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From thought-provoking literary fiction to coming-of-age life-changers that speak to all ages, our ever-growing collection of outstanding novels by black writers presents a richness of reading experiences. Sweeping historical stories that give voice to unforgettable characters. Stimulating contemporary tales that unpack modern life. Soul-stirring love stories. Novels that will make you think, question, and reassess your understanding of the world. Recipients of the world’s most esteemed literary awards. And all of the books we love.
Fans of historic fiction will adore Sara Collins’s literary crime thriller The Confessions of Frannie Langton, a compelling Costa Book Award-winning, LoveReading Debut of the Month, with a powerful statement about the nature of freedom underpinning Frannie’s feverishly unforgettable story. Another of our historic favourites - a Love Reading Star Book - is A Tall History of Sugar, a haunting masterpiece that begins in rural Jamaica with the island on the verge of independence, before moving to Brixton and Bristol, where – pertinently – the main character encounters the ludicrousness of former slave-owners being celebrated as hero philanthropists. Twentieth-century British history is further laid bare by the late, great Andrea Levy’s Small Island (all her novels and short stories are hugely recommended), and Samuel Selvon’s seminal 1956 classic The Lonely Londoners.
If contemporary fiction is more your thing, we cannot praise Bernadine Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other enough. The author made history with this multi-voiced, modern masterpiece by becoming the first black woman to win the prestigious Booker Prize (it was co-awarded to Evaristo and Margaret Atwood in 2019). We also especially love Rachel Edwards’s punchy Darling (another Star Book), and Michael Donker’s hilarious, heartfelt Hold - outstanding debuts by writers we can’t wait to read more by.
From the other side of the Atlantic, more modern masterpieces come courtesy of Angie Thomas. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the author’s personal experiences, The Hate U Give is an exceptionally powerful novel about a girl’s struggle for justice when her friend-since-childhood is killed by the police, right in front of her. Though aimed at young adults, the novel’s power and prescient message make it a must-read for anyone interested in the BLM movement and the real-life experiences of young black Americans. The same goes for Thomas’s second novel, On the Come Up, in which talented hip-hop artist Bri battles racism, sexism and a tonne of painful conflicts, but refuses to be silenced.
Keep reading to explore the Collection, and keep checking back to discover more exceptional novels - it’s growing constantly.
Nigeria in the 1960s and the birth of Biafra, a time of massacre, bloody conflict and the end of colonialism. We experience this strife through the household of a university lecturer, his houseboy, his lover and a white man seeking something we are never sure of. It is a tale of class more than race, of tribal differences and of the horrors of the period. It is immensely impressive, a big novel in every sense. Highly recommended. The film version of Half of a Yellow Sun is released in UK cinemas on Friday 11 April 2014. Click below to view the trailer. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction 2014. Shortlisted for the 2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. On the surface this is a love story, a coming-of-age novel and a tale of friendship. But Adichie did not allow her work to be just that. Most of the book, related in seven parts, is from the girl Ifemelu’s point of view but we do get significant bits from the boy Obinze’s side too. So across three countries, Nigeria, the USA and the UK, we get a strong portrait of racism, gender stereotyping, corruption and exploitation. Well written with a fascinating insight into part of the new, vibrant Nigeria, we are given a picture which will both fascinate and annoy readers. As students the two flee Nigertia. Ifemelu to a tough time in America until she eventually finds fame as a writer and Obinze to London and the change of British citizenship curtailed by deportation. Back in Nigeria he becomes wealthy. At the end of this fine book the two have their lives to sort out. March 2014 Book of the Month. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
