By Natasha Shaikh
It’s October, the so-called spookiest month of the year, and with this time of year comes a favourite genre for readers to indulge in–horror. Specifically, this month we are focusing on horror and gothic fiction by BIPOC writers.
The difference between horror and gothic fiction can vary depending on who you ask. Still, the general consensus is that horror uses more straightforward or modern writing and situational elements to frighten the audience. Gothic horror, for the most part, uses anxiety, fear and eerie feelings of being haunted either by one’s past or the place they are in. This is often slowly drawn out and meant to deteriorate the protagonist’s well-being. That being said, gothic horror is certainly considered a subgenre of horror, and after the folkloric beginnings of horror, probably one of the earliest elements of the horror genre to be created.
The picks below are just some of the more recent (and some of my favourite) horror and gothic books from the last year by BIPOC authors. It is important to note that traditionally published horror and gothic novels by BIPOC authors are even fewer and far between than most other genres. Each and every single one plays an important role in redefining the genre, while also paving the way for even more diverse horror stories in the future. Often these types of books do not follow traditional horror or gothic horror tropes and definitions and bend and evolve the genre.
In his latest book, Stephen Graham Jones manages to write a love letter to classic horror, and especially slasher films. The reader is introduced to Jade Daniels, an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. When blood actually starts to spill in real life, Jade predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.
In the midst of the true horrors of American colonialism, Indigenous displacement, and gentrification, Jones paints a portrait of the scared and traumatized girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.
2) The Hacienda, by Isabel Cañas (Available on Audible Canada)
With elements of Mexican Gothic and Crimson Peak, this debut supernatural gothic novel is set in the aftermath of the Mexican War of Independence, about a remote house, a sinister haunting, and the woman pulled into their clutche
Beatriz is a woman set to find safety and control over her life after her family is disgraced after the Mexican government is overthrown. When a handsome government official proposes, Beatriz ignores the rumours surrounding his first wife’s sudden demise, choosing instead to seize the security that his estate in the countryside provides. She will have her own home again, no matter the cost.
Soon after her husband leaves the home, visions and voices invade Beatriz’s sleep. The weight of invisible eyes follows her every move. Rodolfo’s sister, Juana, scoffs at Beatriz’s fears—but refuses to enter the house at night, while the cook burns copal incense at the edge of the kitchen and marks the doorway with strange symbols.
Jay is living his best life at Karloff Country, one of the world’s most famous resorts. He’s got his family, his crew, and an incredible after-school job at the property’s main theme park.
Outside the resort, things are getting worse, and trouble starts seeping into Karloff. First, Jay’s friend Connie and her family disappear in the middle of the night and no one will talk about it. Then the richest and most powerful families start arriving, only… they aren’t leaving. Unknown to the employees, the resort has been selling shares in an end-of-the-world oasis. The best of the best at the end of days. And in order to deliver the top-notch customer service the wealthy clientele paid for, the employees will be at their total beck and call.
Whether they like it or not.
What’s more dangerous: the monster you know in your home or the unknown nightmare outside the walls?
Marion Shaw has been raised in the slums, where want and deprivation are all she knows. Despite longing to leave the city and its miseries, she has no real hope of escape until the day she spots a peculiar listing in the newspaper seeking a bloodmaid.
Though she knows little about the far north—where wealthy nobles live in luxury and drink the blood of those in their service—Marion applies to the position. In a matter of days, she finds herself the newest bloodmaid at the notorious House of Hunger. There, Marion is swept into a world of dark debauchery. At the centre of it all is Countess Lisavet.
The countess, who presides over this hedonistic court, is loved and feared in equal measure. She takes a special interest in Marion. Lisavet is magnetic, and Marion is eager to please her new mistress. But when she discovers that the ancient walls of the House of Hunger hide even older secrets, Marion is thrust into a vicious game of cat and mouse. She’ll need to learn the rules of her new home—and fast—or its halls will soon become her grave.