A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope

Viking. Mar. 2020. 352p. ed. by Caldwell, Patrice, ed. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781984835659.
Gr 7 Up–A collection of short stories that features characters across the black diaspora and blends magical realism with issues affecting the black community. In “Gilded,” a girl gifted with healing and the ability to manipulate metal is forced to decide between buying her freedom from a corrupt slave owner and a boy who insists she use her magic to claim her freedom. A prickly hairdresser gets her hair done and her mind regulated by a master braider in “Tender-headed,” and in “Kiss the Sun,” soul-stealing fire spirits debate the benefits of being light or dark skinned. In other stories, a sorcerer’s apprentice partners with a dragon to stop the machinations of her corrupt mentor, a dethroned princess harnesses the power of a god she doesn’t believe in to reclaim her throne, and an actress deals with the perils of being a young black witch with a daytime television program. This book is a wonderful assortment of genre-bending narratives. The stories allow readers to view racism and gender conformity through the prism of science fiction and fantasy, and the collection infuses the genre with color and complexity.
VERDICT This is a title for public and school libraries interested in diversifying and strengthening their short story collections.

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