REVIEW: “Thresher of Men” by Michael Boatman

Review of Michael Boatman, “Thresher of Men”, in Zelda Knight and Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald, ed., Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction From Africa and the African Diaspora, (Aurelia Leo, 2020) — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

Content warning: Transphobic and ableist language; death; shooting of Black people by cops; murder; structural racism; rape.

Oooh, this was one uncomfortable story to read, with plenty of places in the first few pages that had me squirming in my seat. The focus of the opening scene is Officer Greg Fitzsimmons, member of Lincolnville P.D. and white. He embodies a lot of what I dislike in contemporary American culture — the ambient level of unconcern for people who are not like him is just gross. This story illustrates the power that a story’s author has over it: If this story had been written by a white person, reading it would have been a very different experience. As it is, what would have looked like callousness and ignorance looks instead like a very incisive criticism of contemporary American society and racial structures. There’s a reason I should feel so damn uncomfortable: Boatman’s depiction of how white people view Black people is not wrong.

But it wasn’t all uncomfortable squirming: At the end of the opening, vengeance in the form of the goddess Kisazi slams into the scene and lights the story up — figuratively and literally — and all the white bastards get the comeuppance they deserve. Thoroughly satisfying.

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