Historical fantasy books with BIPOC characters

Are you looking for your next historical fantasy read that also features people of color? This was something I found myself seeking last summer (2020) as I began working on my own historical fantasy projects. I was surprised at how difficult it was to even find good search results, let alone books I wanted to read.

So if you’re also on the hunt, let me help you out with some options I found.

This list is defined by historical low fantasy or alternate reality with magical elements set on Earth circa 1803 – 1914 with main characters of color, specifically Black, Indigenous, Persons of Color including Asians (BIPOC).

The BIPOC persons cannot be supporting characters, they must be active and key to the plot. BIPOC characters should be human rather than a magical creature e.g. angel, demon, vampire, werewolf.

Comment with your suggestions because I know there have got to be more that I’ve missed! I’ve also started a Goodreads list where you can also vote for your suggestions there.

Rewriting history in response to today

This past Saturday, I woke at 5:30 AM, troubled by our political climate. As a hobbyist historian, I found myself wondering how we got here and what could have prevented such an ideological divide. The answer lies in studying, among other things, John Quincy Adams’s impact on the Gag Rules, the South Carolina Nullification Crisis of 1833 (the first time they threatened secession), and the Supreme Court rulings following the Reconstruction Amendments that opened the door for state-governed Jim Crow laws.

I was chatting with a co-worker the other day that the Union won the battles of the Civil War, but lost war of cultural change during Reconstruction. So, this picture is my attempt to “fix it.”

My historical fantasy is set in 1873 Columbus, Ohio. My city was doing a lot of good stuff for the education of the general public, including desegregation to deal with the rising population, opening a public library, and founding The Ohio State University (which had women and persons of color in their first graduating classes). However, the political history I mentioned above had an impact that cannot be ignored.

In my alternate history, I tweaked the Reconstruction Amendments to be more inclusive and with less caveats. I allowed Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas to not be so heavily swayed by South Carolina. I even play around with the idea that President Lincoln let’s South Carolina secede for a (very little) while.

In my story, slavery legislation is a state equality issue, where it’s unfair that states with larger populations of people who aren’t citizens (I’m looking at you, 3/5 law) get extra votes. Plus, there’s magic. More on that later.

In the meantime, I felt a little better after rewriting history for 90 minutes. I feel like maybe I can face whatever new sad news I’ll see today about the transition of power between the former and new president. I feel like we’re on the cusp of a new era of Reconstruction, this time perhaps a more focused attempt at bridging the ideological beliefs separating the 70 million who want things to stay as they are from the 74 million who push for equality and unity.