Space. What’s out there, and is there any end to it? Is there life on other planets? These questions have driven many developments in science, and led to the creation of lot of fantastic literature. Which makes it a snap to meet the 2019’s Read Harder challenge number six, a book by an author of color set in or about space.
Margo Lee Shetterley’s 2016 nonfiction book, “Hidden Figures,” shows us that behind every successful space launch is a bevy of smart, hard-working Black women performing the mathematical calculations to make it possible. If you’ve only seen the movie, I recommend reading the book as well. It provides many more layers to the stories of the women’s lives.
In the realm of science fiction, “The Three-Body Problem” by Liu Cixin won the Hugo, the Nebula, and several other literary awards. The story begins in the 1960s, during China’s Cultural Revolution, and moves decades into the future. Translator Ken Liu provides a few short footnotes to help western readers understand the cultural context. Even without additional explanations, it’s easy enough to grasp the premise of the book. How would humans, individually and as a society, react to news of alien creatures on their way to colonize our planet?
For those looking for quick reads, several authors can meet your needs. Neil deGrasse Tyson understands people are busy, yet probably also want to know about space and time and such like. “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” covers the basics of the cosmos in an accessible way that will not bog down readers and prevent them from making it to their kids’ soccer games.
“Binti” is a 90-page work of science fiction. Author Nnedi Okorafor won both the Hugo and the Nebula in the novella category for this volume.” Binti” is both an ancient and a futuristic story. While the story centers around space travel, the central character dilemma is an old one – how to balance the demands of adapting to a new culture, while still holding respect for your native customs and ethics.
Graphic novel fans, I have not forgotten you. “Astra, Lost in Space” by Kenta Shinohara is an adventure tale of travelers on an interplanetary field trip gone awry. They are expecting a week-long fun camp experience, but find themselves stranded in deep space. Good thing there’s a mysterious abandoned spaceship available.