Author of the week
N.K. Jemisin once had to rage-write her way out of the margins, said Raffi Khatchadourian in The New Yorker. Though eventually she won the Hugo Award—science fiction’s highest prize—for an unprecedented three consecutive years, the Brooklyn native couldn’t even land a book contract when she completed her first novel in 2010. She didn’t doubt its quality, but she did suspect that she’d included too many black characters. “I had a long dark teatime of the soul,” she says, “and I realized, people are just that racist.” So she cranked out a new novel, about an evil empire of white people who enslave their own deities, and found an audience. “It was me getting mad at science-fiction publishing,” she says. Five years later, she published The Fifth Season, the first book in the Broken Earth trilogy that won three Hugos.
Jemisin’s latest novel, The City We Became, has a more whimsical premise, said Cate Matthews in Time.com. Each of New York City’s five boroughs has a human avatar and fights an otherworldly gentrifying force that is aided by Starbucks franchises that come to life and attack. For the 47-year-old Jemisin, the novel was a way to grapple with a persistent worry. “As someone who has loved this city and loved its grittiness and its funk and its strangeness, it is being tamed, and I think that’s going to kill it,” she says. She admits that showing people uniting to save the city is cliché, and she can live with that. “You’re going to save it with people choosing to fight against things that they perceive as wrong,” she says. “In that sense, I’m a very traditional fantasy writer.” ■