Today, a politically-inexperienced fascist becomes president of the United States. I am not a citizen of this country, so I couldn’t vote. Even if I could, it probably wouldn’t count because the candidate with the most votes didn’t win the election.
The next four years are uncertain. Funding is being stripped from essential foundations; people are appointed to head departments whose main cause they do not believe in; a man who is known to assault women and literally not give a fuck about people who aren’t his friends is sitting in the highest office of the land. Immigrants, black people, women, queers, differently abled people—individuals at the intersection of these identities, and even people who are not, are scared as fuck. And rightfully so.
The façade of a free and fair democracy is currently being shit on by the open fascism taking the proverbial (and literal) throne.
This isn’t the first time this has happened in the history of the world, and to be fair, it probably won’t be the last. As a queer, immigrant, black women, I am really fucking scared because this is the first time it is happening in my historical and geographical reality. Which isn’t to say this is the first time I’ve cared, but it is the first time that I can feel the full brunt of the thing instead of imagining what it must be like and sympathizing with people far off.
When America sneezes, the world catches a cold.
I thought first about making a booklist of uplifting reads—books to comfort us about the times ahead. Books that say, “there, there; it’ll get better.” But this isn’t a comforting time. America is becoming a dystopian novel. Times are going to get harder. We shouldn’t seek “comfort” when human rights violations and egregious injustices are on the line. We should be discomforted into fight mode. We can’t do that by being lulled into a false sense of comfort.
So, I’ve chosen instead to compile a booklist of dystopic fiction and novels set in a time of tyranny. They span the globe and hug different cultures; the ones set in America are “fantasy” rather than “historical fiction.” Now, the lines are blurred. Check out these books that will make you uncomfortable, because they’ll feel more foreshadowing than fabled:
1984 by George Orwell
The state controls more than just the legal policies—but the emotional and relational realities of the humans who live under this “fabled” tyranny.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Animals come together to create their own form of leadership. They start out by saying that everyone is equal, but it quickly changes to “some are more equal than others.” Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely.
In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
Genre: Historical Fiction
The fictionalized story of the real Mirabal sisters who fight against Trujillo, dictator of the Dominican Republic from 1930-1961, a man who punished anyone who dared dissent or even talk bad about his socks.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
A world where books are burned because they promote independent thought. Rare is the man who dares to hide a book, and disastrous is his fate if he is found in possession of one. This one scared me the most.
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
When people see the movie, they are somehow more concerned with the love triangle between Katniss, Peta, and Gale, rather than the totalitarian regime of President Snow, who controls all 12 districts with military might and fear, and an elite few in the Capital who seek to preserve the order of things because it benefits them.
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Genre: Historical Fiction.
The story follows the dictatorship of political instability, as well as the psychological dictatorship of an emotionally abusive, hyper-patriarchal, Christian zealot father in a nuclear family.
Create Dangerously by Edwidge Danticat
Genre: Non-fiction (essays).
Danticat writes about the long-lasting effects of tyranny and the necessity of artists and storytellers in the face of dictatorships, namely Duvalier’s dictatorship of Haiti from 1957 to 1971.