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The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer

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In The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer, singer-songwriter, actor, fashion icon, activist, 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 In The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer, singer-songwriter, actor, fashion icon, activist, 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 collaborating creators have written 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 human, A.I., or other, your life and sentience was 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 existence…and what it takes to get out of it. Building off the traditions of speculative writers such as Octavia Butler, Ted Chiang, Becky Chambers, and Nnedi Okorafor—and filled with the artistic genius and powerful themes that have made Monáe a worldwide icon in the first place—The Memory Librarian serves readers tales grounded in the human trials of identity expression, technology, and love, but also reaching through to the worlds of memory and time within, and the stakes and power that exists there.


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In The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer, singer-songwriter, actor, fashion icon, activist, 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 In The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer, singer-songwriter, actor, fashion icon, activist, 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 collaborating creators have written 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 human, A.I., or other, your life and sentience was 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 existence…and what it takes to get out of it. Building off the traditions of speculative writers such as Octavia Butler, Ted Chiang, Becky Chambers, and Nnedi Okorafor—and filled with the artistic genius and powerful themes that have made Monáe a worldwide icon in the first place—The Memory Librarian serves readers tales grounded in the human trials of identity expression, technology, and love, but also reaching through to the worlds of memory and time within, and the stakes and power that exists there.

30 review for The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mjspice

    Janelle writing a sci-fi anthology?? Janelle writing a sci-fi anthology??

  2. 4 out of 5

    laurel [the suspected bibliophile]

    This was brilliant. I don't know that I've ever read an entire interconnected anthology based off an album before, but wow. What a concept, and what an interesting execution. As with most anthologies, some stories were absolutely amazing while others didn't land quite as well, but the overall concept and execution was good. I'm bouncing between a four and five star rating...landing on five for now. Full RTC. I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review This was brilliant. I don't know that I've ever read an entire interconnected anthology based off an album before, but wow. What a concept, and what an interesting execution. As with most anthologies, some stories were absolutely amazing while others didn't land quite as well, but the overall concept and execution was good. I'm bouncing between a four and five star rating...landing on five for now. Full RTC. I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    These stories link back to Dirty Computer the album and Dirty Computer [Emotion Picture] that you can watch in YouTube. Written in collaboration with Yohanca Delgado, Eve L. Ewing, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore, and Sheree Renée Thomas, all stories are set in this dystopian tech-totalitarian society where people who are outside the norms (aka Dirty Computers) are hunted down and imprisoned, memories wiped, and more. All stories are full of queerness, feminism, quirky creative elements, and posit These stories link back to Dirty Computer the album and Dirty Computer [Emotion Picture] that you can watch in YouTube. Written in collaboration with Yohanca Delgado, Eve L. Ewing, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore, and Sheree Renée Thomas, all stories are set in this dystopian tech-totalitarian society where people who are outside the norms (aka Dirty Computers) are hunted down and imprisoned, memories wiped, and more. All stories are full of queerness, feminism, quirky creative elements, and positive spins on how humans could interact with one another. Thanks to the publisher for providing access to this title via NetGalley. This book came out April 19th, 2022.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Peter Lyon

    From her debut EP of Metropolis and the introduction of Cindi Mayweather to Dirty Computer, her latest album and "emotion picture" that centers on Jane's celebration of freedom, Monáe has spent her music career building a world where its inhabitants fight memory control, explore identity, navigate technology, and ultimately, organize towards liberation. The Memory Librarian is a culmination of that narrative and, just like her music, the results feel electric, hopeful, and new. The stories shift From her debut EP of Metropolis and the introduction of Cindi Mayweather to Dirty Computer, her latest album and "emotion picture" that centers on Jane's celebration of freedom, Monáe has spent her music career building a world where its inhabitants fight memory control, explore identity, navigate technology, and ultimately, organize towards liberation. The Memory Librarian is a culmination of that narrative and, just like her music, the results feel electric, hopeful, and new. The stories shift from city apartments to desert hideouts, from coworkers to families (both birth and chosen), from couples to communities but are united in their exploration of what it means to be free. References to songs and lyrics from Monáe's discography are sprinkled throughout the book which, beyond being just plain fun for her fans, serve as a reminder of how this years-long narrative has evolved. Already a formidable storyteller herself, Monáe collaborates with some super stellar and exciting writers (like the one and only Eve Ewing!) and it is their collective love of Afrofuturism, of queerness in its endless facets, of hope, community, and of love itself that comes together to send currents of energy humming throughout these pages.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kaa

