 16 stories written by Black women—bending genres, time and space!

This book is based on the quote by the late Octavia Butler.

Torches, meet Octavia. You’re welcome.

This book has been in my radar over a year, and I am unsure why. But I knew that I had to read it, and had to share it. With that said, I need you all to understand how awesome this book is! I need you all to understand that there is no part of culture which can be so anti-Black as literature—especially with the genre of sci-fi and speculative fiction. One of Octavia’s masterworks Parable Of The Sower took fifty years to get on the New York Times Best Seller list! There are not many Black folk they write in this genre, so there is no representation! The fact this anthology exists is a big hug and kiss to the Black children that desire to see themselves in a space where there was none. Lovecraft Country is a great doorway to speculative fiction and sci-fi, but it’s not the only source of fantasy!

There are Black fantasy writers! There are Black women whom write fantasy! Within this book, I can say that I was heartbroken—there is more to Blackness outside of trauma and pain, and it is up to us to find it! Even if we have to make it up! And there is nothing wrong with a writer using their imagination to impose their representation in a space where that representation does not exist!

There is such a love in this book that as a writer I can only be grateful for. This book is proof that there are more stories to tell, that must be told and Black women need to stop being tamed—even in literature!

My favorites in this collection are:

The Goddess Provides by L.L. McKinney

Gilded by Elizabeth Acevedo

Kiss the Sun by Ibi Zoboi

The Witch’s Skin by Karen Strong

I enjoyed this book, and so did the little girl in me that often pretended she had magical powers and loved a good story.

I need Patrice Caldwell to create another one is these—ASAP!

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