by Justina Ireland
This 2018 young adult historical fiction by Justina Ireland is the perfect spooky October read to get you in the mood for Halloween. Why? Because there are zombies! Zombies! Set just after the Civil War, this is a fun and action-packed story, but my favorite part is how elegantly it questions the racial oppression of Black people in society. Jane, our young main character, is forced into attending Miss Preston's School of Combat in Baltimore. This is part of the "Negro and Native Re-education Act" and while it ostensibly offers a better life for disadvantaged people of color to serve in the fairly respected position of attendant, it also basically sets them up to be zombie food. Why are the Black attendants sent out to fight the zombies first and with inferior weapons? The book also examines what it means to be white-passing and how this can be both a privilege and a curse. This is such a well-written and enjoyable read! You will appreciate Ireland's excellent world-building.
And if you read and enjoy Dread Nation, I recommend its 2020 sequel, A Deathless Divide. Yes, there are even more zombies!
See the Jones Library Antiracism Book List for recommended titles for all ages