Resurrected, Restless, Refracted: Frightful Fiction by Black Authors for Your Halloween Reading List

As Halloween approaches and the sharp snap of Winter comes slinking in behind it, there is no better time for curling up in a duvet away from the chill. However, with these books to keep you company on shadowy nights, you’ll be hoping that blanket can protect you from more than just frost nipping at your toes…

As Halloween approaches and the sharp snap of Winter comes slinking in behind it, there is no better time for curling up in a duvet away from the chill. However, with these books to keep you company on shadowy nights, you’ll be hoping that blanket can protect you from more than just frost nipping at your toes. 

Horror fiction is a genre near and dear to my heart, but the aspect of it that I care for the most is how subversive and deconstructive it can be, and especially the ways in which contemporary horror actively seeks to destabilise the foundations of outdated tropes and archetypes. It’s asking us questions about how we choose to represent ourselves, how we can fit into the world, or how we can remould the world to fit us. The emotional core of horror fiction is in the cathartic reveal of our true selves when we are pitted against terrifying monsters, killers, or the deepest, most emptiest voids of reality – but, it also has the potential to ponder over the structures and systems that bind us, and untangle the confining webs that uphold prejudice in new, delightfully dark ways. I believe that this is what keeps us coming back; the fun found in seeking a dangerous thrill, cheering for those final girls, and having a bit of a think about the wider social commentary that the story speaks to. Although, not that we always have time for that when throwing our popcorn at the screen or running around the house putting all the lights on, of course. 

In order to appreciate the multifaceted joy found in fishing for philosophical phantoms that lurk below the seemingly slasherific surface of horror novels, and to celebrate Black History Month here in the UK, I have compiled a list of my favourite chilling tales by black authors. The novels and anthologies below are exhilarating and exciting, as well as thoughtful, and challenge what we may define as ‘horror’ in the first place. I think the most fun you can have with a genre is teasing it apart, and pushing at its fringes, and these books are packed with that model innovation and a dynamic punch that will definitely haunt you, and your bookshelves, for years to come. 

I have included some content warnings beneath my recommendations, because although having a bit of a scare can be entertaining, it should never be overwhelming or uncomfortable in ways that detract from the fun. Look after yourselves, horror fans! And, as always, if you have other recommendations, please let me know! (I am currently reading Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation, an alternative historical fiction tale about zombies and zombie-killing-school and conspiracies – it is unfortunately not part of the larger list because I haven’t finished it, but I just have to tell someone about it.)


These books all feature the un-dead and the re-awoken, symbols for rebirth and the radical refusal to let go of life. They defy the worlds and systems that attempt to keep their spirits (metaphorical and supernatural) down, and focus on the hardships that come with extended life; how it challenges perceptions of love, the strength that can be found in refusing to die when prejudice demands, and the joy that can be discovered in immortal perspectives.

  • The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez
    • Vampires are my favourite creatures of the night, and I’m always on the hunt (the haunt?) for new books about these debauched, debonair demons. I love the airs of sophistication around them, how these airs are duly disrupted, and the ethical dilemmas poised by the promise of immortality. This collection of tales about a black lesbian vampire navigating the centuries is a sweet, gentle story about enduring love and identity in the face of racial violence and the (often false) promises of social change. The most striking aspect of the novel is the ways in which the traditions of vampire mythology are reclaimed and rewritten, no longer representing misogyny and cruelty, but transformed into symbols of celebration and community. The normalisation of queer identities is fantastically done in this novel, and the characters are written so well that you feel as though you are living these immortal years alongside them. It is impossible not to well up when Gilda – a girl who escapes slavery before being turned into a vampire – begins to understand the loneliness of immortality, not feel the flutter of her heart when she falls in love with mortals against her better judgement. The horror here is a quietly introspective and existential one; there is violence and death, but the real fear comes from confronting difficult questions about life – how do you continue to love when you have witnessed so much hate and brutality? How do / can you choose your family? How do you find autonomy and agency when it is continually targeted and attacked? This book will stay with me for a long time; so beautifully written and packed with fully realised and lovable characters with buckets of queer representation – I tell literally everyone to read it!
      • CW: racist violence, attempted sexual assault
  • My Soul To Keep by Tananarive Due
    • Sinister, thrilling, and soaked with blood, My Soul to Keep is more than just a heart-pounding tale of murder and desire, but a thoughtful musing on what it means to be monstrous, how our seemingly humble humanity can blossom into heroism, and the dark places that love can push us to. The novel follows the marriage of Jessica and David, who appear to have it all; cute cat, cute kid, and fulfilling jobs. However, when people around Jessica start becoming the target of a mysterious and brutal killer, the strings that bind her and her apparently perfect husband together strain with a tension that will have you screaming at the page: “Run! Run!!”. My Soul to Keep is a masterclass of fast-paced action and suspense, with a genuinely emotional core that roots itself inside of its readers. It asks us what we would become if we were privy to the secret of eternal life, and if we could use this dangerous knowledge for good. While I believe that the book works well as a standalone scare (That Bathroom Scene… *shudders*), evoking the same feeling of a slasher Summer blockbuster movie, the following books in the African Immortals series similarly offer rich world-building and classic thrills that are well worth exploring; it’s just so cool. 
      • CW: gore, animal abuse
  • Destroyer by Victor LaValle
    • This graphic novel is not so much a retelling of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’, but a continuation. Set in a world where Victor Frankenstein was a real person with real prominence in the scientific community, Dr Baker is putting his life-creating techniques to the test in order to resurrect her teenage son, who was unjustly shot dead by the police. This comic presents a direct and hard-hitting commentary on police brutality in America and questions concepts of parenthood and morality through Dr Baker’s decisions. How do you raise the dead, both from the ground and up in a hostile society? How do you find joy and curiosity when suffering and bleakness closes in on you every day? What makes a family? However, despite being violent and action packed (it has mechs! Frankenstein Man vs Frankenstein Boy! Explosions!), hope and inspiration blossoms from the horrific roots of Destroyer, for a safer future. 
      • CW: police brutality, gore


