#TBRChallenge – Unusual Historical: Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark is a novella set in 1922 Georgia, mostly in Macon with a set piece at Stone Mountain. It’s a dark fantasy that includes body horror, in which white supremacists use the initial release of “Birth of a Nation” in 1915 to enact a ritual bringing demons into the world. The human racism and racist actions of these white supremacists are subsequently exacerbated by these monstrous creatures who devour both hatred and people, including some of the supremacists. As always with Clark, a historian, the significant details of the time period are skillfully deployed, lending deep resonance to the story’s thematic concerns.

I particularly enjoyed the wide range of women characters. The protagonist, Maryse Boudreaux, was called to become a monster-hunter first via trauma at the hands of white supremacists, then by a supernatural weapon gifted to her by ambivalent otherworldly beings. She brings the mystical sword with her when called to fight “Ku Kluxes” by the wise old Gullah woman, Nana Jean, who serves as the group’s mentor and counsels Maryse not to be led by her hatred of those who harmed her. (I loved that Nana Jean and Uncle Will, who leads the Shouts that raise power, have a romantic relationship.) Maryse’s hunting companions include Sadie, a brash, fearless sharpshooter, and an older woman, Chef, a butch lesbian who dresses as a man, is an explosives expert, and fought in the Great War with the Harlem Hellfighters. German Jewish widow Emma Krauss, the only sympathetic White character, is a socialist who provides both similarity and counterpoint views to the Black characters she lives among.

The book isn’t long, but it packs in a lot of history with its examination of hatred’s harm to both haters and hated, leaving them in a vicious cycle that allows no relief or resolution.

NPR’s review. Before We Go’s review.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
This entry was posted in reading, sf/f and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to #TBRChallenge – Unusual Historical: Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

  1. Pingback: My April Reading Log | Victoria Janssen

Comments are closed.