Ever since Beasts Made of Night I’ve been a huge fan of Tochi Onyebuchi. Tochi is an expert at world building that is not only poignant, but also incredibly detailed. It’s the kind of worlds that never leave you. So when I saw Tochi’s adult fiction debut, I knew I had to track it down!
Rooted in foundational loss and the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is both a global dystopian narrative an intimate family story with quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience.
Ella and Kev are brother and sister, both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by structural racism and brutality. Their futures might alter the world. When Kev is incarcerated for the crime of being a young black man in America, Ella—through visits both mundane and supernatural—tries to show him the way to a revolution that could burn it all down.
Tochi’s prose shines in Riot Baby. There’s subtle word placements and these phrases roll of your tongue in a way that’s both glittering and sharp. The world of Riot Baby is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Faced with the desperation, the violence, and turning to hope, but is it enough? It’s a story grounded in racism, police brutality, and the spark that ignites the tinder. Throughout Riot Baby we read about cycles of violence and racism. The scripts we are trapped in like hamsters in a wheel playing at words we don’t understand and cast in roles we cannot escape.
I fell in love with Ella from the very beginning. She has to figure out how to harness her power in a world that will see her as a threat no matter what. Without a support system and having to grow up with this source of power, Ella’s feelings of rage and confusion moved me. Riot Baby is about fury. The collective bonfire that keeps burning with logs piling on. It’s about trying to move towards the future, but one we are a part of, unlike the present where we are living in where no one recognizes us. The desire to be a part of the future one where we are seen.
Riot Baby is incredibly thought provoking and you will power through it. It looks at our future and what it will cost. What is the price of freedom and true change? Not just the same violence and anger all over again? It’s one of those novellas that make you want to pick it up again. Find Riot Baby on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository.