When I first finished Tochi Onyebuchi’s Riot Baby, I wanted to burn the world down. The story of two gifted siblings with extraordinary power whose childhoods are destroyed by structural racism and brutality and whose futures might alter the world, it’s a pulls-no-stops, nitrous-fueled novella that reads like The Fifth Season meets Attack the Block. I’m proud to announce that Tor.com Publishing has acquired World English rights, in a deal negotiated by Noah Ballard at Curtis Brown, Ltd.
Riot Baby is rooted in foundational loss and the hope that can live in anger: both a global dystopian narrative that calls on Afrofuturism and resistance ideology and an intimate family story with quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience. I’m thrilled to be editing Tochi in his adult debut and cannot wait for readers to discover these characters.
It’s no accident we’ve chosen to announce this acquisition on Juneteenth. Here’s Tochi on why:
This story, of Ella and her brother, Kev, has been inside me for years in one form or another. Sometimes, it was a voice, hurt and angry, and, sometimes, it was a single scene: a young man emerging from prison to serve his parole in an unrecognizable world. Each time this germ of a story stirred in me, I felt their fear and their fury and knew that they, too, were watching what gang violence had done to their communities, what terroristic policing had done to their families, what the experience of being black in America was doing to them.
I began to see them everywhere. In Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, in Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, in N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth and Inheritance trilogies. Every place where words were molded around injustice, around unfreedom, was a place that Ella and her brother occupied. This is a story about the rage that starts riots, but it is also a story of the love that binds a family together in the face of tragedy, a story of the fierceness with which we try to protect each other from harm. Juneteenth is an American holiday that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas on June 19, 1865. Even though it’s recognized as a state holiday or accorded special status as a day of observance in forty-five states, most celebrations are local. Ultimately, I wanted to see what freedom looked like. For this family. For everyone else who looks like them. I am thrilled and honored to be working with Ruoxi on bringing this story—with its too-large questions and too-small answers—out into the world.
Born and raised a New Englander, Tochi holds a B.A. from Yale University, a M.F.A. from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, a J.D. from Columbia Law School, and a Masters degree in droit économique from L’institut d’études politiques, colloquially known as Sciences Po. He has worked to help student immigrants secure relief through the DACA program prior to its rescission, researched smuggling routes in the Balkans, and worked in the West Bank for a prisoners’ rights organization that advocates on behalf of Palestinian Arab detainees. While at Columbia, he was part of a team that helped to secure habeas corpus relief for a man unjustly imprisoned for nearly two decades in Connecticut. In addition, he has written on carceral philosophies developed in the United States and applied in international case studies.
Tochi’s fiction has appeared in Panverse Three, Asimov’s, Obsidian, and Omenana. His non-fiction has appeared in Nowhere, the Oxford University Press blog, Tor.com, and the Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy, among other places. When not writing or trying to read his way into his best postcolonial self, he can be found indulging in his love for narrative-heavy open-world video games or adding to his already near-encyclopedic knowledge of rap beef. His debut young adult novel, Beasts Made of Night, was published by Razorbill in Oct. 2017. Its sequel, Crown of Thunder, will hits shelves in Oct. 2018.
Riot Baby will be available from Tor.com Publishing in 2019.