“I was attracted to science fiction because it was so wide open. I was able to do anything and there were no walls to hem you in and there was no human condition that you were stopped from examining.”

Octavia Butler

Welcome to Reading Black Futures, a site dedicated to promoting science fiction, fantasy, and horror by Black authors via book lists, blog posts, and research articles.

Who Am I?

​​My name is Stephanie Renee Toliver, and I am an assistant professor of Literacy and Secondary Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Informed by my love of science fiction and fantasy texts as well as my experience as a 9th and 10th grade English teacher, my scholarship centers the freedom dreams of Black youth and honors the historical legacy that Black imaginations have had and will have on activism and social change. Specifically, my research centers three, areas:

–1–how Black youth engage in the reading and writing of speculative fiction to discuss and challenge their experiences with social injustice;

–2–how intersecting oppressions infiltrate the field of education and how educators must use their imaginations to dream of ways to challenge injustice in schools; and 

–3–how Black people use speculative storytelling to metaphorically describe modern and historical antiblackness and to dream of worlds and futures in which Black people are free from the burdens of societal injustice.

This site mostly helps with area #3 because the books I’m constantly searching for are also the books I analyze to learn more about how Black people use speculative storytelling. It also helps me with area #1 and #2 because I recommend these books to young people (as mentor texts and as books for enjoyment) and to teachers (as books to teach and as texts that can help them further develop their own imaginations). 

When I’m not engaging in research, teaching, or service, I’m usually playing video games, watching anime, reading YA speculative fiction, doing puzzles, or playing board games with my family.

Site Design Inspiration

You’ll notice an Afrofuturistic vibe to this site because Blackness and Black futures are at the center of the site design. The inspiration and visuals that foreground this site are from the work of Rufus Royster, an amazing Black artist whose work is so dope that I keep asking for more content (and paying for it, of course). Follow him on Instagram (@Artofrufus) and support more of his brilliant work by going to his website and buying all the things!