I adore Janelle Monae's musical career but I didn't know what to expect in her first novel. I enjoyed The Memory Librarian immensely. Her vision is speculative, rooted in science fiction, but it is also hopeful.
The beating heart of The Memory Librarian is an exploration of technology and artificial intelligence as limitations on individual bodies and as liberation from governmental bodies. Co-written with celebrated and emerging black novelists, in the titular story as well as the four other connected tales that follow, Monae challenges the notion of "dirty" and "deviance" and "abnormal". She gives space to the "othered" and offers a vision of found family--places that are built by community and dreams alike, full of artists and creators and healers and humans who need space to be, just as they are.
— From Danielle
New York Times bestseller!
In The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer, singer-songwriter, actor, fashion icon, futurist, and worldwide superstar Janelle Monáe brings to the written page the Afrofuturistic world of one of her critically acclaimed albums, exploring how different threads of liberation—queerness, race, gender plurality, and love—become tangled with future possibilities of memory and time in such a totalitarian landscape…and what the costs might be when trying to unravel and weave them into freedoms.
Whoever controls our memories controls the future.
Janelle Monáe and an incredible array of talented collaborators have crafted a collection of tales comprising the bold vision and powerful themes that have made Monáe such a compelling and celebrated storyteller. Dirty Computer introduced a world in which thoughts—as a means of self-conception—could be controlled or erased by a select few. And whether you were human, AI, or other, your life and sentience were dictated by those who’d convinced themselves they had the right to decide your fate.
That was until Jane 57821 decided to remember and break free.
Expanding from that mythos, these stories fully explore what it’s like to live in such a totalitarian society . . . and what it takes to get out of it. Building off the tradition of speculative fiction writers such as Octavia E. Butler, Ted Chiang, Becky Chambers, and Nnedi Okorafor—and filled with powerful themes and Monáe’s emblematic artistic vision—The Memory Librarian serves to readers tales that dissect the human trials of identity expression, technology, and love, reaching through to the worlds of memory and time, and the stakes and power that pulse there.
JANELLE MONÁE is widely celebrated as an American singer/songwriter, actress, producer, fashion icon, and futurist whose globally successful career spans over a decade. With her highly theatrical and stylized concept albums, she has garnered eight Grammy nominations and has developed her own label imprint, Wondaland Arts Society. Monáe has also earned great success as an actor, starring in critically acclaimed films including Moonlight, Hidden Figures, Harriet, The Glorias, and the 2020 horror film Antebellum. She will star in the highly anticipated sequel Knives Out 2. The Memory Librarian is her debut book.
“A reminder for those who’ve ever been told they don’t fit in that there’s a world beyond this harsh one and a set of tools that can help them get there. . . The Afrofuturist collection feeds both Monáe’s fan base, who will be hungry to delve deeper into her work, and sci-fi fans looking for another book in the burgeoning Black speculative fiction genre.”
— Washington Post
“A poignant commentary on the power of technology, the preservation of queer identity and the commodification of time. . . The Memory Librarian shows us the future can be an unnerving reflection of our unexamined vices, but we can also plant the seeds for a brighter tomorrow.” — USA Today
“In her book, Monáe offers us a warning, but also a way out. . . Flawed, dirty, proudly glitching, the queer robots of Monáe’s vision refuse to be so easily boiled down into 1s and 0s. The Memory Librarian might not be the answer to the social and political upsets of our time, but it is an answer, and a fiercely inspiring one: a deepening of Afrofuturism’s potential to weaponize our dreams for a freer, more joyous world.” — Wired
“Each story in this collection is a searing but ultimately hopeful glimpse into how marginalized groups can hope and create in a world set against them. Written with a group of collaborators, including award-winning authors and sociologists, this book is reminiscent of the anti-racist and community-building themes present in N.K. Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor’s work, as well as the utopian philosophy of Ursula K. Le Guin and the dystopian technological vision of Philip K. Dick. It’s a stunning collection of stories.” — Buzzfeed
“Blistering, hopeful, and richly written. . . All readers will finish the book craving more of these extremely queer, bold stories that battle gatekeeping and erasure, digging into both the worst potential of a surveillance state and the gritty glimmer of the rebellion that can defeat it.” — Booklist (starred review)
"A moving, triumphant collection...This is a knockout." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Monáe’s collection speaks to both the sf tradition of mind-control tyranny and the way that the powerful marginalize individuals in order to control the whole. Highly recommended for readers of conspiracy and thought-control sf or of Afrofuturist works by the likes of Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, N.?K. Jemisin, and Nnedi Okorafor." — Library Journal (starred review)
"Emotionally raw and with a wholehearted love for people, these stories will make readers long to forge deeper human connections by sharing and holding one another's memories...A celebration of queer and Afrofuturist science fiction saluting creativity in difference." — Kirkus Reviews
“Janelle Monáe is a creative superstar who has tackled everything from music to fashion to film. And with The Memory Librarian, she enters the literary world, proving that there’s truly nothing she can’t do. . . Echoes of classics like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind mix powerfully with explorations of genderqueerness, love, race, and more. . . True to the science fiction genre, The Memory Librarian is an assemblage of hope; liberation emerges when our memories and histories are used as educators. This one is sure to leave an impression.” — Bust Magazine
“With her first book. . . [Janelle Monáe] proves that she can continue being just as electric with the written word, even when it’s not set to a beat. . . The characters in this book are a glorious representation and celebration of a spectrum of sexuality and gender, each written with pure empathy and not a whiff of tokenism.”
“Celebrity writing projects can be an iffy prospect. Writing is a particular craft, one that doesn’t necessarily translate from acting or songwriting, and the results can sometimes feel less like an act of creativity and more like a vanity project. That is absolutely not the case with The Memory Librarian. Monáe and her contributors – Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore, Eve L. Ewing, Yohanca Delgado, and Sheree Renée Thomas – have produced a vivid, visceral text with as much of a hook as the album the stories were inspired by.”
"The Memory Librarian is full of memorable and believable characters struggling valiantly against forces of oppression. It confirms Monáe’s incredible power of imagination and creativity whatever medium she’s working in, and the ability and talent of her co-writers in bringing her vision alive on the page." — Fantasy Hive