In the spirit of Black History Month, I’d like to take a moment (or several) to put a spotlight on the works created by black British authors. Too often are the contributions of black writers to Britain’s rich literary tapestry carelessly ignored or unrewarded. Therefore, mentioned below are several novels penned by black writers that explore unacknowledged narratives as well as highlighting the fact that it isn’t only George R.R. Martin or Neil Gaiman that can write great, absorbing fantasy or sci-fi novels.
Somali-British poet, Warsan Shire, has accumulated several note-worthy and impressive accolades in her relatively young literary career. Shire first made a name for herself on Tumblr and Twitter, gaining fans as she explored her black-Muslim identity, the plight of immigrants and womanhood. In 2014, Shire won the first Young Laureate of London and the previous year she won Brunel University’s inaugural prize for African Poetry. Like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Beyoncé helped to make Shire an overnight sensation after being heard reciting several of Shire’s poems in Lemonade – Queen B’s seminal, deeply personal album.
Too often are the contributions of black writers to Britain’s rich literary tapestry carelessly ignored or unrewarded
The Noughts and Crosses books were always a constant fixture in my secondary school’s library shelves. It was an important reading experience for me, as the trilogy allowed my pre-teen self to make sense of the world and its problematic social mechanisms. Malorie Blackman’s beautifully tragic novels weren’t afraid to tackle themes of racial inequality and the often-drastic ripple effects it had on society. By completely flipping the racial positions of power, Blackman aimed to highlight the toxicity of racism and challenge the reader to question their possible, subconscious biases. Despite being a YA series, Blackman’s literary talent makes this book accessible to everyone and a must-read for people of all ages and of all backgrounds.
Speaking Gigantular, Irenosen Okojie’s wonderfully weird collection of short stories makes for a surreal reading experience. From aliens kidnapping coffee shop waitresses to a mother’s plight concerning her son’s growing tail and the subsequent bullying of the young boy, Okojie most certainly doesn’t lack in the originality department. Providing a new unique voice in the British literary world, Okojie’s lyrical fable-like stories dare the reader to be puzzled and fully absorbed in the unpredictable worlds laid out. Irenosen Okojie’s dynamic talent hasn’t gotten unnoticed; her debut novel, Butterfly Fish, won a Betty Trask award and has been shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize. Her talent speaks for itself and shows that black British authors have indeed added a splash of colour on Britain’s tapestry of literary works.bookmark me