by Amanda Ong
On April 25 at 7:30 p.m., musician and actor Janelle Monáe will be speaking at Town Hall Seattle to celebrate the launch of her book The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer.
The Memory Librarian is a collection of short fiction written by Monáe, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore, Eve L. Ewing, Yohanca Delgado, and Sheree Renée Thomas. Monáe will be joined on stage by Delgado and singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile.
Beyond garnering eight Grammy nominations and starring roles in films such as Hidden Figures, Antebellum, and the Academy Award for Best Picture winner Moonlight, Monáe has been an icon and inspiration through her presentation and creativity. In the early days of her career, she may have been recognized primarily as the tuxedo-donned singer with a performance style influenced by pop legends like Michael Jackson, but Monáe has been reimagining queer and Black futures from the beginning, and she continues to push boundaries in virtually all directions around her work today.
The collection is rooted in the Afrofuturistic mythos that Monáe has founded herself upon as a singer, songwriter, actress, producer, and fashion icon. Monáe’s first four studio albums form the Metropolis concept album suite which follows Cindi Mayweather, Monáe’s alter ego, as an android who falls in love with a human and flees disassembly. Dirty Computer, which was released in 2018, follows Monáe as another android, Jane 57821, who fights to keep her memories when the totalitarian regime she lives in threatens to wipe them because she is “dirty.” The accompanying music videos create an “emotion picture,” as dubbed by Monáe, that use science fiction to express the societal and personal battles of gender identity, racial identity, political violence, sexuality, memory, and radical love.
The Memory Librarian is Monáe’s debut book, and her stories, along with those of other noted writers, follow the same powerful themes and new, imagined futures that include paths to radical self-acceptance in societies of oppression and surveillance, that can guide us on our own paths. Science fiction has roots and patterns in stories of space conquest and colonization and has often been vastly white. But Monáe creates fantastical futures that center and empower marginalized communities, and are critical for us to see and to begin to create those futures ourselves.
Tickets go on sale Wednesday, March 16, and will be available for purchase at townhallseattle.org.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect that Brandi Carlile will now be moderating this event.
The South Seattle Emerald is a media partner with Town Hall for the April 25 event and will have a table set up at the venue — stop by, say “hi,” and pick up some swag! We look forward to seeing you!
Amanda Ong (she/her) is a Chinese American writer from California. She is currently a master’s candidate at the University of Washington Museology program and graduated from Columbia University in 2020 with degrees in creative writing and ethnicity and race studies.
📸 Featured Image: Janelle Monáe. (Photo: Jheyda McGarrell)
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