This review is provided by bookgroup.info.Purple Hibiscus is the story of a fifteen-year-old Nigerian girl, Kambili, and describes her life under the constraints of her father's strict regime. When life in the city becomes dangerous during a military coup, she is sent away to stay with her aunt where she eventually finds love and happiness. Written from Kambili's point of view, it is a powerful story that is remarkable for the subtlety of the telling. Papa, a newspaper owner committed to reporting the truth about state corruption, revered by the community for his generosity, is in many ways a monstrous figure. At home he is authoritarian and bullying, narrow-minded and intolerant, yet he is motivated by profound religious beliefs. And, although his love for them is beyond doubt, his cruelty to his family in order to keep them on the path of righteousness is chilling. The delicacy of the relationship between father and daughter is especially painful: locked to Kambili's fear of her father is an unquestioning love and belief. She describes how she would "snuggle into Papa's arms when harmattan thunderstorms raged outside, flinging mangoes against the window netting and making the electric wire hit each other and spark bright orange flames. Papa would lodge me between his knees or wrap me in the cream blanket that smelled of safety." And even after she finally breaks away from the security of his violence and begins to become independent, she remains devoted to him. Like most Nigerian novels, Purple Hibiscus necessarily deals with the tension between Catholicism and traditional religion, but Ngozi Adichie also tackles the more recent problems associated with an African state emerging, as Kambili does, from the destructive legacy of a paternalist power. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has won the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize First Best Book award for Purple Hibiscus. Welcome to another wonderful Nigerian writer.The Lovereading view...A powerful and compelling coming of age novel of a family, a faith and a country, all in an awful turmoil. It has been highly rated by reviewers Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
“Big sisters look after little sisters,” declares the mother of the two sisters at the centre of this fiercely enthralling novel and that’s taken to the extreme when big sister Korede helps little sister Ayoola dispose the body of the boyfriend she’s murdered. And not for the first time either. Femi is the third boyfriend to be killed by beautiful, untouchable Ayoola, and Korede can’t not come to her aid. “I am the older sister – I am responsible for Ayoola. That’s how it has always been. Ayoola would break a glass, and I would receive the blame for giving her the drink”. The writing is razor sharp, courtesy of Korede’s wry narration. She’s a mistress of observation and insight, all-seeing, all-knowing and - so it seems – all-loyal to her self-serving little sister. Ablaze with dark humour and strident originality, this wickedly explosive debut heralds the arrival of a smart new voice in contemporary fiction. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Crossing cultures, continents and generations, this exquisitely involving exploration of frictions between family and friends, of love, loss and the criss-crossing complexities of life truly had me in its hold. In Ghana, sensible housegirl Belinda performs her domestic duties to perfection, with irrepressible eleven-year-old Mary shadowing her work. Mary brims with childish obstinacy, and with a daringly direct wisdom beyond her years. She’ll stamp her feet and curl her lip for attention or sympathy, but she’s also gloriously curious, a devoted, proud, joyously forceful bundle of humanity. Then Belinda is summoned to Brixton to befriend Amma, a privileged and troubled young woman. Amma initially refuses to play ball. She’s childishly rude, but they learn from each other and even confide their deepest secrets. When tragedy strikes, Amma rages: “The cruelty of the fucking world is proved fucking every day. The unfairness of life is just, like, unbelievable”. Ultimately, though, both young women evolve and broaden their outlook on the world and who they are. Alongside the heartfelt human drama, there’s much humour too, such as when Belinda describes Britain to Mary – it’s a peculiar place where cats “sleep in the bed with the white people” and “they kiss the animal as if it hasn’t roamed around the town eating sewage.” Her assessment of TV host Kilroy-Silk is hilarious too. He may seem “fully white”, but his “face is more orange then usual”. Poignant, finely-observed, funny and eloquent, this is an exceptional debut. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
A sharp and smart debut novel, containing real heart (both ache and joy). 25 year old Queenie is on a break from her boyfriend, can’t concentrate at work, and is having a hard time balancing her life. Feeling trapped as she moves in with her grandparents, she soon finds her life closing down. Within a few pages I was settled in my chair and didn’t budge as I read this in one wonderfully heady sitting. Popping backwards and forwards in time Candice Carty-Williams opens a doorway into Queenie’s soul. She created a connection for me to reach out and touch and I felt as though I had become a part of Queenie’s life. I was there with her as things went wrong, wanted to reassure, vent, be there to support her. There are parts that tiptoed across my awareness, spiking stray thoughts. Elsewhere is raw and unflinching making my senses burn, before a moment later I was tipped into a sunshiny smile and chortle. While Queenie herself breaks down stereotypes about black women, her friend Cassandra doesn’t do the same with regards to Jewish stereotypes. Big bad life in all its pain and glory stamps across the page. Queenie is a bold, fiercely provocative and thought-provoking read.
This is an astounding novel telling the stories of twelve characters living across the country and through the years. Each character is vivid as they take centre stage to share their story with us. Whether it's the sassy, argumentative Yazz, or the devastating narratives of Carole and Dominique. This book is filled with humour, culture and passion and I think it is a must-read for everyone. Composed as poetic prose, Bernadine Evaristo's lyricism throughout makes the sections flow, hammers home key points and gives each character their own unique tone. This is a book that will stop you in your tracks as you find out more about the characters but will also stop you reading as you contemplate the beauty in Evaristo's style of writing. "It's a novel about who we are now". Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
We haven’t had a new Ben Okri for some five years so this is something of a celebration. Sadly it is not quite magical enough, not in the same league as his magnificent The Famished Road. Charmingly written with an authentically dreamlike quality in short sections, it sweeps you along with a group of people making a TV documentary about a journey to Arcadia, Greece, while actually going from Paris to Switzerland. Or are they? Nothing is certain in this book. There is a short, sharp section on meeting the devil which is outstanding and some beautiful descriptions of landscapes. A fine book but perhaps a little light for such a great author. ~ Sarah Broadhurst P.S. - The Age of Magic was awarded the Bad Sex in Fiction Award 2014 but we still love it! Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
A beautiful collection of stories from the Booker Prize winner. He mixes poetry and story together to create some magical tales. The perfect book to read on a journey as the stories are quick to read and highly enjoyable. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Set in 1980s Atlanta, Tayari Jones’s Silver Sparrow is a rich tour de force that sparkles with wit, warmth and candid lyricism. Exploring the weight of secrets and the complexities of love and family life through the compelling coming of age stories of sisters estranged by their father’s bigamy, this novel lingers long in the soul. “The truth is a strange thing. Like pornography, you know when you see it.” This potent proclamation cuts to the novel’s core, for Dana and her mother Gwen are the other wife, the other daughter, of bigamist James, and they know this truth while his first wife and daughter remain oblivious. Upset when James tells her that being his second daughter “You are the one that’s a secret,” Gwen poignantly informs Dana that rather than being secret, she’s simply “unknown. That little girl there doesn’t know she has a sister. You know everything.” Knowledge that she possesses the truth offers Dana consolation, of sorts. While James’s other family is financially better off, both wives have a distinct lack of agency. Indeed, the novel is sharp on showing how women often have to make their lives from what men decide, such as when Gwen remarks that when you’re four weeks late, “All you can do is give him the news and let him decide if he is going to leave or if he is going to stay.” The novel is also powerful on elemental love and the nature of memory, such as Dana’s response to being gifted a fur coat her father won in a card game: “To this day and for the rest of my life I will always have a soft spot for a man with rum on his breath.” In time, during her own tempestuous teenage years, Dana orchestrates encounters with her sister and they become friends, with tension rising as the secret threatens to detonate. With finely drawn, flawed characters that pull readers’ loyalties in different directions, this commanding, compassionate novel confirms the author’s exceptional gifts. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2017. This is such a gorgeously expressive novel, it just sings with intensity, and is impossible to put down. Nine year old Leon loves his little brother Jake and his mum, he looks after them both as best he can, when Leon and Jake have to go and live with Maureen, Leon hatches a plan. Kit de Waal writes with a beautiful, sincere energy, the simplicity of the tale told from Leon's point of view allows a complicated backdrop of emotions to shine through. At times my heart absolutely ached, yet there are also proper laughter blurting moments, and I just wanted to gather everybody up into a huge, squashy hug. The 80’s, with it’s curly wurlys, royal celebrations, and riots is the perfect setting. A gloriously motley collection of characters come to life, each and every one of them is indispensable, and each affected me in some way. ‘My Name is Leon’ is a stunning, eloquent, stinging paper-cut of a read, I fell in love with it, and in turn, it left me full of hope. Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2016 Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
A very special and beautiful read that left my heart full of feelings. When she was young, Mona’s Dadda told her there was a trick to time, as she revisits the past can she reshape her future? Having fallen in love with Kit de Waal’s first novel My Name is Leon (do read it, it’s simply gorgeous), I just had to get myself a copy of The Trick to Time. I thought I would read a crafty few chapters before going out, however the words caught me to them and held on. I completely forgot I was meant to be leaving and was just a little late! I adore Kit de Waal’s writing, it reaches inside, to hidden depths of awareness I wasn’t even sure existed, and nudges them awake. She has a gift with words, seemingly simple, building thoughts and feelings until they develop into a heartfelt, vividly intense moving picture. As Mona visits the past, lives in the present, and looks to the future I found myself alongside her every step of the way. The Trick to Time is a book I will keep close to hand to reread again and again, and I imagine that I will discover a slightly different version each time I step inside the pages. Highly recommended, I have chosen it as one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month, and a LoveReading Star Book. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
This unique, incisive novel is an emotionally engrossing road-trip reinvention of Moby Dick with female characters, and a gripping mystery about what main protagonist Dinah is running from to find her place to call home. Seventeen-year-old Dinah has lived her whole life on a commune and now feels compelled to flee everything she’s ever known. After being home-schooled, a recent period in mainstream schooling has turned her world upside-down, as has turbulent upheavals at home, and then there’s the mystery of what happened between Dinah and new friend Queenie. She shaves off her hair, adopts a new name and flees, illegally driving a VW campervan (her version of Moby Dick’s Pequod ship) with a cantankerous one-legged neighbour for company. While driving, Dinah confronts her many demons, most of which stem from her confusing sense of identity. She’s mixed race, but feels neither black nor white, and she’s attracted to boys and girls. The road is bumpy, with many revelations and confrontations along the way. Eventually, though, Dinah realises that “the road that took you away has led you all the way back home”. This is a smartly-crafted novel with real resonance, a story that honestly and empathetically imparts an uplifting message to “Always be yourself first…find yourself and be yourself”. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Sparked by the author’s reading about a real reform school in Florida, this deeply affecting novel centres around the unforgettable Elwood Curtis. “Raised strict” by his grandmother, Elwood was “intelligent and hardworking and a credit to his race”, and driven by the wisdom of Martin Luther King: “We must believe in our souls that we are somebody, that we are significant, that we are worthful, and we must walk the streets of life every day with this sense of dignity.” At high school - where the books were defaced by racist slurs written by white students who knew where their old books were headed - Elwood thrives under a teacher who lets him know of an opportunity to go to the local black college. But Elwood never got to go. One mistake sees him sent to Nickel Academy where he’s “swiftly appalled” by the low level of education. “I am stuck here, but I’ll make the best of it,” he resolves, invoking Dr King for strength. It’s not long before Elwood realises that rather than being a place that seeks to transform boys into “honorable and honest men”, the school is fuelled by violent abuse - “Nickel was racist as hell - half the people who worked here probably dressed up like the Klan on weekends” - and many kids disappear from this horrendous environment. While Elwood grasps onto Dr King’s “Do to us what you will and we will still love you” mantra, his friend Turner subscribes to the notion that survival is dependent on them adopting their tyrants’ cruelties. Like Elwood himself, this novel has a steady, direct tone, underpinned by resolve and dignity in the face of inhumane abuse. Traversing timeframes, and with a stop-you-in-your-tracks ending, this stunning book from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad exposes oft-hidden historical horrors with poised humanity, and shows-up the ricocheting, inter-generational resonance of institutional racism and abuse.
Ancient gods and the elemental spirit of an island are interwoven with modern reality in this remarkable debut that begins with a family impoverished by the decline of the sugar cane industry. In the pounding, poetic words of Augie, the father of the household: ”I was once the sugarcane. I was the cane and clacking and the sugar-sweet smoke of the reaping season.” Amidst escalating money struggles, a shiver of sharks save seven-year-old Nainoa from drowning, which the family embrace as a sign from Hawai’i’s ancient gods, especially when Nainoa also seems to have been bestowed with healing powers. Throughout the writing is majestically powerful, from punch-packing phrases that slam you in the gut, to monumental descriptions that rise, crash, roar and swell like Big Island waves, not least when life unravels again after Nainoi – now a young adult - and his siblings leave the island for various parts of the USA. Sister Kaui captures one of the novel’s core themes when, relocated to San Diego, she speaks of being, “A person of here and there, and not belonging in either place.” Meanwhile, in Portland, struggling with his healing gift, and the failings of this gift, Nainoa recalls the shark incident and memories call to him: “Home. Come home.” With its sweeping sense of myth, this multi-voiced family saga is a brilliant, involving exposition of how the places we inhabit also inhabit us at bone-deep level. It rings and rages with the wrath, revival, healing and hope of its characters. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
This is a beautifully articulate and poignant novel, at times it maintains a discreet solitary distance from its own moving story, ensuring that as moments of realisation steal into your consciousness and understanding flows into your heart… they stay with you. The author spirals through time, teases history and suggests new beginnings. The story branches three ways, breathtakingly different, remote yet entwined, flowing together and unfurling heartbreaking moments of perception and compassion. The isolation of the characters is shocking, they do not encourage affection or intimacy, their story isn't neat, tidy, clean or explained, you are instead left to observe, to recognise and so find yourself jolted and shaken into awareness, sorrow and regret and yet somehow a fluttering of hope steals across the pages for a story yet untold. ’Wuthering Heights’ and the Bronte family are intrinsically linked to this story, if you haven't yet met Emily, Charlotte and Anne, your journey through ’The Lost Child’ will potentially introduce you to some new companions. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Comparisons will inevitably be made to Alexander McCall Smith as Miller has the same gentle style. A lovely story about a young girl who has moved back to Jamaica after the death of her mother. When her friends underwear is stolen they decide to set up a neighbourhood watch scheme but not everyone in town is so keen to have one. Funny, poignant and charming. Miller is a writer to keep an eye on. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
July 2010 Book of the Month. We follow Adamine as she grows up in Jamaica, discovering through her church that she has a gift of ‘warning’. This gift is respected in her homeland but when she moves to England she discovers her prophecies are seem more as a sign of madness and she is institutionalised. Now as an old woman she wants to tell her story. A moving and bittersweet tale. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Shortlisted for the Best of the Orange Best 2010 by the Orange Prize Youth Panel. Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction 2006. This review is provided by bookgroup.info.Fans of WHITE TEETH may be a bit disappointed with Zadie Smith’s latest novel. ON BEAUTY is not such a rollicking good read as her first book but what it lacks in pace it makes up for in characterisation and depth. The novel lays out its credentials from the first sentence: ‘One may as well begin with Jerome’s emails to his father.’ and goes on to draw much of its narrative from the plot of E M Forster’s HOWARD’S END. Smith’s story revolves, as does Forster’s, around two families who, although from a similar strata of society, have opposing political and moral viewpoints. Set mainly at Wellington, a fictitious Ivy League university, ON BEAUTY explores the rivalry between two art-historians: Howard Belsey – English, inclusive, liberal– and the ultra conservative, Christian, Monty Kipps. Despite being African American, Kipps refers to ‘the coloured man’ and wages a campaign on the campus against affirmative action. Inevitably, the two families get involved and the ensuing tensions provide great potential for high drama as well as comic situations. Some episodes are very funny indeed. Zadie Smith is very good at human relationships, family dynamics specifically, and some of her scenes are painfully convincing. By referring to Howard’s End, the author creates parallels and counterpoints between Edwardian England and the US east coast of the early twenty first century. Although, whereas Forster’s novel ends with the symbolic death of Leonard Blast under a pile of books, Howard’s ‘end’ in ON BEAUTY is not only a hugely optimistic redemption of his character but an affirmation of the value of love and beauty.This homage to Forster does beg comparison with someone who was a master of economy in his writing. In just a few spare subtle sentences he could illustrate the British class system in all its iniquity and complexity and it makes Smith seem a bit clunky and heavy-handed by contrast. That said, ON BEAUTY is a very accomplished novel, a good read and provides plenty to consider about love, fidelity, identity and the nature of beauty.The Lovereading view...Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction 2006. Set on both sides of the Atlantic, award-winning Zadie Smith's third novel, On Beauty, is a brilliant analysis of family life, the institution of marriage, intersections of the personal and political, and an honest look at people's deceptions. It is also, as you might expect, very funny indeed. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Prepare yourself, this is a slicing, clever, wonderfully captivating tale ready to twist thoughts, to skewer feelings. Thomas falls in love with Darling, his 16-year-old daughter Lola is horrified, each woman is determined not to lose Thomas. The intriguing prologue immediately hooked my attention, my eyebrows raised, my eyes opened wide, my mind gasped. We hear from both Darling and Lola, each so different, so vibrantly alive with conviction. Darling’s voice is rich and full of flavour, I could close my eyes and still hear her, while Lola is sharp with a head full of thoughts, brittle, yet flaming, fiery. I found myself reading faster, wanting to gobble up the pages, yet was determined not to miss a single word. By the time awareness started to prickle my consciousness, by the time understanding crashed in around me, I was on a non-stop collision course with the end. Darling is a powerful read, a vibrant, punchy, thoughtful wow of a read, and I loved it. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
The Old Bailey, 1826 and Frannie Langton stands in court accused of the brutal murder of her former master and mistress. But “there was love between me and her”, she tells the court as she relates her story from 1812, when she worked at Paradise plantation, Jamaica. With the skills of reading and writing “packed inside” her, “dangerous as gunpowder”, Frannie is taken to London and sent to work for a man named George Benham. His wife, the beautiful, eccentric Madame Marguerite Benham “stirred a feeling of wanting” in Frannie, and she becomes Madame’s lady’s maid and secretary - and more. But theirs is a complex, volatile relationship. “The truth is there was love as well as hate,” Frannie acknowledges. “The truth is, the love hurt worse”. Speaking at her trial, during which she recounts the inhumane racial experimentation undertaken by the master of Paradise, Frannie asks, “Sirs, I wonder...in the whole sum of human history, by what order have you white men been wrong more than you’ve been right?” She also questions the privileges and entitlements of gender: “how confident a man must be to write down his musings, expecting anybody else to be interested in reading them”. Ablaze with drama, detail, tension and wit, and wise on the nature of agency and freedom, this comes highly recommended for fans of Andrea Levy’s The Long Song, Marlon James’s The Book of Night Women and Sarah Waters. According to Frannie, “A novel is like a long, warm drink but a poem is a spike through the head”. By her definition, this novel is both these things - as potent as a poem, as addictive as a long, warm drink. Have a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for The Confessions of Frannie Langton. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Jess, the eight year old daughter of a Nigerian mother and an English father, feels ostracised but is blessed with a vivid imagination. On holiday in Nigeria she meets a girl of her own age, a kindred spirit, perhaps an imaginary friend or her dead twin. I’m not telling you, suffice to say the relationship takes some interesting twists in a challenging read.Comparison: Zadie Smith, Diana Evans, Donna Daley-Clarke.Similar this month: None but try John Bennett. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. To view a reading guide for this title click here
Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
A novel about racism, prejudice and injustice in the post war years in London as Jamaicans, escaping economic hardship, move to the Mother Country. Told from four characters’ points of view, it deserves all the accolades and prizes it has received. Powerful yet light in touch, humorous yet high in drama, it is a most rewarding and touching read. Won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2004 and on the 25th Jan 2005 the Whitbread 2004 overall. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
One of our Great Reads you may have missed in 2011. Shortlisted for the Galaxy UK Author of the Year Award 2011. February 2011 Book of the Month. Winner of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2011. Featured on The TV Book Club on More4 on 23 Jan 2011. Don't miss the latest novel from Andrea Levy, The author of the award winning Small Island. The Long Song is the story of July, a slave girl on a plantation in Jamaica during the last, turbulent years of Slavery. Set against the backdrop of the Baptist War of 1831 and the subsequent years when slavery was declared no more, this is an emotional and sometimes harrowing account told from the point of view of those who experienced the troubles first hand. Beautifully written, insightful and intelligent. Featured on The TV Book Club on More4 on 23 Jan 2011. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2010. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
From the detailed domestic scenes dappled with loss, love, hardship and hanging on, to sweeping waves of war, the rare power of Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King creeps up on you, catches you unaware, becomes compulsive in the manner of complex classics of the ancient world. It’s 1935 in Ethiopia and newly-orphaned Hirut is employed as a maid by an officer in Emperor Hailie Selassie’s army. In her previous life, Hirut’s father taught her to use a gun: “This, he says, you do not touch unless you are prepared. Prepared for what, she asks. He slips the bullet back into his pocket. Prepared to be something you are not.” And this is what Hirut is prepared for when Ethiopia is invaded by Mussolini’s vengeful army. Not content to merely care for the wounded, she devises a plan and rouses women to rise up and fight. As they shift from being housewives, to nurses, to warriors, their stories are haunting, harrowing and stirring, and this novel confirms Mengiste’s status as a writer blessed with lyrical bravery and unique vision. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
