To celebrate black history month, I am sharing first lines from fantasy and science fiction stories by black authors from the 1800s to the 2020s.
First Line Friday
First Line Friday is a series of blog articles posted on the first Friday of the month. The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. Do these first lines hook you? Do you want to read more?
On one of those exciting occasions, during a contest for the presidency of the United States, a number of gentlemen met in the city of Baltimore.”Blake: or, The Huts of America
by Martin R. Delany © 1859
He stood a moment on the steps of the bank, watching the human river that swirled down Broadway.”The Comet by W.E.B. Du Bois © 1920
At the same time as I entered into the bush I could not stop in one place as the noises of the guns were driving me farther and farther until I travelled about sixteen miles away from the road on which my brother left me.”My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
by Amos Tutuola © 1954
The waves flung up against the purple glow of double sleeplessness. Along the piers the ships return; but sailing I would go through double rings of fire, double fears.”The Jewels of Aptor by Samuel R. Delany ©1962
The North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance agent promised to fly from Mercy to the other side of Lake Superior at three o’clock.“Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison ©1977
I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm.“Kindred by Octavia E. Butler ©1979
One long time ago, Pretty Pearl yearned to come down from on high.“The Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl
by Virginia Hamilton ©1986
Willow Springs. Everybody knows but nobody talks about the legend of Sapphire Wade.“Mama Day by Gloria Naylor ©1988
As soon as he entered the room, Baines blurted out, “We want you to find us a viable human heart, fast.”Brown Girl in the Ring by Nail Hopkinson ©1998
In the verdant grasslands a brisk hour’s run from the coast, close enough for to spice the air with the ocean foam, thirteen solemn men sat circle, speaking of death.”Zulu Heart by Steven Barnes ©2003
A mudslide on Walnut Lane last Saturday, brought about by heavy rains, has left eight families without homes as a “river of mud” swept whole houses from their foundations and smashed them to bits at midnight.”The Good House by Tananarive Due ©2003
My life fell apart when I was sixteen. Papa died.”Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor ©2010
I am not as I once was. They have done this to me, broken me open and torn out my heart.”The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
by N.K. Jemisin ©2010
Fifteen days before
After school, Patrice and Derrick rushed to beat mid-afternoon traffic.”The Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull ©2020
My name doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that I’m a phantom, a figment, a man who was mistaken for wait-staff twice that night—odd, given my outfit.”We Cast a Shadow
By Maurice Carlos Ruffin 2020
There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. Usually these titles are pulled at random. They are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.
Many thanks to Nisi Shawl, author and teacher, for posting her research into the history of science fiction written by people of color where I found many of these titles. I could not find the first lines of some books on her list and couldn’t list them here. Read her history and commentary about her complete list of books on her site.
Do You Want to Read More?
If you enjoyed this, you might like previous First Line Friday posts.
Please take a moment to share in the comments below. Which ones spoke to you? Did you buy it? If you’ve already read it, did you like it?