The first gothic story I remember falling in love with was The Phantom of the Opera. At the time, we lived in San Francisco. My dad was a surgical resident, my mom newly turned stay-at-home, having quit her job at an architecture firm to care for me and my younger brother. We didn’t have many indulgences, but one thing my parents did, when they could afford to, was take us to see musicals.
Phantom was my first show, and it remains one of my most beloved. Since that first viewing, I’ve seen it live twice more. I’ve also watched the 2004 film several times, read Gaston Leroux’s original novel, and written a novella inspired by Phantom. Somehow, the story never loses its magic. Each time I find myself once again seated at a theater watching the curtains draw back, the chandelier rise, and the theme song begin, I’m in awe all over again. Like so many gothic heroines, I’m lured to the splendor, the secrets, the costuming, the tragedy. The reminder that the past never quite lets us go.
Suffice to say, the gothic had its hooks in me early.
Yet it wasn’t until I read Mexican Gothic several years back that I began to seek out gothic literature in earnest. You see, despite my fervent desire for alternate brain wiring, my mind remains a productivity-obsessed beast. When I read, I must convince myself it will serve my writing in some way, however minor.
And before Mexican Gothic, that was a difficult sell. My mind, ever practical, did not see a space for someone like me—a Taiwanese Chinese American writer—in gothic horror.
While Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s heritage stands nowhere near my own, that is the nature of being an author of color in the English-language, US-centric publishing machine. Sometimes, one lone BIPOC-authored book bursts through the many barriers stacked against it and paves a path for the rest of us. Publishers take note and decide we are trending—and suddenly, BIPOC books in X category are on every wish list.
On a personal level, seeing that kind of success makes me brave. It’s a reminder of what is possible.
In the last year, I have been fortunate enough to find many spaces in which I’ve connected with wonderful folk within the horror community; I’ve been welcomed with warmth, encouragement, and enthusiasm. But for all that I’ve happily kept myself in that bubble full of inclusive, equity-seeking individuals, the reminders remain ever-present. Look at the published books in gothic horror—or any horror subgenre, really—and the reality is apparent. BIPOC-authored books in these spaces (as in so many others) are few and far between, and many of them were published within the last few years.
It’s that last part that gives me hope. Shifts like this rarely happen overnight, especially in an industry as monumentally slow-moving as publishing. I love that we’re seeing more BIPOC-authored gothic titles being published. As a reader, for obvious reasons of enjoyment. And as a writer, for selfish reasons, since so much of what I write is intentionally—or sometimes accidentally—gothic.
Because I know first-hand how hard it can be to find BIPOC-authored gothic books, I’ve compiled a list of 13 that were published within the last decade. Mexican Gothic was my personal gateway back to the subgenre, and it led me to discover the rest.
And to fellow BIPOC writers drawn to the gothic, I hope you’ll consider penning that dark tale that’s been lurking in a shadowed corner of your mind—I promise you at least one person (it me!) is already eagerly awaiting your book.
1. The Good House by Tananarive Due (Washington Square Press, July 2004)
A heart-wrenching, creepy southern gothic tale of Angela Toussaint, a grieving mother who returns to the family home where her son committed suicide. Though she comes in search of answers, she’s soon swept into a nightmarish battle with an evil that’s been lying in wait.
- For readers interested in: Southern Gothic, grief, emotionally resonant arcs, haunted houses, curses
2. The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo* (William Morrow, August 2013)
Li Lan, daughter of a bankrupt family, receives a proposition from the wealthy Lim Family, who want Li to become ghost bride to their dead son. After visiting the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife. She must uncover the Lim’s darkest family secrets…or risk being trapped in the world of ghosts forever.
- For readers interested in: fantasy, 1890s colonial Malaya, Chinese folklore, ghosts, romance, murder mysteries
3. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (re-release: Riverhead Books, February 2014)
Four generations of Silver women have a strong bond—a pull to connect across time and space—and a shared family home full of hidden passageways and buried secrets. When Miranda’s mother, Lily, dies on a trip, Miranda begins suffering strange ailments.
- For readers interested in: witches, haunted houses, unconventional story structure, lit fic, family sagas
4. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey, June 2020)
In response to a troubling letter from her newly married cousin Catalina, Noemí Taboada travels to the isolated mansion where Catalina lives with her new spouse. But Catalina’s in-laws are hiding secrets stranger—and more horrifying—than anything either of them could have imagined.
- For readers interested in: beautiful prose, lush settings, nosy characters in ballgowns, psychological horror, 1950s rural Mexico
5. Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas* (Custom House, May 2021)
In an isolated boarding school led by an enigmatic school director, Ines is thrilled to discover the closest thing she’s ever had to a home. But Catherine House’s strange protocols begin feeling more like a gilded prison…and when tragedy befalls Ines’ timid roommate, Ines begins to suspect something hidden beneath the beautiful veneer of Catherine House.
- For readers interested in: dark academia vibes, boarding schools, suspense, stories that cross genres
6. Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw (Tor Nightfire, October 2021)
A group of thrill-seeking friends travel to an abandoned Heian-era mansion for the wedding of two of their members. But their night of eating, drinking, and telling ghost stories quickly turns nightmarish when they discover the ghost bride lurking within its walls.
- For readers interested in: novellas, Japanese folklore, ghosts, prose with claws, the ways best friends can cut deepest
7.The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas (Berkley, May 2022)
Desperate for security in the aftermath of the Mexican War of Independence, Beatriz marries a rich man and moves into his countryside estate, ignoring rumors surrounding the death his previous wife. Between a cold welcome from her the Hacienda’s inhabitants and increasingly horrific ghostly visitations, it soon becomes clear that safety and security are the last things Beatriz will find at the hacienda.
- For readers interested in: scary AF ghosts, husbands keeping secrets, romance, Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca, haunted houses, 1820s rural Mexico
8. House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson (Ace, September 2022)
Hoping to leave the slums, Marion Shaw accepts work as bloodmaid to a group of wealthy nobles at the notorious and hedonistic House of Hunger. Swept up in a life of dark debauchery, she’s eager to please her new mistress; but her fellow bloodmaids are going missing in the night, and if she’s not careful, she may join them…
- For readers interested in: vampires, grand settings, sapphic romance, class commentary, exploitation
9. Leech by Hiron Ennes (Tordotcom, September 2022)
In an isolated chateau, the baron’s doctor has died and been replaced—and the new doctor is tasked with solving the mystery of how the Medical Institute lost track of one of its bodies. Meanwhile, a parasite spreads through the castle, leaving violence, secrets, and lies in its wake.
- For readers interested in: gothic sci-fi, squicky body horror, lush prose, creepy doctors
10.The Spite House by Johnny Compton (Tor Nightfire, February 2023)
Eric Ross and his two daughters are on the run and they’re low on cash. Desperate, he accepts a job living in a haunted house and documenting any paranormal activity. But Eric’s secretive new employer doesn’t share the condition of the spite house’s previous caretakers, who left less than fully intact…
- For readers interested in: Southern Gothic, mysteries, haunted houses, parents, ghosts
11. The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi* (William Morrow, February 2023)
In exchange for the love of beautiful, mysterious heiress Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada, a scholar of myths promises never to pry into her past. Yet when they return to Indigo’s childhood home, he cannot help himself, for the house begins to reveal its secrets…and the shadow of Indigo’s childhood best friend, who vanished long ago.
- For readers interested in: fantasy, Bluebeard folktale, blurring of dreams vs. reality, childhood secrets
12. She is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran (Bloomsbury, February 2023)
Jade Nguyen and her sister are in Vietnam for the summer, stuck playing happy family with their estranged father. But something strange is happening with the house he’s restoring as a bed and breakfast—and when no one else believes the house is haunted, it’s up to Jade to root out the rot at the foundation of the home her family has always wanted.
- For readers interested in: YA, bi panic, sapphic romance, haunted houses, folkloric ghosts, complex family dynamics, modern Vietnam
13. Linghun by Ai Jiang (Dark Matter Ink, April 2023)
In a mysterious town where the dead return as spirits—held to life by the grief of the living—Wenqi, Liam, and Mrs. surveil one another, their lives growing more tangled as the town’s mysteries reveal themselves piece by disturbing piece.
- For readers interested in: novellas, lit fic, grief, strong diasporic themes, ghosts, mystery, the lengths to which people will go to get what they want
* Note: If you are in the US, please consider ordering this title through the Harper Collins Union Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/shop/hcpunion
Sign-up for Letters From The Psychopomp
a weekly letter from The Psychopomp about Death, and the latest from Psychopomp.com: