cover image Cool. Awkward. Black.

Cool. Awkward. Black.

Edited by Karen Strong. Viking, $18.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-593-52509-8

This fandom-focused, genre-spanning anthology edited by Strong (Eden’s Everdark) is a love letter to geek culture, populated by Black teens who are unafraid to indulge in their interests, whether anime, cosplay, or LARPing, among others. In Amanda Joy’s “The Panel Shows the Girl,” a queer high schooler battles extreme loneliness until her anime drawings literally come to life. Roseanne A. Brown’s “Wolf Tracks” follows Daniel Martins, who must contend with a family curse that turns him into a wolf—“claws, fangs, the whole nine yards”—upon falling in love. And in “The Hero’s Journey” by Tochi Onyebuchi, a boy who uses his writing to sort through his own feelings struggles with a bout of writer’s block. Featuring 18 authors, including Elise Bryant, Tracy Deonn, Kwame Mbalia, and Ibi Zoboi, these stories—several of which are open-ended, hinting at larger worlds—proudly foreground geek culture. Utilizing varying literary genres including fairy tales, fantasy, realistic contemporary, and science fiction, the creators deftly interrogate issues of racism, homophobia and transphobia, and intimate partner violence, and depict everyday joys and pains of varied Black experiences. Ages 12–up. (Jan.)