Rivers Solomon: Sorrowland is a must-read

"I like the woods. ...In them, the possibilities seem endless. They are where the wild things are, and I like to think the wild always wins. In the woods, it doesn't matter that there is no patch of earth that has not known bone, known blood, known rot. It feeds from that. It grows the trees. The mushrooms. It turns sorrows into flowers."

Sorrowland is Rivers Solomon's new book. And it's a mind-blower!


A speculative fiction of African Futures and a contemporary treatment of the shocking historic abuse of African-American people for medical experimentation, Sorrowland bends its genre label of fantasy into science fiction and body-horror.

Sorrowland is the story of a Vern; a young woman who escapes a commune, giving birth to her babies in the forest.

The book has elements of Diane Cook's The New Wilderness and Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, with the genocidal horror served up by Stephen Graham-Jones' The Only Good Indians and the truly freaky Mexican Gothic, by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia. 

Vern runs away from Cainland: a commune originally founded on Black Power principles - to create a society free of white corruption, abuse, and consumerism.

In Vern's time Cainland has become corrupt and punitive.

"The primary freedoms this nation protected were the ones to own and annihilate." 

After her escape, she begins to wonder if her nightly 'vitamin injections' may have contained something more sinister.

Her body has begun to change: first giving her superhuman strength, then debilitating pain. Can she survive to bring the truth, and her twin boys, Howling and Feral, into the real world?

Solomon marries the idea of experimental medical treatment to the age old question posed in all good horror stories: who, or what, is the monster here?

In her search for truth Vern must venture further into the world. She meets and falls for first Ollie, a biker woman, then Gogo; a Lakota American who is non-binary. Through the character of Gogo, author Solomon is able to add Native American experience of colonisation in comparison to Vern's learning. Gogo mentions the Lakota pipeline conflict - the repercussions of which are still being felt today. 

Rivers Solomon's novels, novellas and novelettes are often listed in Science Fiction and Fantasy award rounds. Her amazing story, The Deep, won a Lambda Award in 2020, and was a nominee for the Hugo, Locus and Nebula Awards.

The Deep addresses the abhorrent practice of throwing captive pregnant Black women overboard on their way to America. Solomon turns this disaster on its head, suggesting these women gave birth, in the ocean, to babies who became aquatic: mermaids!

Sorrowland has been listed as a TIME Magazine Must-Read (2021), the New York Times Best SciFi and Fantasy Book (2021), is the winner of the Stonewall Book Award (2022) and has been named a Best Book of 2021 by National Public Radio, New York Public Library and Publisher's Weekly. It has also just been named a finalist for the Ray Bradbury Award, to be announced on 22 April.

" I hope you live without the need to dominate, and without the need to be dominated. I hope you are never victims, but I hope you have no power over other people. And when you fall, and are defeated, and in pain, and in the dark, then I hope you will remember that darkness is your country, where you live, where no wars are fought and no wars are won, but where the future is." Ursula Le Guin

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