There is a saying that goes, “what is meant to be will always find a way.” Alaya Dawn Johnson has always believed that she needed a space of tranquility and relaxation to write, but it was at a time of disquiet in her life—the parting of ways with her boyfriend of seven years—that her speculative, young adult novel, The Summer Prince, emerged. Despite the chaos she was experiencing, Johnson found a way to create what an NPR book reviewer described as a “YA-dystopia-love-triangle story…[that] walks the line between literary lyricism and good old-fashioned science fiction storytelling.” It was longlisted for the 2013 National Book Awards for young people’s literature, an admirable accomplishment for an author who expressed that she had “wanted to be a writer pretty much from the day I learned to read,” which was around the age of two. The Summer Prince, however, was not her first published novel. She had written several adult novels and novellas as well as two graphic novels for the middle-grade Twisted Journey Series.
Johnson is a native of Washington, DC. Reading Diana Wynne Jones in elementary school and years later Octavia Butler may have been piqued her interest in science fiction and fantasy. She says, “I love science fiction for the possibilities it explores.” Johnson began writing in high school and continued while attending Columbia University, where she studied East Asian Languages and Cultures. Like Nnedi Okorafor, she is among an impactful group of contemporary, Black women writers of science fiction and fantasy and is cognizant of the enormous role she plays in how Black youth see themselves reflected in literature. She says, “I’m fully aware of how little young adult, and fiction in general, that’s fantastical features characters of color.” Love Is the Drug is Johnson’s second young adult book. To learn more about Alaya Dawn Johnson, see the sources and additional reading links below.
I feel optimistic about the amazing things that have been happening in science fiction in terms of diversity. The more of us there are, the more place younger people will feel they have in the genre.
Sources and Additional Reading:
YouTube: BEA 14: Alaya Dawn Johnson (Book Expo America)
Image Credit: amazon.com