A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope edited by Patrice Caldwell

Evoking Beyonc 's Lemonade for a teen audience, these authors who are truly Octavia Butler's heirs, have woven worlds to create a stunning narrative that centers Black women and gender nonconforming individuals. A Phoenix First Must Burn will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines of A Phoenix First Must Burn shine brightly. You will never forget them.

CONTRIBUTOR(S): Elizabeth Acevedo, Amerie, Patrice Caldwell, Dhonielle Clayton, J. Marcelle Corrie, Somaiya Daud, Charlotte Nicole Davis, Justina Ireland, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore, L. L. McKinney, Danielle Paige, Rebecca Roanhorse, Karen Strong, Ashley Woodfolk, and Ibi Zoboi.
COVER ARTIST: Ashe Samuels (Art), Samira Iravani (Design)
PUBLISHER:  Viking Books for Young Readers
YEAR: 2020
LENGTH: 368 pages
AGE: Young Adult
GENRE: Fantasy

Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Main Character(s), Genderqueer/Nonbinary Secondary Character(s).

A PHOENIX FIRST MUST BURN celebrates Black Girl Magic in a literal and metaphorical sense. I like a few of the stories, but the overall collection was uneven. Several end abruptly in a way that feels like they needed more space to develop. There were a few standouts which make the collection worth perusing. “When Life Hands You A Lemon Fruitbomb” is the collection’s opener. I love it, if the whole anthology had been like it I’d be raving over it. “A Hagiography of Starlight” is one where it felt complete but I want there to be more, it’s a fantastic world which I want to explore. “Melie” inverts several "chosen one" tropes in some cool ways, with an irreverent feeling. “Letting The Right One In” is marred only by referencing books by an author who wasn’t widely known to suck when this collection was written (though it’s not the only one to do so). "Sequence" is a good choice for ending the anthology, it's excellently written and well-placed in the collection.

"When Life Hands You a Lemon Fruitbomb" - CW for confinement, torture, war, death. 

"Gilded" - CW for pregnancy, blood, injury detail, slavery, parental death, death.

"Wherein Abigail Fields Recalls Her First Death and, Subsequently, Her Best Life" - CW for racism, gun violence, injury detail, murder, death.

"The Rules of the Land" - CW for vomit, alcohol, alcoholism, domestic abuse, pregnancy, parental death. Minor CW for xenophobia, sexual content, animal death, war.

"A Hagiography of Starlight" - CW for adult/minor relationship. Minor CW for sexual content.

"Melie" - CW for blood, violence, war, death. Minor CW for body shaming, self harm, murder.

"The Goddess Provides" - CW for grief, sexism, religious bigotry, confinement, excrement, fire/fire injury, gore, blood, violence, injury detail, self harm, torture, murder, parental death, death.

"Hearts Turned to Ash" - CW for grief, toxic relationship.

"Letting the Right One In" - CW for abandonment. Minor CW for sexual content, mental illness, racism, homophobia. Brief Harry Potter reference.

"Tender-Headed" - CW for toxic relationship, toxic friendship.

"Kiss the Sun" - CW for colorism, racism, ableism, bullying, infidelity, fire, colonization

"The Actress" - Minor CW for sexual content, racism. Brief Harry Potter reference.

"The Curse of Love" - CW for parental death, death.

"All the Time in the World" - CW for racism. Minor CW for sexual content, war, death.

"The Witch's Skin" - CW for sexism, abandonment, sexual content, grief, pregnancy, blood, gore, murder, war, parental death, child death, death.

"Sequence" - No major CWs.

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A Black girl with long pink and black hair floats in a sea of stars and a necklace of planets, enveloped by a flowing pink dress


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