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One of the Most Timely Novels of the Year Is About Black Women in the 1880s Hunting Zombies

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The world can be utterly bleak nowadays. A government that seems to actively hate health and science, an economy ruled by a handful of lying billionaires, and continued state-sanctioned violence against Black people have ushered in a modern dystopia. But as I finished Deathless Divide, Justina Ireland’s stellar follow up to her 2018 novel, Dread Nation, I found myself sighing with relief.

The world may suck, but novels can navigate similar situations and give you a measure of hope. In both novels of Ireland’s series, hope is found even in the worst situations, and given the characters are living in a dystopia far worse than our own that hope feels as soothing as a balm.

The Dread Nation novels (published by HarperCollins) feel extraordinarily timely—despite both being written well before the pandemic or the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd. They’re set in an alternate version of the U.S. where the dead rose at Gettysburg and the warm weather Confederacy was forced to concede to the Union to avoid being overrun by zombies—who tend to be more limber and lively in a temperate climate. In this world, slavery was promptly abolished, but rich white men are always going to rich white man and suggested that Black people might be less susceptible to zombie bites, and thus better suited to fight them.

In our world, slavery was traded for a vicious prison system whose cheap labor is overwhelmingly made up of Black people. In the world of Ireland’s novels, that’s been traded for a law that demands every Black child must go to school and learn to put down the “shamblers.” Jane, the series’ primary heroine, has studied at a Maryland school for Black girls training to be bodyguards and attendants to white women—called Attendants in their world—and she is very good at killing the dead.

Both books tackle similar themes—such as the ruthless exploitation of Black bodies, systemic racism, and pride winning over science. White men are so confident in their superiority they think they can build zombie vaccines in ways counter to traditional science procedures (which Jane is quick to point out), and they’re happy to test their unsubstantiated theories on Black people. It’s a “historical” novel, so there’s rampant skin-crawling racism, but the books are told from the Black woman’s point of view, and we spend the majority of our time with Black women and their friends and family.

The racism in the book usually feels like a warning. If even the nicest character drops a backhanded compliment drenched in 1880s racism you can expect there’s a reason for it. In the real world, we watch the idiots and the awful folks seem to win, while in Ireland’s novels the bad inevitably get what’s coming to them (and usually it’s a really gruesome zombie bite).

This version of 1880s America is an awful place—more apocalyptic than the world we inhabit—but there’s a bright spot of hope at the center of Ireland’s novels, and Jane is one of the liveliest heroines in narrators I’ve found in a book in a while. Similar to last year’s outstanding Gideon the Ninth, Ireland relies on a deeply funny, if unreliable, first-person narrator. Jane will lie to other characters in one breath and then admit the lie to the reader in the next. She builds herself up as a pragmatist, but you find a bold hero between the lines. Though Jane isn’t always the best people reader and it can lead to her missing big clues about her companions.

In the second book, Ireland splits the narration between Jane and Katharine, a fellow student from the same Maryland Attendants school, and the voices are both incredibly distinct, different, and perfectly companionable. Jane is from the South, has darker skin, and no desire to mince words. Katharine is quiet about her origins, light enough to pass, and careful to the extreme with her words. The women are diametrically opposed, but able to read one another better than anyone around them. When Jane lies in one chapter, Katharine notices it in the next, and when Katharine thinks she’s hiding her feelings, Jane observes them when we revisit her point of view.

The two women balance each other and their often Odd Couple-esque friendship is ultimately the heart of the series. While Ireland’s heroines can lack subtlety when interacting with other characters, the writer herself is much defter. She doesn’t have characters talk about how important these women are to one another—she shows it instead and explores how their wildly different personalities and approaches to the world can so easily compliment each other. The books are adventure stories set in a unique dystopia, but they’re also careful character studies and explorations of what love means when it isn’t about family or romance.

Jane and Katharine might endure terrible injustices and absolutely bleak horrors in the middle parts of the books, but they also tend to survive and find love and measures of happiness, and crucially rare connections with their fellow survivors. This series is not out to provide solutions for the world’s ills; instead, it shows how we can find comfort and hope in the relationships around us. When we feel powerless to affect the massive changes we think we need to see in the world, those connections become vital. Solidarity and companionship are crucial in the lonely world of a dystopia.


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Charge Your Phone Wirelessly With 50% off a Multifunctional LED Lamp

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

White Wireless Charge Lamp | $18 | Amazon | Clip coupon + code ABC88699
Black Wireless Charger Lamp | $20 | Amazon | Promo code ABC88699

When you’re ready to turn in for the night, you don’t want to forget to charge your phone— especially if your mobile device doubles as your alarm clock.

With this wireless charger lamp, you can make this crucial step of your nightly routine even easier by just setting your phone on the wireless charging pad and… well, that’s all there is to it!

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Other functions include multiple lighting modes as well as a sleep timer option for auto shut-off of the light after 30 or 60 minutes.

This lamp can be yours in white for $18 if you clip the coupon on Amazon (it’s below the original $40 price) and add promo code ABC88699 at checkout.

You can snag the black version for $20 using the same code—no coupon though, sorry.

Don’t sleep on this deal! Who knows how long stock or the coupon code will last?

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Keep That Hotdish Hot With 65% Off a Luncia Casserole Carrier, Only $11 With Promo Code

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Luncia Double-Decker Dish Carrier | $11 | Amazon | Promo code SDDU9S7F

It has been a long time since the days we could safely have a potluck or other gatherings, but we have a fantastic deal perfect for once those times return. These double-decker Luncia dish carriers can be had for 65% off when you add promo code SDDU9S7F at checkout and clip the coupon on the site (it’s just below the price). These holders fit 9″x 13″ sized baking dishes.

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That means you can insulate and keep two dishes of food warm for only $11 instead of $30. What’s more, your Luncia carrier will arrive by Christmas if you order today as a Prime member.

Just add promo code SDDU9S7F and clip the 5% off coupon to bring the price down to $11 for the blue or the grey option.

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Grab this offer while it’s still around!


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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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