April 2018 Book of the Month “It’s a bit weird,” says Danny to James and indeed it is. Here are two thirty-six year old single young men who were once rival star scholars at an elite public boarding school now damaged. Danny was the scholarship student from a council estate, James an upper-class lad from wealthy parents. Both have sunk into a pit. How they got there and are desperately trying to climb out makes for a sensitive and highly compulsive read. Danny suffered loss and has been unable to get over the trauma, James had an “incident” which has left him brain damaged, he is now looked after by his restrictive parents. James is inadvertently responsible for Danny quitting his job and so hits upon the idea of being able to get away from his parents by having Danny look after him. A bit weird indeed. I truly loved this book, unusual for Mike Gayle and very special indeed. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
September 2015 Book of the Month. Clever and touching, this is a book about love, trust and the reality of bringing up a family. As loveable, weary Joe tells his emotional story, you will find yourself alternately wanting to slap his self-pity then hug his remorse and regret. As his wife and children struggle to understand his actions, an occasional visit from a straight talking ghostly ex-girlfriend and three quirky yet regular guys from the Divorced Dads’ Club help to add a little humour and spirit to the mix. Gayle is able to take the everyday and help you view things from a different perspective, things that are immediately obvious are not necessarily as clear-cut as they would first seem. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
It’s more than 20 years since I read my first Mike Gayle book. And I loved it. Perfectly pitched and incredibly funny, I became a fan. This is Mike’s most grown up novel yet and I adored it. Unable to put it down I ploughed through, consumed by the story of Kerry and her fierce love for her long-lost brother Jason. Although worlds apart, with Jason’s adoption, idyllic childhood and privileged education, they are connected and a stream of events change their lives forever. My glasses steamed up with my tears as I cried through the pages. Incredibly sad but gorgeously uplifting and beautifully written. Bravo, Mike. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
An often uncomfortable, overwhelming, yet impressively compelling read. ‘John Crow’s Devil’ originally published in 2005, is the debut novel of Marlon James, Man Booker prize winner for ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’. Apparently James’ debut was rejected 78 times before being published, and personally I had my doubts as I began to read, and yet, and yet… the further I read, the more I felt myself being consumed by this penetrating and provocative novel. Two men, two preachers, battle each other, two women choose sides, while the rest of the village follow the stronger man. An anonymous village voice occasionally comes to the fore, narrating, telling, explaining, speaking with a Jamaican dialect, sometimes using unknown words that somehow make themselves understood. The story weaves between the village voice, clearly, firmly setting the story in stone, yet unexpected words will make you stop and think in a sentence previously flowing like water. With images that burst into your minds eye, be prepared to be moved, perturbed and to feel your heart break, yet wonder at the power of this profound novel. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2015. Set against the backdrop of 1970s reggae culture, disco, sex and excess comes this remarkable re-imagining of the attempted assassination of Bob Marley. Gripping and inventive, ambitious and mesmerising, A Brief History of Seven Killings is one of the most remarkable and extraordinary novels of the twenty-first century. Michael Wood, Chair of the Man Booker judges, commented: ‘This book is startling in its range of voices and registers, running from the patois of the street posse to The Book of Revelation. It is a representation of political times and places, from the CIA intervention in Jamaica to the early years of crack gangs in New York and Miami. ‘It is a crime novel that moves beyond the world of crime and takes us deep into a recent history we know far too little about. It moves at a terrific pace and will come to be seen as a classic of our times.’ Click here to see a special hardback edition of this book. Click here to see John Crow's Devil by the same author. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
As impactful as the author’s Montego Bay-set debut (Here Comes the Sun), this stirring novel sees Patsy fulfill her dream of leaving Jamaica (and Tru, her five-year-old daughter), to join Cicely, her best friend and secret lover, in Brooklyn. But when Patsy reaches her land of milk and honey a chasm gapes between her expectations and the actualities of being an undocumented immigrant: “The job that she had at the Ministry in Kingston was by far a more dignified job than cleaning houses, than wiping the assess of other people’s children, walking a dog and picking up shit.” And Cicely doesn’t live up to expectations, either. “Yuh don’t have to keep up di act wid me,” Patsy says to her friend, whose situation is less than the idyll she’d painted for Patsy. Meanwhile, with the passing of a decade, Tru is becoming her own young woman, defying convention by playing football with boys, and binding her breasts to keep them hidden. Across the ocean, and down the years, mother and daughter have more in common than either might imagine. Traversing generations and cultures, exposing white privilege and homophobia, exploring sexuality, the pressures of motherhood and the raw struggles of womanhood, Patsy’s plight of fleeing one cage for another, her search for peace and passion, makes for a profoundly stirring and highly readable novel. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
