Ytasha Womack wrote the award-winning “Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi & Fantasy Culture,” which explores how African-American literary, film and visual artists are reimagining the future. The Chicago native is also the author of the science fiction novel, “Rayla 2212,” among other books, and has directed a number of films. She currently is a creator-in-residence with Kickstarter, where she’s working on “A Spaceship in Bronzeville,” a three-book series of novellas. She speaks at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Emerson College’s Bill Bordy Theater at 216 Tremont St.
BOOKS: What are you reading currently?
WOMACK: I have like 20 books stacked by my bed. I just finished “Dead Precedents: How Hip-hop Defines the Future” by Roy Christopher. It’s an interesting book that looks at hip-hop as cyber culture. I’m also reading a biography of [the Afro-Caribbean philosopher and anti-colonial leader] Frantz Fanon by Leo Zeilig and “An African-American and Latinx History of the United States” by Paul Ortiz. That’s really good. I’m always reading three books at the same time, and I read a lot of nonfiction.
BOOKS: Have you always been a mostly nonfiction reader?
WOMACK: I spent hours and hours in the library from the age of six on. I either read history or science. My claim to fame as an elementary school reader is that I read the entire black history and biography section in the library’s children’s section. I remember reading the biographies of Lena Horne, [Louis] “Satchmo’’ [Armstrong], and Jackie Robinson, who all had similar stories. At one point they are in the rural South, next they are in Harlem, then suddenly in Paris. As a kid in Chicago I was like, “Who are these people and how do they magically always wind up in Paris?”
BOOKS: Which biography stuck with you?
WOMACK: This will sound bizarre but Eartha Kitt’s autobiography “Thursday’s Child.” She started off in the rural South, somehow ended up in New York City, auditioned for the Katherine Dunham dance company, and then all of a sudden she’s traveling the world. I thought that was so exciting. Another book that stuck with me was Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon,” which I read as a teenager.
BOOKS: Are there other books that have been formative for you?
WOMACK: “Black Quantum Futurism” by Rasheedah Phillips, which came out recently. It has essays on the concept of time within the African diaspora and traditional African societies, and how that interrelates with quantum physics. “The Cuba Reader: History, Culture, Politics” by Aviva Chomsky was really insightful for me. It has all these essays from people who lived in Cuba at different times, including a priest who came with the Spanish, so you get a different perspective on the attacks on native people and their resistance.
BOOKS: How would you describe yourself as a reader?
WOMACK: I’m always into the book that no one talks about. Also, I’ve read Octavia Butler but I am not a huge reader of science fiction, which is kind of odd. I’ve watched a lot of science fiction films.
BOOKS: How would you change yourself as a reader?
WOMACK: I would put together a playlist of songs that were either inspired by a book I’m reading or mentioned in the book. I’ve been reading “Empire of the Summer Moon” by S.C. Gwynne about the Comanche. It would be great to put together music from the Comanche or from Texas of that time. For me music really captures time periods and emotions. Sometimes it can capture things that words can’t.
BOOKS: Which books would you recommend to readers new to Afrofuturism?
‘I’m . . . into the book that no one talks about.’
WOMACK: “Nigerians in Space” by Deji Bryce Olukotun. Damian Duffy did a graphic novel with illustrator John Jennings of Octavia Butler’s “Kindred.” There’s a limited edition comic series, “Matty’s Rocket” by Tim Fielder, which has beautiful illustrations and a Harriet Tubman vibe.
BOOKS: What would you turn to for a lighter read?
WOMACK: I don’t know if I do, which is kind of terrible. I got “The Jazz of Physics” by Stephon Alexander. Like that would be a lighter read.
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