Book Club Nominees

6 Terrifying Novels from Black Womxn Authors

by EvF, curator of HOWLS Book Club nominees for February’s “Black Womxn Horror” category

In celebration of black history month, I wanted to use my nomination as a chance to read horror from some black womxn authors. 

Cover of Crescendo by L. Marie Wood. Cover shows a picture of a simple house with a wrap around porch, except the entire picture is tinted blood red.

Crescendo by L. Marie Wood

A man, haunted by a family curse, is taken beyond the limits of his sanity to a realm where he has no control over his actions or his fear. James Adams lived a normal life in a New York suburb before the demons dwelling within him awoke from their slumber to reveal unspeakable horror and prophesize his future and his destiny. Crescendo is a novel about fate and the lengths we will travel to avoid the inevitable. Set in tranquil Rockland County, New York, this tale of suspense and horror will take its reader on an emotional roller coaster of anger, anxiety, compassion, and indelible fear.

When formulating my list, I already had a couple books and authors in mind who I haven’t yet read. For the rest, I did some googling. Crescendo appears on a couple lists of horror by black authors. I thought the excerpt available to read on Amazon was quite good and wanted to offer a less widely known book/author on this list! Can the underdog defeat the literary giants?

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Beloved by Toni Morrison. Cover is simply a red cover featuring golden yellow text in a beautiful script.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has borne the unthinkable and not gone mad, yet she is still held captive by memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Meanwhile Sethe’s house has long been troubled by the angry, destructive ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Sethe works at beating back the past, but it makes itself heard and felt incessantly in her memory and in the lives of those around her. When a mysterious teenage girl arrives, calling herself Beloved, Sethe’s terrible secret explodes into the present. Combining the visionary power of legend with the unassailable truth of history, Morrison’s unforgettable novel is one of the great and enduring works of American literature.

Though Beloved isn’t listed as horror on Goodreads, I have seen many, many people say it is nonetheless horror and one of their favorites. I have yet to read this classic haunted house tale so it was an instant addition to my February TBR.

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Cover of My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due. Cover shows a sunset image of a figure walking on what might be a beach. The image appears to have been seen through a viewfinder, as the field of vision is a circle. The image is tinted red as if a red filter is applied.

My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due

When Jessica marries David, he is everything she wants in a family man: brilliant, attentive, ever youthful. Yet she still feels something about him is just out of reach. Soon, as people close to Jessica begin to meet violent, mysterious deaths, David makes an unimaginable confession: More than 400 years ago, he and other members of an Ethiopian sect traded their humanity so they would never die, a secret he must protect at any cost. Now, his immortal brethren have decided David must return and leave his family in Miami. Instead, David vows to invoke a forbidden ritual to keep Jessica and his daughter with him forever. Harrowing, engrossing and skillfully rendered, My Soul to Keep traps Jessica between the desperation of immortals who want to rob her of her life and a husband who wants to rob her of her soul. With deft plotting and an unforgettable climax, this tour de force reminiscent of early Anne Rice will win Due a new legion of fans.

I originally wanted to offer The Good House, but HOWLS has already read it and, from what I’ve seen, loved it! Tananarive Due is on my list of authors I want to read this year. I thought it would be fun to read this take on immortals (from Ethiopia!) and the urban fantasy genre. This is also the first book in a trilogy, so anyone who loves it could have more to read. 

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Cover of White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi. Cover shows two black silhouettes of trees framing the scene, two white silhouettes of trees behind them, and in the center, some distance away, the silhouette of a house. A girl stands at the edge of the path , leaning into the woods; she is also in silhouette.

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

In a vast, mysterious house on the cliffs near Dover, the Silver family is reeling from the hole punched into its heart. Lily is gone and her twins, Miranda and Eliot, and her husband, the gentle Luc, mourn her absence with unspoken intensity. All is not well with the house, either, which creaks and grumbles and malignly confuses visitors in its mazy rooms, forcing winter apples in the garden when the branches should be bare. Generations of women inhabit its walls. And Miranda, with her new appetite for chalk and her keen sense for spirits, is more attuned to them than she is to her brother and father. She is leaving them slowly. Slipping away from them. And when one dark night she vanishes entirely, the survivors are left to tell her story. This is a spine-tingling tale that has Gothic roots but an utterly modern sensibility. Told by a quartet of crystalline voices, it is electrifying in its expression of myth and memory, loss and magic, fear and love.

