Book Review: The Memory Librarian by Janelle Monáe

The Memory Librarian by Janelle Monáe


Oh, to live in a world that saw and valued you!

An anthology of dystopian short stories about queer women of color finding joy where they can in the middle of a world where memory is curated, collected and removed. This is a world where resistance to totalitarianism is found by just living…especially when you are considered dirty.

“You can’t build a future if you don’t dream it.”

This was brilliant.

I don’t know that I’ve ever read an entire interconnected anthology based off an album before, but wow. What a concept, and what an interesting execution.

As with most anthologies, some stories were absolutely amazing while others didn’t land quite as well, but the overall concept and execution was just incredible.

I am most certainly not qualified in terms of intelligence to go through with this one, but I know enough to know that these stories are allegories. This is reality (distorted for consumption) for many people of color. The policing of bodies and minds. The concept of dirty and clean. The way intersectionality is dismissed in favor of one or the other, or disregarding all differences to be considered as the same. The different shapes resistance takes. How existing as yourself can be resistance—and how that might seem a triumph on the outside but utterly exhausting to live it, day by day.

I don’t want to talk about the individual stories as much, because this is where I feel that the book should be explored knowing only the premise. Each story is carefully crafted and presented, and ordered for the best impact. I think the only story I didn’t really enjoy was the first one, but I did like it in the end after I figured out what was going on and got how the main character was the way she was (and whooooooooo what a mindfuck that was).

My queerness was 100% reinforced after watching this video

I do think that readers should listen to Dirty Computer before reading…and watch the music videos, which provide aesthetic and additional story.

Okay, listen to Dirty Computer before, during and after reading. I’ve had this shit on repeat for the past two months and it is still incredible.

Either one of these stories or this entire anthology needs to be nominated for all the things, because the collaboration required and the execution is absolutely flawless.

And now I am going to go and listen to Crazy, Classic, Life for the millionth time.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

The Memory Librarian releases April 19, 2022, from Harper Voyager

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