Set in the deep American south between the wars, this is the classic tale of Celie, a young poor black girl. Raped repeatedly by her father, she loses two children and then is married off to a man who treats her no better than a slave. She is separated from her sister Nettie and dreams of becoming like the glamorous Shug Avery, a singer and rebellious black woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the support of women that enables her to leave the past behind and begin a new life. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Anyone who's read the classic, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, knows Maya Angelou was raised by her paternal grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. In Mom & Me & Mom, Angelou details what brought her mother to send her away and unearths the well of emotions Angelou experienced long afterward as a result. While Angelou's six autobiographies tell of her out in the world, influencing and learning from statesmen and cultural icons, Mom & Me & Mom shares the intimate, emotional story about her own family. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
March 2018 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: Thrilling fantasy and West African folklore An exceptional fantastical debut that weaves dark magic, powerful female protagonists and West African folklore into a richly rewarding novel, the first in what promises to be a truly epic trilogy if this opening installment is anything to go by. There was a time when Orisha was alive with magic but, under the command of a new king, those with magical gifts are now targets, and the fabulously rebellious, outspoken Zélie has been orphaned. Her heritage is of the Reaper Clan. Her mother was able to summon souls, and now Zélie, who has retained her magic, seeks justice for her mother’s death. Fuelled by thoughts of “the way her corpse hung from that tree” and “the king who took her away”, she’s determined to rise, and nothing will stop her. And so Zélie must seize control of her powers and venture forth to fight the crown prince. Throughout, the world-building and evocation of clan magic is astoundingly detailed, conjured with a vibrant visual sensibility, and Zélie is a one-of-a-kind young woman whose journey exhilarates, astounds and inspires. A message from the author: Dear Reader, There are so many things I want to say to you, but the most important is simple: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Children of Blood and Bone is the book of my heart in every way, shape, and form. It holds the magic and adventure that have made me an avid lover of fantasy and storytelling my whole life. It has thediverse cast I have always wanted to see in my favorite stories, but never got to. But above everything else, this story has my heart because it’s given me something to hold onto during very dark chapters in my life. This book was written during a time where I kept turning on the news and seeing stories of unarmed black men and children being shot by the police. I felt afraid and angry and paralyzed and helpless, but this book was the one thing that helped me feel like I could do something about it. I told myself that if just one person could read it and have their hearts or minds changed, then I would’ve done something meaningful against a problem that often feels so much bigger than myself. And now this book exists and you are reading it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. There are so many things I hope for this story, but I there want to end this letter with all the things I hope it gives you. I hope Children of Blood and Bone brings you an epic fantasy adventure like nothing you’ve ever experienced. I hope you see a glimpse into my Nigerian heritage and the beautiful cultures and people Africa holds. I hope this story makes you want to pick up a staff and ride on the back of a giant lionnaire. I hope if you’ve never seen yourself as the hero of a story, this book hanges that. I hope this novel makes you think and feel. I hope it propels you to help those who suffer the fate of the maji in the world around us.But most of all, I hope this book is only the beginning of our adventures together. Sending my love and appreciation, Tomi. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Taking us from the Gold Coast of Africa to the cotton-picking plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem, spanning three continents and seven generations, Yaa Gyasi has written a miraculous novel - the intimate, gripping story of a brilliantly vivid cast of characters and through their lives the very story of America itself. Epic in its canvas and intimate in its portraits, Homegoing is a searing and profound debut from a masterly new writer. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2011. Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 10 March 2011. A heartbreaking story of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. It has to be said that some books set in strange places and unfamiliar cultures can be difficult to penetrate. They require a stretch of the imagination that is often hard to achieve. Sometimes, these books can even be confusing. You get lost.This is not the case with 'The Memory of Love'. Very early on, the characters become deep and meaningful. The combined narratives - one in the first person, the other in the third - are easy to follow. You begin to care. And as the story develops across different time lines, you are pulled into the lives of the protagonists in such a way that you just have to read on. You have escaped, which is what literary fiction is all about. A compellingly readable literary novel. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
