In other words: awesome wrapped up in intensity.
Here's our reading list:
Imperium in Imperio by Sutton E. Griggs, 1899
There were a lot of people in my class who contested the Sci-fi (SF) classification of this novel, but it's about what the title says it's about: an empire within an empire, a government within a government, and it's an imagined eutopia, as my teacher defended it. (My own opinions on SF and genre boundaries in general make me inclined to agree, but more on that later or never.) One of the drier texts, it's about two boys who both go on to become great orators, each championing the same cause, racial equality in the United States, in very different ways. The society itself doesn't feature much in the story until towards the end. Not highly recommended, but interesting.
Of One Blood, by Pauline Hopkins, 1902-1905
Published serially in the Colored American's Magazine, one of the first publications written by and for the emergent black bourgeoisie in America, Of One Blood is a story which relies on the familiar, but appropriated, constructions of Romantic mysticism blended with the sciences and the explorer/colonization trope. Interesting, sometimes confusing, but first and foremost to put forward an important agenda for the time in which it was written: that the human race is, quite literally, all of one blood. More recommended than Imperium, but still not a must-read.
Black Empire, by George S. Schuyler, 1936-1938
Also published serially and actually consisting of two novels, The Black Internationale and Black Empire, Schuyler satirizes the ideas of how to achieve racial equality contemporary with his time, mostly through the use of a evil genius and lots and lots of money. A reimagined future, though I'm still not clear on whether it's supposed to be a dystopia or a eutopia. Pretty darn good, if taken with a touch of dark humor.
Nova, by Samuel R. Delany, 1968
Nova was, by far, my favorite thing we read. A space-opera set in the thirty-second century, it's a race to the edges of the then-known universe to find a dying star in order to plunge into it, with plenty of economic and societal commentary and intrigue on the side. An absolutely enjoyable trip.
Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler, 1993
Parable was my second-favorite read of the quarter, despite its being bleak, dark, and triggering. At first it felt a little like the only thing between life currently and the universe of Cormac McCarthy's The Road with a dash of P.D. James' Children of Men thrown in. Luckily it turns out slightly less bleak than the former, though not by much. Good, interesting read with a strong female lead.