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2021 Awards Eligibility

banner image with caption 2021 Round Up: Jen Brown's awards eligible fiction

Despite a wild, exhausting year, I watched two, fabulous stories sail into the world.

They’re award eligible, and quite fun reads. Enjoy!

Cover of baffling magazine, issue three, showing one woman cradling another woman's face, amid a dress-shop background


Bandit, Reaper, Yours” (flash)
April 2021. Baffling Magazine. 1200 words.

This piece asks whether more is owed to one’s bloody, lucrative trade—or one’s heart. Find it on the Quick Sip Reviews 2021 Recommended Reading List.

fanfic-esque tags:
💋 adversaries to lovers
🗡️
we betrayed each other, but it's kinda hot???
☠️ bone magic
👊🏾
get in loser, we're going shopping murking everybody who gets in our way


Anathema Magazine cover for issue number 12, showing cave with glowing crystals and mushrooms peeking from the darkness


To Rise, Blown Open” (short story)
May 2021. Anathema: Spec From the Margins. 4450 words.

Part battle cry, part psalm, this tale of Black superheroes & villains navigates legacy and monstrosity, in equal measure. Find it on the 2021 Locus Recommended Reading List, along with Maria Haskins, A. C. Wise, & Eugenia Triantafyllou’s recommended reading lists.

fanfic-esque tags:
⛈️ oops i broke the sky again
❤️‍🔥 queer polyam throuple
😒 black matriarch who definitely isn't One Of Your Little Friends
🌱 Black family


Now, it wouldn’t be a proper roundup without sharing my favorite 2021 reads:


Logo for We Reads, in a serif font

As part of We Reads 2021 project team, I rounded up my favorite SFF shorts, novelettes, novellas, and novels–all written by authors of color–in our 2021 seasonal collections.

I Stand With Alexander

Exactly one week ago, a black Columbia University student was violently attacked by campus Public Safety officers on the first floor of Barnard College’s newly created Milstein Center for Teaching and Learning. Floors 1-5 constitute Barnard Library and Academic Information Services (BLAIS), and Barnard Library is where I’ve had the privilege of working since last August.

Now, I didn’t find out about this racist attack until Friday evening, after co-presenting on an ACRL panel titled “Beyond Race 101: Speculative Futuring for Equity.” I didn’t see the harrowing footage of Alexander McNabb being surrounded and pinned down by uniformed officers until it crossed my social media feeds. Yet there I was at this large, expensive conference, collectively organizing to imagine tangible steps we might take to create just futures for library workers of color. To outline how privileged colleagues (who have institutional clout to spare) might actively challenge micro/macroagressions, and systemic racism at large.

How could I dream up futures where resistance and collective action are embraced, but remain silent about the systemic -isms currently at play in the present, in my very place of work? I silently wondered about that this week, after returning to the office on Monday. I wondered about how to unpack the ways institutions value people of color in public-facing websites and brochures, but repeatedly fail to support us as we navigate primarily white institutions (PWIs) with legacies of oppression and exclusion. About the ways institutions love to celebrate diversity statistics as an achievement, and are eager to talk recruitment–but consistently ignore retention practices. Seems like getting us through the door is all that’s important. What we face when we get here, apparently, is of little concern to those who shape the fabric of our institutions at the administrative level.

I didn’t need to reflect on all this for long, because these thoughts are constantly swirling in my mind. So I can’t remain silent, and I don’t want to have these conversations in a vacuum. I want to do better and be better, like my colleague Vani Natarajan, who addressed this immediately, and who has tirelessly advocated for marginalized communities throughout her professional tenure; like my colleague Fobazi Ettarh, whose “bad librarianship” constantly inspires me (peep slide 20 of her presentation for the call-out); like my colleague & co-presenter Sofia Leung, who matriculated from Barnard College and also called this out immediately because she doesn’t play that, ever. And like my colleagues Miriam Neptune, Quincy Williams, and others who spoke up at teach-ins and discussions this week.

In the spirit of Emergent Strategy (a book that has forever changed my thinking on systems and collective impact), I want to embrace the “small is all” tennet. As someone who takes up space in the Milsten Center, & who actively helps shape how our community interacts with that space–from how we work in the Design Center, to programs that happen throughout the library–I have a responsibility to Alexander and others in my community, to call this shit out. And given what I spoke about at ACRL, I will not ask others to do work that I’m not also willing to do myself.

So let’s be real here:
The attack against Alexander was racist. It was emblematic of police brutality. It’s yet another example of how Barnard and Columbia students of color have to navigate systemic racism and state-sanctioned violence on the daily, even on campuses whose missions claim to stand against such things. And I’m livid about it. I’m angry and hurt and grasping for meaningful actions I can take. But before action comes explicitly naming injustice, which is what I want to do here. And I want to be clear–while we can and should tease apart the complexities and power dynamics present in institutional departments (for example, someone aptly pointed out that many of Barnard’s Public Safety officers are people of color, and their greeting/support is part of what’s made some faculty, staff, and students of color feel welcome on Barnard’s campus), what I can’t do is pretend that the violent act itself that Alexander experienced wasn’t racist. It was, and was particularly encouraged by a larger culture of institutionally sanctioned racism that’s at play campus-wide & country-wide.

I’m saying all this so that Alexander knows he’s not alone. So that he knows there are many in his corner, pushing back alongside him. I’m saying all this to amplify the work of Barnard’s student organizations and governing bodies, like the Student Government Association, who’ve risen up to collectively demand accountability and action via their statement. I’m amplifying the voices of students who’ve called for better transparency around campus ID policies, and who’ve pointed out the ways in which such policies have been unequally enforced (or strangely unenforced) during their years here.

I want to acknowledge things for what they are, because you don’t heal from trauma without stating it. Without claiming it openly, using language that clearly names & identifies that trauma.

Simply put, I stand with Alexander, and with all of my library colleagues who’ve called this incident out in one way or another. And I stand with the students of Barnard and Columbia who’ve worked continuously to make their voices heard.

(And in finality, let me be clear–this is not an “official” statement on behalf of Barnard College or Barnard Library. If you’d like to read the College’s existing statements, you can do so here, and here.)

On Narrative as Self Care

Fall in your ways, so you can crumble.

Grief is a hard-wrought thing; it’s always churning around, tugging at emotions already teetering on your inner precipice. And even amidst wonderful things, it has power.

I lost my Dad last year, right before Thanksgiving. Of course, this was on the heels of barreling forward into a world full of earth-shattering, openly accepted violence positioned alongside the election of a man and accompanying administration that built their success upon pathological lies and the myth of American “greatness”. The latter, sadly, wasn’t surprising. Vehement violence, xenophobia & islamophobia (which are, of course, inextricably tied to racism), ableism, transphobia, homophobia, misogyny (& let’s be really real — misogynoir), and the denying of basic human rights is something that the multiply marginalized, that those marked Other, know all too well. We know it with an acridness that has almost become acquired taste. Still, we fight.

So I faded away from social media bit by bit, threw myself into work, and strove to Be Strong™. (Because how often are black women told that we must do this? Be unshakable when peppered with burden?)

But there’s power in narrative — Nicole Cooke’s brilliant “Pushing Back from the Table” reminded me of this; it’s the only article on my desk right now, so marked and circled and highlighted that it’s hard to tell where her thoughts end and my own scribbles begin. So I’m writing this for the black academics who’ve come before, and those who’ll come after — be whatever you must be to survive this. Break down in the restroom when you need to. Lean on folks when you need to. Share your stories with those you trust. Let yourself be human (and remind yourself that it’s okay to feel lost — that these challenges, and your response to them, do not define you.)