Alaya Dawn Johnson  - published January 2021

trade paper · 300 pages · $17 · 9781618731777 | ebook · 9781618731784

Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist

An immersive, rich collection from an author whose work reaches across time and continents to explore unexpected and untold stories.

In Reconstruction, award-winning writer and musician Johnson delineates the lives of those trodden underfoot by the powerful, and how they rise up. Meet the humans who serve a coterie of vampires in Hawai’i, explore the taxonomy of anger with Black Union soldiers and the woman who travels with them during the American Civil War. Consider what you would give up for a better life in a place that you have never been. Johnson maps the people in these and other, stranger landscapes.

Read: an interview by Paul Semel


“This collection is such a punch. From the opening story right on through it is putting you on notice. You’re gonna go some places here and you’re not gonna be able to look away. . . . The stories are not easy and I think they’re not supposed to be. . . . They are so good. She is such good short story writer — she’s also an excellent novelist — but you really feel the power of her short fiction in this collection. And there’s a really interesting author note at the end.”
Book Riot

“Vivid, imaginative, and often brutal prose.” — Jake Casella Brookins, Chicago Review of Books

“Johnson is one of the few writers in the genre who handles high emotion without preciousness, and she brings an almost unbearable pathos to many of these stories.” — Simon Ings, The Times of London

“Beginning with the stunning, Nebula-award-winning vampire story ‘A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i,’ (I’m currently rereading this story and am again astounded by its depth and perfection) the collection carries a theme of characters navigating their humanity in inhumane conditions.”
— Lyndsie Manusos, Book Riot, 10 Speculative Short Story Collections to Enjoy in 2021

Reconstruction collects ten stories from writer, musician, and scholar Alaya Dawn Johnson—two for the first time! Like much of Johnson’s work, these stories focus on oppressed people finding (often supernatural) ways to survive in systems that want to crush them.
“The collection roves all over the map, both in geography in genre—the title story, for instance, tells the story of a formerly enslaved woman using protective magic for a Black regiment of the Union Army, while ‘The Mirages’ chronicles a postapocalyptic Mexico City. Johnson’s range can be seen in her two very different takes on vampires: ‘Their Changing Bodies’ is a breezy story about summer camp, while the Nebula award-winning opening story, ‘A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i,’ (you can read it here!) drops us in an alternate take on our own world, but one in which vampires have conquered the Earth and imprison humans as food sources.”
, The Most Anticipated Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of 2021

“Of particular interest, though, are the two original stories, ‘The Mirages’ and ‘Reconstruction’, each of which seems restrained compared to the coruscating imagery of some of the other tales, but which feature some of the most memorable char­acters of all.” — Gary K. Wolfe, Locus

“Well worth reading.” — Buzzfeed: 21 Fantasy Books To Get Excited About This Winter

“Johnson pulls from folklore, myth, and scientific discovery to create rich stories of complicated relationships and love amidst strange, uncanny circumstances. While the worlds are themselves fascinating, the true success of Johnson’s stories lies in the careful crafting of their vibrant emotional cores.” — Booklist

“Johnson breaks down genre boundaries, combining elements of  fantasy, mystery, science fiction, and horror, in settings ranging from the historical and familiar to the wildly imaginative. Unified by Johnson’s sensuous prose, these stories will delight existing fans and serve as an excellent introduction for those new to Johnson’s work.”
Publishers Weekly

“The first story in this collection, the Nebula award-winning ‘A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i,’ opens in a prison where vampire conquerors imprison humans to feast upon. Key is a human caretaker doing what she  can to survive in a world where hope and integrity are seemingly impossible. This theme of resilience in inhumane conditions continues throughout the collection. In the title story ‘Reconstruction’ — one of two stories original to the collection — Sally uses her grandmother’s spells to help protect a Black Civil War regiment while meditating on anger. These ten immersive stories embrace multiple speculative genres and take place in worlds both real and unreal. Much like Lovecraft Country, the stories combine horror and fantastical elements with anti-racist themes.”
— Margaret Kingsbury, Buzzfeed

“Alaya Dawn Johnson’s debut collection spans work from the breadth of her career, from 2005 to this year, and there’s some impressive gems within.” — Adr Joy, Nerds of a Feather

Table of Contents

A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i [read]
They Shall Salt the Earth with Seeds of Glass
Their Changing Bodies
The Score
A Song to Greet the Sun [read]
Far and Deep
Down the Well
Third Day Lights
The Mirages
Reconstruction [read an excerpt on]

Praise for Alaya Dawn Johnson’s books:

“Juju assassins, alternate history, a gritty New York crime story…in a word: Awesome.”
― N.K. Jemisin, author of The Fifth Season

“Great, fresh audacity.”
Entertainment Weekly

“Like leaping into cold water on a hot day, this original dystopian novel takes the breath away, refreshes, challenges, and leaves the reader shivering but yearning for another plunge.”
Booklist, starred review

Publishers Weekly, starred review

“An art project, a rebellion and a sacrifice make up this nuanced, original cyberpunk adventure. . . . Luminous.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Beautiful prose.”

“Magnificent beguilement,” — Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble

“This book will steal your heart!”
― Marika McCoola, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA


Cover art “Marie-Thérèse and Dieunie” copyright © 2020 by Tessa Mars ( All rights reserved.

Alaya Dawn Johnson (@alayadj) is the author of seven novels for adults and young adults. Her most recent novel for adults is Trouble the Saints. Her young adult novel The Summer Prince was longlisted for the National Book Award and Love Is the Drug won the Norton Award. Her short stories have appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. She lives in Mexico City where she received a master’s degree with honors in Mesoamerican Studies at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, for her thesis on pre-Columbian fermented food and its role in the religious-agricultural calendar.