71 pages 2 hours read

N. K. Jemisin

How Long 'Til Black Future Month?

Fiction | Short Story Collection | Adult | Published in 2018

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Summary and Study Guide


How Long ‘Til Black Future Month, a collection of 22 short stories created in the spirit of Afrofuturism, was written by New York Times bestselling author N.K. Jemisin. Jemisin is the only author awarded the Hugo Award for Best Novel for three consecutive years.

This collection transports readers to dozens of new worlds, characters, and possibilities. Often taking on important societal issues such as rape, pollution, the abuse of power and religion, mediocre educational models, and the fallout from capitalism, Jemisin’s characters grapple with many of the same issues plaguing contemporary society.

Plot Summary

In the first story, readers visit a utopia called Um-Helat; in the second story, a homeless man on the streets of New York City fights an unseen force of destruction. In the third story, an African American mother living during segregation sacrifices her joy and her freedom so her children will have a chance to succeed, and in the fourth story a talented chef finds herself whipping up the recipe to eternal life. In the fifth story, the setting shifts to New Orleans, where one of Toussaint L’Ouverture’s daughters on a secret mission to bring the brilliance of one of America’s great black thinkers back to Haiti.

In the sixth story, Nahautu abandons family and community to live in the sky with one of the Sky-People, and in the seventh story, Meroe gains the ability to dream and thus the ability to love. The eighth story transports to the world of Zinhle where a class valedictorian is forced to choose between her family and freedom. The ninth story introduces vain King Paramenter who slays dragons in an effort to restore his libido, and who's eventually killed by the offspring that libido produced. In the tenth story, a colony of women faces destruction from within, and in the eleventh story a group of researchers discovers that people in a distant civilization murders their own children.

The twelfth story follows a caregiver named Sadie as she first condemns her charge, Enri, to limbo, then tries to save him. A security guard who obsesses over a dancing woman he can never logically have is the focus of story thirteen, and a restaurant serving up memories is the center of story fourteen. The fifteenth story finds a city of people at the clutches of a young, angry, and powerful girl capable of causing earthquakes and enacting sweet revenge. Death mourns the end of human civilization from a Starbucks in the sixteenth story, and in the seventeenth story, readers struggle along with Cet as he decides between love for a woman and love for the church. The eighteenth story follows Harkim, a famous author, as he is kidnapped by his greatest fan; story nineteen tells the narrative of Helen—once an African American living in Japan, now living in her own pocket universe.

The twentieth story takes returns to New York City where a depressed young woman hallucinates old trains and leans on a girlfriend for emotional support. The twenty-first story remains in New York City, but follows Adele, a single woman finding love in a town where luck has precedence over logic, and the final story follows Tookie, a New Orleans native and drug dealer, discovering purpose and compassion during a major hurricane.

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