Book Review: The Memory Librarian by Janelle Monáe

Author: Janelle Monáe with Alaya Dawn, Danny Lore, Eve L. Ewing, Yohanca Delgado, and Sheree Renée Thomas
Title: The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer
Narrator: Janelle Monáe, Bahni Turpin
Publication Info: HarperAudio (2022)

Musician, actor, and fashion icon Janelle Monáe adds author to her many skills with this collection of stories rooted in the dystopian future world previously explored in her music.  Each story is co-written with another talented Black author.  The stories are set in a near-future authoritarian state called New Dawn where people live under constant surveillance, have their memories harvested, and those who don’t conform – especially LGBTQ people and people of color – are classified as “Dirty Computers.”

These stories include that of Seshet the memory librarian, a high ranking official in New Dawn, who begins to explore life on the “wrong side of town” with a new transgender partner.  A commune of women who’ve found refuge from New Dawn at a place called Pynk Hotel discover a traitor in their midst.  A lesbian couple discover a room in their house outside of time with each responding to it differently.  And a family are able to travel one by one into a future where they find they’ve been liberated giving them hope to make it a reality.

It’s an interesting collection of sci-fi/Afrofuturist stories that very much parallels our real world struggles.  The stories can be didactic in their messaging but honestly sometimes need to be told bluntly.  While this type of fiction is not typically something I would enjoy – and I’ll confess that some elements went over my head – I am glad that I read this book and would recommend it to people who like this genre and fans of Monáe.

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Rating: ****

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