Inspired by…with Daniel Sarah Karasik | Book*hug Press

Inspired by…with Daniel Sarah Karasik

Today, we’re sharing ten works that inspired Daniel Sarah Karasik in writing Disobedience. Read on to see how Karasik’s debut novel was influenced by works of speculative fiction, abolitionist writing, and more.

Disobedience is a fairly plot-driven novel, and it’s also an attempt to grapple with a set of political questions. How should we understand the relationship between violence and justice, for example, particularly violence as it’s deployed by movements or communities struggling for liberation? What’s the place of desire and pleasure in those freedom dreams, which involve not only the abolition of bad social forms but also the construction of better ones? Here’s a list of works that nourished me in thinking through such questions, or that provided other impulses that helped me figure out Disobedience‘s content, form, and how those support each other.

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

A novel without which Disobedience wouldn’t exist; a work of speculative fiction to which Disobedience is in part a reply, albeit an oblique one. Le Guin’s great novel of ideas, which is also rich with detailed world-building and lovely prose, has long struck me as a model of how fiction can be a vehicle for investigating important, complex political problems while remaining compelling as narrative art.

I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl’s Notes from the End of the World by Kai Cheng Thom

Kai Cheng Thom’s body of work as a whole means a lot to me. I think the bravery, clarity, and prescience of her writing on problems of violence and justice within communities oriented towards liberation really can’t be overstated. She’s been articulating a compassionate, critical perspective on such questions for many years now; she started doing so in a moment when abolitionist politics had even less mainstream visibility than they do today (by an order of magnitude), insisting on care and rigour even when that’s placed her at odds with socially dominant currents of thought. I Hope We Choose Love assembles many of her hard-won insights, beautifully expressed.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Anti-imperialist space opera, subtle and gripping. Never preachy or heavy-handed, yet packed with insights about how empires (and those who resist them) behave, seamlessly dramatized. A must-read for anyone who loathes imperial violence and loves good storytelling.

The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

These science fantasy novels have the most incredible sweep, immersive depth, and vivid characterization. Their richness gave me the rare experience of being as totally absorbed in a fictional landscape as I’d sometimes felt when reading novels as a child. A good reminder to attend, in my own writing, to the pleasure of world-building and not get lost in the also-considerable pleasure of ideas.

Everything For Everyone: An Oral History of the New York Commune, 2052-2072 by Eman Abdelhadi and M.E. O’Brien

This collection of linked fictional oral histories, recorded after a set of global revolutionary transformations in the later decades of the 21st century, is rooted so convincingly in—extrapolated so deftly from—the details of our contemporary world. Its speculations are woven from the authors’ careful thought about the emancipatory possibilities latent in our own time’s social movements, political tendencies and organizations, and structural contradictions. A visionary rendering of a world that might be, if we make it so.

Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy by Transgender Writers, edited by Cat Fitzpatrick and Casey Plett

I came across this collection when I was first starting to conceive of the project that would become Disobedience. I guess I’d had an intuition of a certain affinity between trans/genderqueer experience and speculative fiction/science fiction/fantasy as forms—something about the capacity to see the world as if it were or could be wholly otherwise, to defy and think beyond the weight of oppressive social conventions—and Meanwhile, Elsewhere helped to affirm that link. It’s full of cool, weird trans stories. I was into it!

Abolition Geography by Ruth Wilson Gilmore

This big book has had pride of place on my coffee table for a long while now; an abolitionist friend, visiting my apartment, casually referred to Abolition Geography as the bible. Gilmore is a Black marxist and abolitionist in the US, a thinker and organizer who for decades has been weaving a structural critique of police and prisons into a material analysis of capitalism and imperialism more broadly. Alongside the work of other Black feminist abolitionist thinkers such as Mariame Kaba, Angela Y. Davis, El Jones, Robyn Maynard, and Derecka Purnell, Gilmore’s writing has powerfully shaped how I understand the place of abolitionist commitments within revolutionary struggle.

all our futures by Jody Chan

All of Jody Chan’s writing has been important to me, but/and I still think with awe and admiration of their succinct book all our futures, with its gorgeous imaginings of a future—or many possible futures—in which all of us might flourish and belong. Meeting Jody around five years ago also gave me hope for the possibility of local literary friendship with others who feel alienated by the reflexive liberalism (i.e. centrism) of many institutional art spaces—their uncritical complicities with capital and empire. Jody’s new book, impact statement, is also fantastic.

Prison Industrial Complex Explodes by Mercedes Eng

Years ago, I was looking for abolitionist writing produced by comrades living in the Canadian state, and Mercedes Eng’s Prison Industrial Complex Explodes leapt out as an incandescent hybrid of memoir, poetry, and analysis, inventing the form it needed to advance its political project—and broadening my sense of what kind of liberatory work literature might be able to do.

Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill

Not speculative fiction and not about questions of collective political organization (at least as far as I recall), but Mary Gaitskill’s first book, a collection of short stories, remains one of the most precise, illuminating accounts of desire’s subtleties that I’ve ever read. A model of how to reveal characters’ inner worlds through what they crave, parsing sexuality and gender with revelatory honesty, depth, and care.


Daniel Sarah Karasik (they/them) is the author of many books, including two poetry collections, Plenitude and Hungry, and the short story collection Faithful and Other Stories. Their work has been recognized with the Toronto Arts Foundation’s Emerging Artist Award, the CBC Short Story Prize, and the Canadian Jewish Playwriting Award. They organize with the network Artists for Climate & Migrant Justice and Indigenous Sovereignty (ACMJIS), among other groups, and are the founding managing editor of Midnight Sun, a magazine of socialist strategy, analysis, and culture. They live in Toronto.

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