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The Memory Librarian by Janelle Monáe: A clarion call for disenfranchised people

From Janelle Monáe, terrifically-built worlds lead readers to ask: What would you do with more time?

Janelle Monae

Janelle Monáe performs at Boston Calling. Image: Adam Salsman/Flickr

The Memory Librarian is out now (Harper Voyager)

Time travel plays a big part in The Memory Librarian by musician and all-round force of nature Janelle Monáe.

This collection of five stories is co-written by Monáe with a fine selection of female or non-binary writers of colour, and is an expansion of the speculative world created in her 2018 Dirty Computer album and the accompanying ‘emotion picture’. In a dystopian future, New Dawn control the population and monitor everyone’s thoughts and actions.

Difference is viewed as a crime, and those deemed to be different are ‘dirty computers’, cleansed of their memories via drugs. But amid this authoritarian rule there are pockets of resistance – young, marginalised people fighting to be individuals in a world set against them. 

The world-building across these tales is terrific and evocative, and the ability to manipulate time threads through three of them. What would you do with more time? What could you change in the past or create in the future? These stories are a clarion call for the disenfranchised of today’s world, and provide an optimistic view of a better way to live going forward. Stirring stuff. 

Doug Johnstone is a journalist and author

You can buy The Memory Librarian from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member.You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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