Book Review: Short story anthology 'The Black Girl Survives in This One' challenges the horror canon

Ahh, the Final Girl — a point of pride, a point of contention. Too often, the white, virginal, Western ideal. But not this time.

“The Black Girl Survives in This One,” a short story anthology edited by Saraciea J. Fennell and Desiree S. Evans, is changing the literary horror canon. As self-proclaimed fans of “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” and “Goosebumps,” the editors have upped the ante with a new collection spotlighting Black women and girls, defying the old tropes that would box Black people in as support characters or victims.

The 15 stories are introduced with an excellent forward by Tananarive Due laying out the groundwork with a brief history of Black women in horror films and literature, and of her own experiences. She argues with an infallible persuasiveness that survival is the thread that connects Black women and the genre that has largely shunned them for so long.

These are the kind of stories that stick with you long after you’ve read them.

“Queeniums for Greenium!” by Brittney Morris features a cult-ish smoothie MLM with a deadly level of blind faith that had my heart pounding and my eyes watering with laughter at intervals. And “The Skittering Thing” by Monica Brashears captures the sheer panic of being hunted in the dark, with some quirky twists.

Many of the stories are set in the most terrifying real-life place there is: high school. As such, there are teen crushes and romance aplenty, as well as timely slang that’s probably already outdated.

Honestly, this was one of the best parts: seeing 15 different authors’ takes on a late-teens Black girl. How does she wear her hair, who are her friends, is she religious, where does she live, does she like boys or girls or no one at all? Is she a bratty teen or a goody-two-shoes or a bookworm or just doing her best to get through it? Each protagonist is totally unique and the overall cast of both characters and writers diverse.

And even though we know the Black girl survives, the end is still a shock, because the real question is how.

The anthology has something for everyone, from a classic zombie horror in “Cemetery Dance Party” by Saraciea J. Fennell to a spooky twist on Afrofuturism in “Welcome Back to The Cosmos” by Kortney Nash. Two of the stories have major “Get Out” vibes that fans of Jordan Peele will appreciate ("Black Girl Nature Group" by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite and “Foxhunt” by Charlotte Nicole Davies). If your flavor is throwbacks and cryptids, Justina Ireland’s “Black Pride” has you covered. Or if you like slow-burn psychological thrillers and smart protagonists, “TMI” by Zakiya Delila Harris.

Overall, it’s a bit long and the anthology could stand to drop a couple of the weaker stories. But it’s well worth adding to any scary book collection, and horror fans are sure to find some new favorites.


AP book reviews: