“Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously. … [Write] knowing in part that no matter how trivial your words may seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her life to read them.” —Edwidge Danticat

One goal I identified for these three months was to read a variety of speculative fiction written by women and transgender people as a gateway for stretching my imagination about the future of our work. What might I learn about building a world without sexual and domestic violence?

As I have described this sabbatical project to folks these past several months a number of you have requested that I share my reading list.  I am reading my final sabbatical list book (which I have read several times before–but like so many good books, I have a different experience each time I read it!), so now it is time to share.

In addition to sharing the titles and authors of each book, I tried to capture the seed of possibility, of resistance, of revolution,  planted during my reading. These are authors who stepped into “creating dangerously.”

The Power, by Naomi Alderman
It is important to have a vision and map a trajectory toward the world that you want, BEFORE you set off on the journey, or get propelled onto that journey when evolution wakes up a latent organ that gives you amazing superpowers.

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth 1), by NK Jemisin
There are people who write so smart they can stretch out our thinking in amazing ways— we can think in terms of tens of thousands of years, for example, or imagine a race of stone people. The author dedication at the front of this book: “For all those who have to fight for the respect that everyone else is given without question.”

The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth 2), by NK Jemisin
So many stories to tell about Mothers and Daughters. So many stories to tell about the power of love—to form, to sustain, to bring about change. Dedication at the front of this book: “To those who have no choice but to prepare their children for the battlefield.”

The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth 3), by NK Jemisin
A line in this story that will stay with me: “…that is how one survives eternity, or even a few years. Friends. Family. Moving with them. Moving forward.” Dedication at the beginning of this final book in the trilogy: “To those who’ve survived: Breathe. That’s it. Once more. Good. You’re Good. Even if you’re not, you’re alive. That is a victory.”

Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Oh, the possibilities of how we might live, what we might create if we were to live lives centered around the health and well-being of our children and future generations of children.

An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon
Some stories are really hard and really beautiful. A gifted and insightful portrayal of the experience and impact of trauma. A heroine I truly loved spending time with. Thank you Reed for adding this one to my list!

Ammonite, by Nicola Griffith
We are going to take our whole selves, and all that we have learned, into any “new world” we create (or find ourselves plopped into)—and this is why it is so important for us to make opportunities and build opportunities for ourselves and for other people to be our best selves.

Red Clocks, by Leni Zumas
This line is why you need to read this book: “Minervudottír may have felt free; but she was a cog in a land-snatching, resource-sucking, climate-fucking imperialist machine.” Good to remember that—especially us delusional optimists!! Thank you Laura for adding this one to my list!

The Kin of Ata are Waiting for You, by Dorothy Bryant
Living mindfully, in alignment with our ideals…it isn’t easy, but it is a truly worthy aspiration. It also opens wide a door of possibility for how we might do better as we respond to harm/violence.

Children of Blood and Bone, buy Toni Adeyemi

The reason I added this book to my list mid-summer was in the author’s description of why she wrote the book: “black lives lost too soon…we have the power to change the evils in the world. We’ve been knocked down for far too long. Now let’s rise.” Raw pain. Powerful Magic. A story that will continue.

The Best of All Possible Worlds, by Karen Lord
What you describe as the product of a mental imbalance, I would classify as swift, intuitive thinking to arrive at creative solutions.” Survival requires change. Real change requires being open to real out of the box (crazy!) kind of creative thinking. “Remember your ancestors, think of your descendants and work hard while you are living.”

Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler

All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
Is Change.

Is Change.


from Parable of the Sower

2024 seemed a long way off in 1993 when Octavia Butler published this book–not so much now.  As the book opens on 2024 the middle class is disappearing, living in walled communities to protect themselves from the poor who are rising up and struggling to get by as food and clean water become increasingly scarce as a result of global warming.  The takeaway: thinking and planning and preparing ahead to survive the worst possible outcomes is vital if we hope to create something better and, in addition to food, water, tools and protection, our backpacks need to include a new and more evolved religion.

Parable of the Talents, by Octavia Butler
Even with all that goes well as the survival story from Parable of the Sower continues, this book is so, so hard to read. There is much to endure, more to survive, external and internal battles to fight, before there is hope of thriving.

A bit chilling to encounter a politician who wants to Make America Great Again by locking up and re-educating everyone who is outside of the limited circle of white, conservative Christian America.

Choose your leaders
with wisdom and forethought.
To be led by a coward
is to be controlled
by all that the coward fears.
To be led by a fool
is to be led
by the opportunists
who control the fool.
To be led by a thief
is to offer up
your most precious treasures
to be stolen.
To be led by a liar
is to ask
to be told lies.
To be led by a tyrant
is to sell yourself
and those you love
into slavery.


from Parables of the Talents

Parables that were never written by Octavia Butler
She couldn’t write them before her untimely death. She thought it would take the span of 4 more books (the first two span 2024 to 2090) and a long story of heartache,  near annihilation, hard work and faith to realize the destiny of Earthseed—a thriving and sustainable community taking root amongst the stars. How I would have loved to see the ways her mind might take us there.

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