    Overall a four star read, bumped up to five for the last story, because I really needed some utopia this week. This is an intriguing exploration of the world built in Monáe's Dirty Computer emotion picture (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdH2S...) and previous albums. I'd suggest the Dirty Computer video as part of your experience with this book, as the story told there is a direct prequel to one of the stories in Memory Librarian. I also recommend her other music/videos on general principle, a Overall a four star read, bumped up to five for the last story, because I really needed some utopia this week. This is an intriguing exploration of the world built in Monáe's Dirty Computer emotion picture (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdH2S...) and previous albums. I'd suggest the Dirty Computer video as part of your experience with this book, as the story told there is a direct prequel to one of the stories in Memory Librarian. I also recommend her other music/videos on general principle, and there are a lot of references/connections with her music across the collection, but I don't think being familiar with her entire body of work is required to enjoy the collection. I liked seeing a more fleshed-out version of the world and characters across these five stories, but the most compelling aspect to me was actually the emotional arc of the collection, ending in a really sweet utopian story co-written with the legendary Sheree Renee Thomas. I also enjoyed the narration of the audiobook, provided alternately by Monáe herself and Bahni Turpin. I won a print ARC of this book in a GR giveaway, although I first read it as an audiobook from my library.

  6. 5 out of 5

    jo ♡

    UM HELLO I DIDN'T KNOW JANELLE MONÁE WAS WRITING A BOOK????? OF QUEER SFF SHORT STORIES????? I NEED THIS IN MY POSSESSION IMMEDIATELY???????? UM HELLO I DIDN'T KNOW JANELLE MONÁE WAS WRITING A BOOK????? OF QUEER SFF SHORT STORIES????? I NEED THIS IN MY POSSESSION IMMEDIATELY????????

  7. 4 out of 5

    Gabriela Pop

    3.5/5 Very curious about whether there is anything Janelle Monae ~can't~ do, as it seems that they can and will excell at any art form they take on. I loved the concept behind Dirty Computer, so it was very exciting to see that world being expanded in these short stories. I thought this was a solid example of literary speculative fiction that is likely to appeal to both fans of Monae or readers engaging with this world for the first time through the story. Ultimately, however, I think the stories 3.5/5 Very curious about whether there is anything Janelle Monae ~can't~ do, as it seems that they can and will excell at any art form they take on. I loved the concept behind Dirty Computer, so it was very exciting to see that world being expanded in these short stories. I thought this was a solid example of literary speculative fiction that is likely to appeal to both fans of Monae or readers engaging with this world for the first time through the story. Ultimately, however, I think the stories didn't feel fully cohesive to me and I found that while the symbolism was gorgeous, it felt a bit heavy handed and overexplained at times. Overall a solid read. If you are thinking of picking it up, consider this your sign to do so!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    I loved this collection of short stories! Expanding on Monáe's setting in her album Dirty Computer, Monáe and a team of collaborators grapple with themes of police states, surveillance society, problematic utopians, and racism, all while presenting ways of maintaining hope and dreaming of a better future. It's a really stunning and thought-provoking collection! I loved this collection of short stories! Expanding on Monáe's setting in her album Dirty Computer, Monáe and a team of collaborators grapple with themes of police states, surveillance society, problematic utopians, and racism, all while presenting ways of maintaining hope and dreaming of a better future. It's a really stunning and thought-provoking collection!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Anny Barros

    Janelle Monáe releasing a book collection of short stories telling more of the IN-CRE-DI-BLE universe she created with one of THEE best visual albums of all time (Dirty Computer my dearly beloved 💖💖💖)... Perhaps this is the good timeline.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Stoolfire

    Janelle Monáe is so talented. Now I need to relisten to her Dirty Computer album and emotion picture asap.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Geonn Cannon

    I love Janelle Monáe. I think she's a great musician and actor (I actually like her better as an actor, but she's definitely strong in both areas). I was ready to believe "hey, maybe she's a writer, too!" But this is another example of a celebrity putting their name on a cover and then all the stories within having a cowriter who I'm sure did ninety percent of the work (Janelle IS given sole credit for one very short installment, which *is* well written). None of that really has anything to do w I love Janelle Monáe. I think she's a great musician and actor (I actually like her better as an actor, but she's definitely strong in both areas). I was ready to believe "hey, maybe she's a writer, too!" But this is another example of a celebrity putting their name on a cover and then all the stories within having a cowriter who I'm sure did ninety percent of the work (Janelle IS given sole credit for one very short installment, which *is* well written). None of that really has anything to do with the content of the book, which is good. I just get annoyed by the whole co-author thing. I don't think this is a James Patterson situation (where the person getting the credit just came up with the idea and let someone else do all the heavy lifting) but I do think Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore, Eve L. Ewing, Yohanca Delgado, and Sheree Renée Thomas deserve more credit than Janelle is given. I also think I've mentioned disliking Bahni Turpin's narration before, and she hasn't gotten better. She tends to rush through things, keeping a steady tone with no regard for the situation or emotion that might be in dialogue. It's not bad, per se, but it does affect my overall enjoyment of the story.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gabbi Levy

    Thank you to Harper Voyager for providing me an ARC copy of The Memory Librarian. How to even begin to describe the sui generis Janelle Monáe? A true multi-hyphenate, I can’t think of another, in this time or before, who has combined such a brilliant, fully-realized, multifaceted and original vision with talent across genre and medium the way Monáe has with the world she has created, first with her Cindi Mayweather alter ego in Metropolis: The Chase (2007), The ArchAndroid (2010) and The Electri Thank you to Harper Voyager for providing me an ARC copy of The Memory Librarian. How to even begin to describe the sui generis Janelle Monáe? A true multi-hyphenate, I can’t think of another, in this time or before, who has combined such a brilliant, fully-realized, multifaceted and original vision with talent across genre and medium the way Monáe has with the world she has created, first with her Cindi Mayweather alter ego in Metropolis: The Chase (2007), The ArchAndroid (2010) and The Electric Lady (2013), and expanding with Dirty Computer in 2018. Now, she teams up with several brilliant collaborators to explore printed fiction with The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories From Dirty Computer. It will come as no surprise then that The Memory Librarian is as beautiful, provocative, queer, sexy, and brilliant as her albums. Like her music, The Memory Librarian explores themes of gender and sexuality, racism and sexism, technology and authoritarianism. That is to say: the modern human condition. I don’t typically read short stories. As a style, I don’t often find they give me enough space with the characters and plot to feel satisfied. But in this case, the stories were vignettes from a richly imagined near-future world, in which the nefarious New Dawn has created a society where anyone who deviates from the norm (queer and Black people are the focus of the stories in The Memory Librarian, but the implication is that this involves not just race, gender and sexuality, but presumably politics and religion as well) are designated dirty computers and must be “cleaned” — have their memories wiped — to be allowed to participate in polite society. Otherwise, they are simply made to disappear. Those who are familiar with her oeuvre will recognize the world Monáe has built here. The short film, Dirty Computer, released alongside the album and encompassing the albums’ music videos strung together within the story of Jane 57821, a dirty computer taken by New Dawn to have have her memories erased, exists in this same world. Monáe writes of people on the margins: those who fight from inside the system, those who suffer because they find themselves on the wrong side of society’s lines, those who escape and rebel from the system entirely. The technologies aren’t so far fetched as to really read as sci-fi: with a few more medical and scientific advances, we could live in a world where Big Brother not only monitors us all with drones and bioimplants, but divides and subjugates through memory and personality manipulation. And the sins that make New Dawn deem someone dirty? Certainly one only has to look to some current events (mostly in Texas, because of course, Texas) to see the seeds of the persecution and elimination of “undesirables” described in The Memory Librarian sprouting up in present-day America. And yet, The Memory Librarian feels resolutely hopeful. Its stories tell of people who find their communities, love, freedom, and hope, even in the face of an enemy whose foundational belief is that they should not be allowed to exist. The enemy has seemingly already won. And yet the dirty computers in the The Memory Librarian refuse to give up who they are, and are willing to fight, for themselves and each other, to live in a pluralistic, welcoming community. That’s indeed a future we can all aspire to.

