Today I’m reviewing An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon.
This is an excellent book, first of all. It has solid worldbuilding, nuanced characters, deeper meanings behind daily experiences, and a quality that I can only describe as #OwnVoices authenticity.
An Unkindness of Ghosts is very Queer and very Autistic, which was lovely to read from an #OwnVoices author as someone who is both. Rivers Solomon brings an additional #OwnVoices perspective to the book as a Black author.
I’m going to be up-front about the violence in this book. It’s not gratuitous and is likely going to be uncomfortable for many white people to read (not a bad thing at all!) because it mirrors so much of how my own society has treated minorities in general and Black people specifically. If anyone is triggered by sexual violence, it would be wise to seek out specific trigger warnings for the book.
There’s a more expanded outline of the triggers in the book in this review along with a reminder that Black authors often get accused of being overly explicit about racial violence, but in reality most Black (and other racial minority) authors have to minimize the horrors they’ve experienced or witnessed in order to make their stories accessible to more people (who then still often accuse them of exaggerating).
All the main characters were whole people who were neurodivergent and Queer in various ways. There’s no list of “deficits” defining any of them and everyone’s “divergences” from the socially accepted norm in their society have both pros and cons and affect their lives in a variety of ways that ring very true and realistic to me. For more about the neurodivergence aspect, I recommend reading this review.
Even those who have psychotic episodes are presented in a well-rounded and respectful way, which is unusual to see. There was a very clear recognition of the challenges experienced by the person themself as a result of their psychosis, not just a focus on how their psychosis affected everyone around them.
Often neurodivergence is presented as an inconvenience for everyone around the neurodivergent person, but not much else, which is a very one-sided way to look at it. This book stands in stark contrast to that presentation and takes a broader perspective without villainizing anyone for being non-normative.
As other reviewers have noted, this wasn’t exactly a pleasant book to read, but I don’t think it was intended to be. It’s heavy, but it is still an excellent read that I wholeheartedly recommend (with the suggestion of seeking out trigger warnings and/or spoilers if you need to).
This book has a very thought provoking, solid story with excellent characters and a premise that serves as a mirror to many of my own society’s failings.