Help me find books like Jesmyn Ward's Sing Unburied Sing.
December 7, 2017 6:24 PM   Subscribe

I just finished Sing Unburied Sing and I could read the book again. It was stunning. Such gorgeous writing! I dislike magical realism (this book featured ghosts) but this person can really write.

I want to read more black lit and I'm tentatively ready to try more novels featuring magical realism. Reading Toni Morisson's Beloved next.

I've read and loved James Baldwin (The Fire Next Time), Nella Larsen, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes's poetry, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
posted by dostoevskygirl to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Anything by Nnedi Okorafor.
posted by goatdog at 6:26 PM on December 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

I really liked Jacqueline Woodson's Another Brooklyn. Lush detail in a coming of age story. Had a magical feeling edge to it but it's all grounded in reality.
posted by jessamyn at 6:37 PM on December 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Zadie Smith is great, beautiful, powerful black lit.
posted by Grandysaur at 6:45 PM on December 7, 2017

I loved Kei Miller's Augustown so much, and it sounds like exactly what you're looking for.
posted by ferret branca at 7:20 PM on December 7, 2017

I haven't read Sing, Unburied, Sing (yet!), so I'm not sure how it works as a readalike, but I recently read Bernice L. McFadden's Gathering of Waters, and it sounds like it could be in line with what you're seeking. She has a writing style I find so rich and surprising. It's narrated by the town of Money, Mississippi (so, magical realism, check!), and though the murder of Emmett Till is actually only a small component of the book, the entire story is brutal, built on a lot of racism and sexism that I found tough to read, especially because the personification of misogyny & internalized sexism literally possesses a young girl for most of the book (more magical realism, and also, there are ghosts). My favorite McFadden book, The Book of Harlan, doesn't feature any magical realism (at least not any that I remember), but I recommend it.

James McBride is such a versatile writer, but whatever style he's writing in, he's good. Song Yet Sung is my favorite and features some magical realism: a runaway slave can see the big-picture future in her dreams, and what she sees makes her question if she should continue her escape.

I wouldn't consider Angela Flournoy's The Turner House magical realism, although there are haints, but I really enjoyed the writing. And I'm not sure if Kiese Laymon's Long Division counts as magical realism, but I think the mysterious time travel used in the book functions like magical realism, and it's one of my all-time favorite books: so strange and wild and philosophical.

And I can't say I enjoyed the book, and I'm unsure about recommending it, but Cynthia Bond's Ruby might also be what you're looking for, with its eloquent writing and some elements of magical realism. I found it overly brutal and dark (very horrible things happen in explicit detail to girls and women in particular, over and over) and there are scenes that I think back on now, a couple years after reading it, and feel nauseous. It's an intense book but with some intense writing.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 8:28 PM on December 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

Kiese Laymon's Long Division
posted by cushie at 8:29 PM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe Helen Oyeyemi - she has a few books but Boy, Snow, Bird is my favourite.
posted by theseldomseenkid at 10:21 PM on December 7, 2017

Seconding Another Brooklyn, also Brown Girl Dreaming by the same author.
posted by trixie119 at 6:31 AM on December 8, 2017

Octavia Butler's Kindred is really wonderful. I love all her books, but the others are much more dystopian and/or involve aliens, whereas Kindred is pretty much set in the normal world with one interesting exception (which the link will spoil if you were hoping to keep it a surprise).

If you're ok with magical realism approaching horror, Victor Lavalle is great. His books are always interesting and often quite scary. If you don't want full-on horror, The Devil in Silver is less scary/gross and I found it very touching.

Paul Beatty's The Sellout is pretty amazing - it's not quite magical realism - more surreal at times, but so well done, and funny on top of confronting racism in American in a very serious way.

And, if you want some very well-done fantasy that goes significantly beyond the bounds of magical realism, I'll put in a plug for NK Jemisin, especially The Broken Earth series. And will second Nnedi Okorafor for sci fi.

Finally, to challenge this newfound appreciation, you could try Samuel Delany's Dhalgren - the writing is beautiful, there's not a whole lot of plot to hang onto as linear time is not really a thing in the novel, and it's almost 900 pages long. I found it a slog in places, but I'm happy I've read it and think about it a lot.
posted by snaw at 6:31 AM on December 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

N'thing Nnedi Okorafor. I really liked Lagoon and Who Fears Death. In addition to all the great suggestions above, you might want to consider Louise Erdrich (Last Report of the Miracles at Little No Horse; LaRose), Eden Robinson (Monkey Beach, Son of a Trickster), and David Alexander Robertson (The Evolution of Alice).
posted by platitudipus at 8:53 AM on December 8, 2017

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is one of my favorites. Beautifully written — each chapter is like a mini novel in itself.
posted by purple24 at 12:47 PM on December 8, 2017

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