Ghosts and spectres and revenants – oh my! Haunted houses and haunted people are classic staples of horror fiction, allowing us to remember the past and see through into the other side of life. But, they are not limited to stories we may typically label ‘horror’. Ghosts can pass through walls, so why can’t they pass into other genres? 

  • White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
    • Fans of Shirley Jackson should definitely peek into the haunted house that takes centre stage in Oyeyemi’s novel, inhabited by lost souls and a hungry void. . Reading it makes you feel like something is lurking just out of eyesight, waiting for you to look up, before vanishing into the shadows again. The old house has its own voice, own motivations and wants, and is terrifying Wandering this old house is Miranda, who compulsively eats plastic and other inedible treats, hears voices, and is descended from a long line of women who have gotten lost amongst the walls of her Dover house. When she goes to university, she meets Ore, who is similarly fighting her own internal demons, but drawn to Miranda’s mysteriousness. Together, they must venture back into the house and into themselves to shake off the ghouls that seek to pull them down into a more horrifying darkness. Twisty and Gothic, this is a classic story of a haunted house, where the spectres are as flesh and blood as you and I. This novel also features a queer relationship!
      • CW: incest, eating disorders, racist slurs
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
    • This novel has the single most anxiety-inducing, toe-curling ‘police have pulled the car over, now what?’ scene I have ever read. If that is not enough to convince you, there are also hauntings and complex discussions of race, poverty, and parenthood. On the surface, Ward takes us on a road trip in Mississippi – the family is a bit dysfunctional, the baby keeps crying, the car is stuffy – but underneath the seats are ghosts that only 13 year old Jojo can see. As the family travel to retrieve the kids’ dad from prison, secrets explode from their safes, and the novel becomes an intense study of its multifaceted characters, and how human kindness can potentially take us to more frightening places than fear. The atmosphere of this book is captured so beautifully that you can still feel the cold prickle of the supernatural leaking through the confining heat of the vehicle and the sticky air of the South. Reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, this novel is a perfect fit for both Halloween and the height of Summer. 
      • CW: drug abuse, domestic abuse, racist violence, graphic animal death, emetophobia 


Short stories and anthologies can spook us just as much as a longer novel can, and are arguably masterclasses in form, theme, and delivery. It takes talent to twist your reader’s stomach in so few words, but the collections and pieces from this list do not disappoint in their tales of dread.

  • How to Recognise A Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda Addison
    • This collection of short stories and poems is a wonderful quick jaunt through hellish things – and it’s gorgeous! Containing macabre songs from rotting bodies, stories of tween witches fighting ghosts, and more, this collection is immediately reminiscent of swapping scary stories in the dark with your friends on Halloween night. Can we start doing that again?
      • CW: gore
  • Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
    • This anthology of short stories can be classified as horror in the same way that the television show Black Mirror is; most of the stories represent an exaggerated, warped reality that is close enough to our own to still be chilling and disturbing. There is violence and pain galore amongst these stories, as dead bodies pile up when society pushes humanity to its limits and the stresses of everyday commercial life breaks its bones. The stories within this collection discuss everything from the racial prejudice that reeks from the ‘’’’’’justice’’’’’’ system, abortion, and capitalism, with a winking eye and forked tongue firmly pressed into its cheek. 
      • CW: police brutality, body horror, gun violence

Zoe Robertson, Arts and Culture Editor