cover image Riot Baby

Riot Baby

Tochi Onyebuchi., $19.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-250-21475-1

Onyebuchi (War Girls) paints a grim, dystopian portrait of contemporary America shot through with elements of the supernatural in this urgent, brutal work. Ella Jackson and her baby brother, Kev, are both preternaturally gifted. The “Riot Baby,” Kev, is born in 1992 Los Angeles, just hours after the courts acquitted the cops that beat Rodney King and the city erupted in violence. As a teenager in New York, Kev is brutally assaulted by police and arrested for no crime but being black; he spends the next eight years incarcerated at Rikers. During this time, Ella visits him both in person and psychically, constantly using her powers to offer him glimpses of freedom and life outside the prison walls and lead him on a path toward a revolutionary future as, in the outside world, incidents of police brutality rise and their mother’s health fails. Onyebuchi’s unexpectedly hopeful ending is just as powerful as his unflinching, heartbreaking depictions of racism and cruelty. This staggering story is political speculative fiction at its finest. (Jan.)