  13. 4 out of 5

    ♡*WithLove, Reesie*♡

    2.5⭐ I wish I liked this more.  It has many aspects of science fiction, romance, mystery, and a plus is the inclusion and focus of the LGBTQI+ community. However, the storytelling and execution fell flat. I think if I read the book vs listening to the audiobook I may have a different response. So I recommend reading the book versus listening. I started wishing the audiobook was abridged. I think the first short story is read by Janelle Monáe The narration sounds stilted, disjointed, computer like. M 2.5⭐ I wish I liked this more.  It has many aspects of science fiction, romance, mystery, and a plus is the inclusion and focus of the LGBTQI+ community. However, the storytelling and execution fell flat. I think if I read the book vs listening to the audiobook I may have a different response. So I recommend reading the book versus listening. I started wishing the audiobook was abridged. I think the first short story is read by Janelle Monáe The narration sounds stilted, disjointed, computer like. Maybe that is what they were aiming for, a technology aspect or feel. However, it was hard to follow as a narrative and I had to look up the book to read passages to see if it was written in verse or poems structure. It is not. I thought I would get used to it, but I didn't, and it made me want to stop the book completely.  I believe Bahni Turpin is the narrator for the remaining stories, and that narration was better. I've listened to their narration before and i'm use to their style. In the first story, I had to work too hard to figure out the workings of this world, it just wasn't fun. Again, this may be because of narration and I may have better time if I read vs listen. The stories have unique components that I like and it is a nice world that was built, however the storytelling seemed either all over the place, omitting information that the writers assumes the reader already knows, or it was aiming for suspenseful mystery but I'm just lost as to what is what or if it is really the end of a story. This book reminded me heavily of Far Sector by N. K. Jemisin. That dealt with emotions; suppressing them, drugs created because of that, an uprising, asylums, etc. And The Memory Librarian deals with the mind and memories; suppressing or removing them and the same consequences occur as in Far Sector. Both novels put the readers in the middle of the story, middle of this new world, and the reader has to play catch up and connect the dots of language, culture, and the rules of the world. I would not listen again. If you're a Janelle Monáe fan, then read it. If you're a scifi fan than maybe read it when you have nothing else to read. I recommend reading the book, and not listening to the audiobook.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rambling Raconteur

    "Ain't just about prospering, it's about progressing, connecting, tappin' into something larger than yourself, so you can really see. Can't build nothing if you can't feel nothing. Community comes from feeling and feeling comes hand in hand with creation." Having been a longtime fan of Janelle Monáe’s music and the Dirty Computer emotion picture, I was very excited to pick up a copy of their debut The Memory Librarian: and other Stories of Dirty Computer. These five stories possess all the streng "Ain't just about prospering, it's about progressing, connecting, tappin' into something larger than yourself, so you can really see. Can't build nothing if you can't feel nothing. Community comes from feeling and feeling comes hand in hand with creation." Having been a longtime fan of Janelle Monáe’s music and the Dirty Computer emotion picture, I was very excited to pick up a copy of their debut The Memory Librarian: and other Stories of Dirty Computer. These five stories possess all the strengths of dystopican literature: interrogating society and extending singular aspects of society to explore how the extension becoming a norm would affect our relationships, lives, and identities. Monáe and their collaborators are also intentional in centering the stories in identity: racial, gender, and relational with many of the narrators being queer, Black women. These perspectives yield deeper questions and real joy as they develop the concept of resisting a dystopia through love, art, and community. A few of the stories fuse hte pace of a thriller with the unique world Monáe created in Dirty Computer, but there is a deep sense of hope at the end of the collection: "Everything comes full circle. And time takes care of itself. Our work is the work of the living, of the present. The right now builds tomorrow." While my initial impression of these stories drew on works like We, Kallocain, and Nineteen Eighty-Four, the fusion of identity brought Samuel R. Delany, Octavia E. Butler, and Nalo Hopkinson to mind. The "science" of these science fictions, and its concern with memory and control recalled Primo Levi's Natural Histories and Murakami's surreal works like Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World or Kafka on the Shore. Monáe’s concept of individuals creating organic, thriving community ultimately may be the best answer I've yet read to Theodore Sturgeon's Homo Gestalt in "Baby Is Three" and More than Human. While the stories are set in the same world as Dirty Computer, one does not need to be familiar with either the music or the emotion picture to understand and enjoy these. I certainly hope there are more stories to come! Monáe’s collaborators are: Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danne Lore, Eve L. Ewing, Yohanca Delgado, and Sheree Renée Thomas. My video discussion: https://youtu.be/TSmQwRZ6uoo

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    It was really good! Some of the stories were really gripping and immediately sucked me and there were a few it took me a moment. All of them ended in a way that had me gripping the book like...where is this going?! (In a good way) I hope we can get more short stories like this in the future.