This has been nominated several times with HOWLS and it’s been on my TBR for a long time. Is it time for us to finally read it? According to what I’ve read, Helen Oyeyemi’s writing in this is highly experimental. One of the narrators includes the house and for that reason it appears reviewers are highly divided on this one. Could make for a lively discussion!

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Cover of When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen. Cover shows a body of water with driftwood on the shore. Trees are at the edge of the image. One tree appears to be some sort of evergreen and the other appears to be a weeping willow. A bird perches on a branch.

When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen

More than a decade ago, Mira fled her small, segregated hometown in the south to forget. With every mile she traveled, she distanced herself […] from the eerie Woodsman plantation rumored to be haunted by the spirits of slaves; from the terrifying memory of a ghost she saw that terrible day when a dare-gone-wrong almost got Jesse—the boy she secretly loved—arrested for murder.

But now Mira is back to attend a wedding at the plantation, which has been transformed into a lush vacation resort. But for all its fancy renovations, the Woodsman remains a monument to its oppressive racist history. The bar serves antebellum drinks, entertainments include horrifying reenactments, and the service staff is nearly all black. Yet the darkest elements of the plantation’s past have been carefully erased—rumors that slaves were tortured mercilessly and that ghosts roam the lands, seeking vengeance on the descendants of those who tormented them, which includes most of the wedding guests. 

As the weekend unfolds, Mira, Jesse, and Celine are forced to acknowledge their history together, and to save themselves from what is to come.

When the Reckoning Comes was listed on several best of 2021 book listicles. Goodreads is awash in rave reviews. The blurb reminds me of Jordan Peele’s horror. All of the other books on this list are over ten years old (except the anthology) and I thought it would be great to read something that has been released more recently. 

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Sycorax’s Daughters from Kinitra Books. Cover shows a deep golden toned background with the image of a young black girl's face floating in the middle. Her face is surrounded by branches or thorns. There is a streak of blood below her face. She is wearing what appears to be a head wrap, and also wearing what appears to be a beaded necklace with what looks like feathers dangling from it.

Sycorax’s Daughters from Kinitra Books

A powerful, revealing anthology of dark fiction and poetry by Black women writers. The tales of what scares, threatens and shocks them will enlighten and entertain you. Sycorax’s Daughters’ stories and poems delve into demons and shape shifters from Carole McDonnell’s “How to Speak to the Bogeyman” and Sheree Renée Thomas’ “Tree of the Forest Seven Bells Turns the World Round Midnight” to far future offerings from Kiini Ibura Salaam’s “The Malady of Need”, Valjeanne Jeffers’ steampunk female detective in “Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective II” and others.These thought-provoking twenty-eight stories and fourteen poems cover creatures imagined—vampires, ghosts, and mermaids, as well as the unexpected price paid by women struggling for freedom and validation in the past—slavery to science-fiction futures with transhumans and alternate realities.

Anthologies can be hit or miss. Readers are bound to find stories they love, hate, or otherwise feel apathetic towards. But anthologies are also a great way to be exposed to a variety of new authors and add those of the stories you love to your future reading list. Sycorax’s Daughters was also a finalist for the Bram Stoker’s 2017 anthology award.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

And The Winner Is…

Out of these six books, HOWLers voted to read When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen. Join HOWL Society on Monday, February 7, 2022 to begin discussion!

Evelyn Freeling‘s short fiction has been previously published with Ghost Orchid Press and Dark Dispatch. She’s a member of the Horror Writers Association, was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, but currently haunts Dubai. When she isn’t writing or reading, she’s probably being tormented by her terribly wonderful toddler. You can find her on Twitter @Evelyn_Freeling or at

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