Birth of a Dark Nation is the first in a series of novels about African vampires brought to America during the transatlantic slave trade.
Rashid Darden began with a question: “What if everything you know about horror came from Africa instead of Europe?” I can disregard the onslaught of vampire lore because I felt, as a gay black man, more than just intrigued. Darden flips the vampire origin story on its head by positing its creation with a darker hue and compounding this with gay male protagonists, Justin Kena and Dante.
Birth of a Dark Nation unfolds into something that took me by surprise and didn’t at the same time. After Justin finds himself face to face with a nightwalker, the vampire of old, we are transported to the golden valley of Africa, rooted into the Earth as we witness the fall of the Razadi; we are chained, humiliated, and drowning along the transatlantic slave trade; we witness the Razadi settle in Dominica in a time of peace; and we witness the Razadi in New Orleans struggling with the continued safety of their shadows against helping the black slaves rise up and claim their freedom. And it’s extraordinary, really. Birth of a Dark Nation is elevated because of this and becomes more than just another story of a human falling in love with a vampire.
Darden weaves a story that is both realistic and fantastical, creates resonating characters and imagery that are compelling and phenomenal. It’s a novel that awakens in you a need to dig a little deeper, to question a bit more, and to find answers to questions that you didn’t even know you wanted to ask. Birth of a Dark Nation is the marching feet of forgotten ancestry as well as an acknowledgement of social issues both new and old.
I got the chance to chat with Darden about his latest work (MILD SPOILERS):