  16. 4 out of 5

    USOM

    (Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.) The Memory Librarian takes place in a high tech world. Monáe crafts a world that is not only full of technology, but also retains societal issues of racism and homophobia. Yes they look different in the future - this surveillance society - but this is no utopia. The Memory Librarian has one of those world building ideas that will stick with you even after finishing. While it has e (Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.) The Memory Librarian takes place in a high tech world. Monáe crafts a world that is not only full of technology, but also retains societal issues of racism and homophobia. Yes they look different in the future - this surveillance society - but this is no utopia. The Memory Librarian has one of those world building ideas that will stick with you even after finishing. While it has elements SF fans might have seen before - like a surveillance society, the power of memories, and illusion of control - it combines into an immersive and unique world. full review: https://utopia-state-of-mind.com/revi...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Arturo Serrano

    I reviewed this book for the blog Nerds of a Feather: http://www.nerds-feather.com/2022/05/... I reviewed this book for the blog Nerds of a Feather: http://www.nerds-feather.com/2022/05/...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jeremiah

    This collection of short stories is not too be missed. Science fiction and social commentary that will break your heart and remind you to hope.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    I'm a fan of Monae and her whole vibe, and I've appreciated the work of hers that I've seen. That said, I'm not as intimately familiar with the "worldbuilding" that she's been doing with her music as some others seem to be so I started to get a little bit worried about how much of this I was going to grok or enjoy. Well, my worries were unfounded because this was a great scifi anthology. There's a VERY distinct and strong voice, which is sometimes hard for first-time authors to accomplish, but I I'm a fan of Monae and her whole vibe, and I've appreciated the work of hers that I've seen. That said, I'm not as intimately familiar with the "worldbuilding" that she's been doing with her music as some others seem to be so I started to get a little bit worried about how much of this I was going to grok or enjoy. Well, my worries were unfounded because this was a great scifi anthology. There's a VERY distinct and strong voice, which is sometimes hard for first-time authors to accomplish, but I suppose Monae has been writing in other mediums for a long time so she's got that under her belt. As with most anthologies, some pieces resonated more with me than others. But overall, I really admire the project of this and felt very emotionally connected to it, despite spending relatively little time with each of the characters that we meet. I do think that the writing and concepts were well-suited for an anthology like this, rather than something more long-form, so that was a well reasoned choice. I'm sure it will be even more poignant for those that are deeper into Monae's canon than I am, but even with my very basic knowledge, I still loved the storytelling and worldbuilding here. The one big thing I would change is that I would have loved to get an author's note or information about how the collaborators contributed to the volume. But the themes of identity and resistance and freedom and community building were right up my alley and I would strongly recommend this.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cheyenne

    5 ⭐ CW: racism, homophobia, enbyphobia, border wall/deportation mention, death of a parent, anxiety/panic attacks, police raid "Can't build nothing if you can't feel nothing. Community comes from feeling and feeling goes hand in hand with creation." "Who we are and what we feel can't be too much. Might feel like it sometimes, but it isn't true." The Memory Librarian and Other Stories of Dirty Computer is Janelle Monáe's debut novel in collaboration with Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore, Eve L. Ewi 5 ⭐ CW: racism, homophobia, enbyphobia, border wall/deportation mention, death of a parent, anxiety/panic attacks, police raid "Can't build nothing if you can't feel nothing. Community comes from feeling and feeling goes hand in hand with creation." "Who we are and what we feel can't be too much. Might feel like it sometimes, but it isn't true." The Memory Librarian and Other Stories of Dirty Computer is Janelle Monáe's debut novel in collaboration with Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore, Eve L. Ewing, Yohanca Delgado, and Sheree Renée Thomas. A singer/songwriter, fashion icon, producer, actress, and now an author, Janelle Monáe is a powerhouse and my hero. Each of these stories expands the universe of Monáe's 2018 Concept album and Emotion Picture, Dirty Computer. First of all, go listen to that album or watch the Emotion Picture on YouTube, it sets the stage for what New Dawn is and what it has done to the citizens under their care. Monáe uses New Dawn as an allegory for government control, Christian "family values"/purity, homophobia, and anti-blackness. In this world those who do not conform to what New Dawn considers "clean," people are taken and considered dirty computers, and have their memories erased. Monáe explores the idea of who are we without the memories that made us who we are? We get concepts about autonomy and choice, and the importance of fighting back even in small ways. Monáe also explores concepts around time and how it is tied to capitalism and posits, what if time could be shared as an equitable resource? They also explore community in different forms and the importance of those spaces for women and nonbinary folk. She reminds us that in order to make a better future, we must first be able to dream it. With Monáe herself being queer and nonbinary, this book is full of queer characters of color. It's so nice to see queer people envisioned in the future and making it something better, something peaceful, something beautiful. Each author expertly captured Monáe's voice, as it almost felt as if I could her their voice as I was reading. The writing itself was nothing short of lyrical, and some parts even felt musical like her songs. I'm going to be raving about this book for the rest of my life. Thank you Janelle Monáe for making queer enbies of color feel seen and included.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kristina

    Janelle Monáe’s The Memory Librarian and Other Stories of the Dirty Computer is not my thing. I picked up the ARC at work by pure chance and read about twenty pages. The concept of someone controlling memories is an interesting idea but after reading the introductory story, “Breaking Dawn,” I was confused about what the hell was going on with this Dirty Computer. It’s introduced as if I should already know what it is and I actually looked to see if it was the title/subject of an earlier book (it Janelle Monáe’s The Memory Librarian and Other Stories of the Dirty Computer is not my thing. I picked up the ARC at work by pure chance and read about twenty pages. The concept of someone controlling memories is an interesting idea but after reading the introductory story, “Breaking Dawn,” I was confused about what the hell was going on with this Dirty Computer. It’s introduced as if I should already know what it is and I actually looked to see if it was the title/subject of an earlier book (it is not). The prose is also trying too hard to impress and be mystical (or poetically mystical): “Where the notes of memory and time make a chord, do we hear the answers to whys of this world, or do we hear the tones that tell us the world we see is not the only one—that the escapes we yearned for might not exist in this one line of time, in this single, part-seen world? (xi) Or there’s this selection of juicy word arrangement: Now, though, the car cracks down the middle, chassis splintering like an eggshell, coolant arcing from its descending airpipe in a shape suspiciously suggestive of an upright penis; a flock of crows rise from the barrier and fling themselves west, cackling a song banned a generation ago for indecency and subversion; your lover’s teeth puncture your lower lip and as your mouth fills with blood and venom she whispers, I’m not the only one. (2) And this is only page 2! So yeah, thanks but no thanks. I’m not going to rate this book because I haven’t read enough to be fair about that, but I know it doesn’t work for me. If you find my quoted selections intriguing, then maybe this is a book you’ll enjoy. Just because Janelle Monáe can act and sing doesn’t mean she can write.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Clark

    a collection that is much more than the individual stories Written in collaboration with some amazing co-authors this book is a series of short stories, each set in the same world but not sharing characters. But even so the stories inform each other, craft a creative and haunting vision of the future and the future’s future. Hope in the face of what could easily be a dystopian vision is a powerful thread in these stories. As is being true to yourself and accepting of other’s authentic selves. The a collection that is much more than the individual stories Written in collaboration with some amazing co-authors this book is a series of short stories, each set in the same world but not sharing characters. But even so the stories inform each other, craft a creative and haunting vision of the future and the future’s future. Hope in the face of what could easily be a dystopian vision is a powerful thread in these stories. As is being true to yourself and accepting of other’s authentic selves. These stories also read as if they are part of a large project, as if they are echoes from an ongoing real place with language and references that seem to be assumed to be known even as they are introduced for the first time in the text. I’m a fan of Janelle Monáe’s music but not so serious a fan as to know her lyrics by heart (I’ve even had the fortune of getting to see her perform years ago for a very small private crowd at a tech industry party in SF) but I suspect that having read this I’ll catch echoes and references from her songs in this book. Highly recommended as a powerful piece of collaborative art and as a collection of visions of a better future, one we may just be able to build together if we can maintain optimism and hope and our unique authentic selves in the face of pressure to forget and to conform.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    Ok I have never been a reader of short stories but now I suddenly feel a voracious need to get my hands on more because this! This!!! But then, that said, this feels so much greater, so much MORE, than any ordinary short story collection, because the utter explosion of all-consuming creativity and imagination and POWER in art happening here is truly out of this world. To create an entire universe out of a concept album - and a stunning one too! - and then expand that universe into an equally stu Ok I have never been a reader of short stories but now I suddenly feel a voracious need to get my hands on more because this! This!!! But then, that said, this feels so much greater, so much MORE, than any ordinary short story collection, because the utter explosion of all-consuming creativity and imagination and POWER in art happening here is truly out of this world. To create an entire universe out of a concept album - and a stunning one too! - and then expand that universe into an equally stunning sci-fi collection of connected stories surely reaches some meta level of creativity that will never cease to amaze me. I loved these stories - I loved the utter power of each, the truths, the fierce challenge of them, the Octavia E. Butler influence, and especially in that beautiful last story, the hope. OH though that Timebox story in particular demands some book club-level discussion - that one sunk its claws into me and I cannot stop thinking about it!! Please someone book-club discuss it with me!! In short, Janelle Monae is magnificent and this is a masterpiece and reading it (listening to it) was an EXPERIENCE that is going to stick with me, as it should. “You’ve got to dream a future before you can build a future.”

