Review: Sycorax’s Daughters edited by Kinitra Brooks, Linda D. Addison and Susana Morris

sycoraxs-daughtersCedar Grove Publishing continues to produce intriguing books that focus on diversity, in both writers and subjects. After books like The Soul of Harmony, Fast Pitch and Pin Drop, Cedar Grove’s latest offering is Sycorax’s Daughters, a horror anthology written by African-American women.

Sycorax is the mother of Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but she’s never seen in the play. Despite this erasure, Sycorax’s presence permeates the story: the powerful witch who was banished while pregnant; through whom Caliban claims the island belongs to him; whose memory is used by Prospero to keep Ariel in line. These male characters speak for her in The Tempest, but in this anthology, Sycorax is given a voice.

But this anthology is more than interpretations of the legacy of a silenced African woman – it’s deeply informed by a history of real life horrors. From the forward by Walidah Imarisha:

“for Black people and other people of color, the history of slavery, genocide, white supremacy, and colonialism is the only true horror story, and it is one we continue to live every day…”

Regina N Bradley’s story ‘Letty’ is the best written and most chilling of the stories that visibly stem from this influence, but Sycorax’s Daughters contains other poems and stories to give you the creeps. Cherene Sherrard’s ‘Scales’ is a more satisfying examination of a little mermaid myth than Disney could provide, and Nicole D. Sconiers’ ‘Kim’ has a robust energy that makes it a favourite. ‘Summer Skin’ by Zin E. Rocklyn is suitably flesh-crawling, and the unusal cadances of Kiini Ibura Salaam’s ‘The Malady of Need’ linger. Tenea D. Johnson’s ‘Foundling’ takes a science fiction approach and shows a less supernatural kind of horror.

As always, some stories work better than others for me, and every reader will have their own favourites. But every story is an insight, and it’s given me a new list of writers to look out for.

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