‘Superhuman’ promotes empathy

Nicola Yoon’s short story challenges stereotypes and prejudice

Image supplied by: Supplied by Alexa Bartels
Don’t miss this anthology’s stand-out story. 

“Superhuman” is a short story featured in the anthology Fresh Ink and written by Jamaican-American writer Nicola Yoon. The work explores intersectionality, prejudice, and humanity.

Yoon is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Instructions for Dancing, Everything, Everything, and The Sun Is Also a Star.

Published in 2018, Fresh Ink features work by some of the most accomplished authors on the young adult fiction scene. It’s an inclusive and diverse collection that includes ten short stories, a one act play, and a graphic novel.

Thematically, the stories in Fresh Ink confront social issues like gentrification, poverty, and racism across several genres. There are stories that fall under contemporary realistic fiction, adventure, and romance, to name a few.

Yoon’s “Superhuman” is the can’t-miss story in this anthology.  

It follows the story of X, a super-hero gone rogue, and average teen Syrita, who was selected by the president of the United States to talk X out of his quest to destroy humanity.

Yoon, the first woman of colour to reach #1 on the New York Times Young Adult bestseller list, provides much-needed social commentary while telling a compelling narrative.

Through “Superhuman,” she challenges the real-life discrimination present in the media, government, and broader society. Her story blends elements of realism and dystopia to shame the unjustified prejudices aimed at Black folks, including false stereotypes surrounding race and crime.

The characters of X and Syrita are where the story truly shines. It’s bittersweet, as they’re mirror images of each other.

Where Syrita embodies strength and faith, X’s identity as a human stands out. Readers are shown how racism and hatred robbed a man capable of saving lives of his empathy for others.

Yoon exemplifies how compassion is brought to life by understanding and sympathizing with the experiences of others. Syrita and X’s story recognizes the ways in which we’re not separated by race, but rather united as humans.

Syrita emphasizes with X as he’s challenged by systemic and everyday racism, but also reminds him of people’s capacity for mercy, healing, finding unconditional love, and—most importantly—sympathizing with those affected by marginalization.

The messages in Yoon’s story are relevant not only to Black History Month but to the every day—society needs more empathy all year-round.

Humanity is a strength to all. Our greatest ability is to understand that we’re deserving of grace and understanding. Collectively, we can build stronger communities by caring about the experiences of others as they were our own.

Although “Superhuman” is directed towards a young adult audience, it’s an accessible and poignant read for anyone who loves literature and social justice.



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