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sophia

    The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe Published April 19th 2022 ~This was so weird! Folks into Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Futuristic will perhaps appreciate these stories more. In The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer, singer-songwriter, actor, fashion icon, activist, 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—queernes The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe Published April 19th 2022 ~This was so weird! Folks into Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Futuristic will perhaps appreciate these stories more. In The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer, singer-songwriter, actor, fashion icon, activist, 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 collaborating creators have written 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 human, A.I., or other, your life and sentience was 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 existence...and what it takes to get out of it. Building off the traditions of speculative writers such as Octavia Butler, Ted Chiang, Becky Chambers, and Nnedi Okorafor—and filled with the artistic genius and powerful themes that have made Monáe a worldwide icon in the first place—The Memory Librarian serves readers tales grounded in the human trials of identity expression, technology, and love, but also reaching through to the worlds of memory and time within, and the stakes and power that exists there.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Celadon Phoenix

    I can’t say that this book lived up to what I expected: the description doesn’t fit the actual book in my mind. However, I am certain that if these stories were in any sci-fi anthology, they would rank among my favorites. Easily. In the beginning, I had a hard time visualizing the world. The prologue was confusing and didn’t add much to the story. I hoped to gain clarity about how the world got to where it is and the overall ways it functioned. Instead, I spent painful minutes decoding flowery a I can’t say that this book lived up to what I expected: the description doesn’t fit the actual book in my mind. However, I am certain that if these stories were in any sci-fi anthology, they would rank among my favorites. Easily. In the beginning, I had a hard time visualizing the world. The prologue was confusing and didn’t add much to the story. I hoped to gain clarity about how the world got to where it is and the overall ways it functioned. Instead, I spent painful minutes decoding flowery analogies that didn’t seem to hold hidden meaning. I reread it after I finished the book and my opinion of it is unchanged. I wish I had skipped the prologue because I would have connected to the stories faster. My difficulty continued through the first part of The Memory Librarian. The story follows Seshet, the memory librarian overlord of New Delta. It was hard to figure out what was going on as the protagonist's perspective does not challenge the totalitarian society, and she is comfortable in it. That, along with two penis metaphors--one particularly vivid--had me convinced this book was not for me. Yet, by the end of the first story, it had me caught like a truly unsuspecting fish in a clear net. Three things made the narratives in The Memory Librarian and Other Stories of the Dirty Computer invigorating. The first is that the writing felt consistently solid throughout the book. Even though one of the authors changed from story to story it was surprisingly consistent. After the first part of The Memory Librarian, I could picture the world clearly in my mind’s eye. I appreciate the modesty of pairing oneself with people who can share your vision and perhaps help you execute it with grace from years of practice. The endings of each story were both astonishing and well put together. They made you look back and reconsider all that had happened previously to lead up to this point. I sometimes find that short stories feel incomplete in one way or another, somewhat like a photo of a crowd of people but the people you wanted to capture the essence of were cut out or blurry. These stories didn’t resemble that at all. Instead, they presented themselves clearly but played tricks, drawing your eyes to one area while allowing small details to slip by, eventually vindicating the conclusion. Save Changes was particularly good in this regard. The issue was the stories felt separate. Principles used in one tale mutated drastically in the next. Marginalizations were mainly on gender and sexuality and slightly touched on class. Never (to my memory) race. If I focused on the book's hype/blurb and if the worldbuilding accomplished that, I would not be able to enjoy this book. Read it, enjoy the ride, and the gripping concepts will help you imagine something new.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ingrid Stephens

