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BOOK CORNER: Author highlights influence of black women in horror

In “Searching for Sycorax” author, educator and horror fanatic Kinitra Brooks critically examines the characterizations of black women in horror.

Brooks compares the legacy of Shakespeare’s Sycorax (from his play “The Tempest”) to black women writers themselves, who influence the path of horror criticism by forcing the genre to de-centralize whiteness and maleness.

The new book was inspired by the author’s love for horror genre.

“I’ve always loved vampires and zombies — way before they came into vogue,” Brooks said. “For a long time, I was the weird black girl. Now I get to be the cool black chick. Life is funny like that.”

Inside her book, Brooks highlights the works of black women fiction writers such as Nalo Hopkinson, NK Jemisin, Gloria Naylor and Chesya Burke.

“These black women fiction writers take advantage of horror’s ability to highlight U.S. white dominant cultural anxieties by using Africana folklore to revise horror’s semantics within their own imaginary.”

Kinitra Brooks

Her book is intended for fans of horror, magic and science fiction. The book also will resonate with those who enjoy discussions of race and gender in African culture and black culture.

Brooks hopes “Searching for Sycorax” allows black people to see how black women in particular have long been creators of horror.

“I want folks to recognize the subversive power black women hold when they are creators of horror,” she said. “That black women literally change the definitions of horror by creating it. Horror looks different when we create it — and [I] use my book to explore why and how black women are openly challenging what is considered ‘normal’ in horror.”

In addition to being an author, Brooks is an associate professor of English at the University of Texas, San Antonio.

“Searching for Sycorax” is available for $25.95 at rutgersuniversitypress.org, online retailers, and at local bookstores.

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