    Honestly, I was not expecting much from this collection of short stories. Just because an artist has a major talent in one venue does not mean they can be as great in all. Janelle Monae is a wonderful songwriter, singer, and actress. That was enough for me, writer wasn't expected. Well, I apologize for my lack of faith. I was simply blown away by this book of stories. Yes, it is considered a book of short stories but they all take place in the same world, the world of New Dawn where you are conside Honestly, I was not expecting much from this collection of short stories. Just because an artist has a major talent in one venue does not mean they can be as great in all. Janelle Monae is a wonderful songwriter, singer, and actress. That was enough for me, writer wasn't expected. Well, I apologize for my lack of faith. I was simply blown away by this book of stories. Yes, it is considered a book of short stories but they all take place in the same world, the world of New Dawn where you are considered a Dirty Computer if you are the least different then the subscribed ideal. In other words...if you are a minority, LGBTQ, independent thinker, liberal, or just think people should be allowed to live as they choose. If you stray you are cleaned, everything that is what makes you who you are, washed away so no one has to deal with you wanting any type of equal treatment. Each story seamlessly flows into the next, each just as compelling. Usually, when I read a group of short stories, there is one or two I either don't like as much or outright dislike. But I found none of that here in Monae's book. I was sorry to come to the end. But I am proud to say I am a dirty computer and keep fighting the power! This will be published on April 19, 2022. Go out and be the first in line to get your copy. Thanks to @netgalley, Avon and Harper Voyager, Harper Voyager, and Janelle Monae for the opportunity to read this eArc in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Katie Mac

    I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is a tough one to rate because for me the stories vary in quality--some were overly flippant; some bogged down the reader with detail--but it's an incredibly strong collection overall. Janelle Monáe and her co-authors do a great job of not only incorporating queer Afrofuturist elements in their sci-fi stories, but also tying them in with Monáe's album and short film Dirty Computer. My favorite I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is a tough one to rate because for me the stories vary in quality--some were overly flippant; some bogged down the reader with detail--but it's an incredibly strong collection overall. Janelle Monáe and her co-authors do a great job of not only incorporating queer Afrofuturist elements in their sci-fi stories, but also tying them in with Monáe's album and short film Dirty Computer. My favorite story was probably the titular one, which also happens to be the longest in the collection, written with Alaya Dawn Johnson.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Oertel

    I won the ARC for this through a giveaway - thanks to the publisher and author(s) for this gift! I enjoyed this wild ride into the (not so distant?) future where memories are removed from people, but some have found how to create safe spaces and fight back. The gender and sexuality inclusivity was excellent, and it was fun to see how these writers imagine a future where we've solved many of today's issues. They are envisioning what liberation can look like, and I'm grateful for that work. It giv I won the ARC for this through a giveaway - thanks to the publisher and author(s) for this gift! I enjoyed this wild ride into the (not so distant?) future where memories are removed from people, but some have found how to create safe spaces and fight back. The gender and sexuality inclusivity was excellent, and it was fun to see how these writers imagine a future where we've solved many of today's issues. They are envisioning what liberation can look like, and I'm grateful for that work. It gives me hope. Check out this excellent read!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Benita

    Wanted to love this book but instead found myself really like 2 out of 5 with an overwhelming “okkkayy” for the other 3. I appreciate afro-futurism but really I recognize it’s just not my thing. Monae and friends did an excellent job capturing the essence of the Dirty Computer album in book form. As a matter of fact the world building and characters of the first story were really well developed and written. There were some power points but to be missed , unfortunately they get a little mixed up Wanted to love this book but instead found myself really like 2 out of 5 with an overwhelming “okkkayy” for the other 3. I appreciate afro-futurism but really I recognize it’s just not my thing. Monae and friends did an excellent job capturing the essence of the Dirty Computer album in book form. As a matter of fact the world building and characters of the first story were really well developed and written. There were some power points but to be missed , unfortunately they get a little mixed up and muddled by the unfamiliar and poor described future being painted.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Terri

    I love the sci-fi world Janelle Monáe has created and was extremely excited to be exploring it more in this collection. The stories were so creative and exploratory. The only one that I didn't vibe with was Timebox, which fell flat for me. The Memory Librarian and Nevermind were my particular favourites, I think because they give a better insight into the structure of the world. I love the sci-fi world Janelle Monáe has created and was extremely excited to be exploring it more in this collection. The stories were so creative and exploratory. The only one that I didn't vibe with was Timebox, which fell flat for me. The Memory Librarian and Nevermind were my particular favourites, I think because they give a better insight into the structure of the world.

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