At once sweeping and intricate, this dazzling second novel by the author of Booker-shortlisted The Fishermen is stage-managed by an enthralling mythic narrative voice, an Igbo spirit whose physical host is our main protagonist, Chinonso. Chinonso and Ndali are fated from their first encounter when he persuades her not to throw herself to her death. They meet again and fall passionately in love but coming from wildly different worlds - he a chicken farmer, she wealthy and highly educated - their relationship is slammed by Ndali’s powerful family. Though humiliated by them, and advised by his uncle and friends to forget this apparently impossible love, Chinonso persists, taking monumental steps to improve his chance of being accepted as a suitable husband for Ndali. Far away, in an unfamiliar land, he’s faced with the despair of betrayal, then offered a fortifying hand of hope, “the rope that pulls a drowning man out of the deep sea and hauls him on to the deck of a boat”. Excruciatingly, though, he’s never far from the battering blows of fate. Brutally tragic, this raw and rich tale tells of the all-consuming nature of love, the perilous rising ripples of revenge and desperation, and the cost of holding on. It’s an acutely affecting storytelling masterwork. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Selected by a distinguished independent panel of experts including our editorial expert, Julia Eccleshare, for Diverse Voices - 50 of the best Children's Books celebrating cultural diversity in the UK. Michael Rosen on a compelling favourite: "A book that dared to go where no one thought you could with young audiences because it raises tough stuff to do with race." It takes a brave author such as Malorie Blackman to consider a sequence of the like of Noughts and Crosses and to pull it off with utmost aplomb. Award-winning author Blackman has tackled the issues of racism and prejudice in a world set in an alternate historical reality. Although 11 year olds will take great joy and learn much from reading this first one in the sequence, adults will devour it with equal enthusiasm. The contrast of the two main protagonists makes the novel totally compelling and the writing style is both original and superbly paced. The plot unravels at the pace of a thriller and as a consequence it’s a book that is almost impossible to put down. Perfect for Reluctant Readers as well as keen readers. To view other titles we think are suitable for reluctant readers please click here. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. The Noughts and Crosses Series: 1. Noughts and Crosses 2. Knife Edge 3. Checkmate 4. Double Cross 5. Crossfire Serial Reader? Check out our 'Fall in Love With a Book Series' collection to find amazing book series to dive in to.
Beginning in rural Jamaica in the late 1950s with the island on the verge of independence from Britain, A Tall History of Sugar is an all-consuming story of love, history and self-determination whose author, Curdella Forbes, possesses a majestic ability to evoke the big from the small. Rich details of dialogue, of time and place, of inner states and the outer world, intermesh with a sweeping sense of history, with its pertinent opening line referencing the state of contemporary Britain: “Long ago, when teachers were sent from Britain to teach in the grammar schools of the West Indian colonies (it was Great Britain then, not Little England, as it is now, after Brexit and the fall of empire)…” At the heart of this mythic tale is Moshe, whose appearance and biblical discovery as a baby in a twist of sea grape trees shrouds him in mystery, and elicits much mockery and fear. “With his pale skin, one sky-blue eye and one dark-brown eye…people said the boy just looked like sin. Big sin at work when he was made.” After spending his first years in the company of the childless woman who found him, Moshe forms an unbreakable bond with fellow outsider Arrienne. At school, “with the large girl sitting silently beside him, he felt that he would die of happiness.” While both Arrienne and Moshe excel in their studies, artistically gifted Moshe leaves his politically-engaged soul mate and arrives in England during the hot, fractious summer of 1976, where he hopes to find his birth father. His search takes him from Brixton, borough with a “thousand faces”, to Bristol, where he encounters the incongruity of former slave-owners being celebrated as hero philanthropists, with the urge to be close to Arrienne remaining a constant draw through all his experiences. Complex, compelling and luminously lyrical, this tells a powerful tale I know I’ll return to over and over. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
A Stunning, vital wake-up call of a novel about racism, social inequality and not giving up told through the eyes of an incredible, unforgettable sixteen-year-old. Starr straddles two very different worlds. She has one foot in Garden Heights, a rough neighbourhood ruled by gangs, guns and dealers, and the other in an exclusive school with an overwhelmingly wealthy white student population. One night she’s at a party when gunshots are fired and Khalil, her friend since childhood, takes her to his car for safety. Khalil is unarmed and poses no threat, but he’s shot dead by an officer right in front of her. It will take a lot of courage to speak to the police, and to face the media who choose to highlight that Khalil was a “suspected drug dealer”, while omitting to mention that he was unarmed. But, with their neighbourhood under curfew and a tank on the streets, Starr risks going public. Danger escalates as the hearing approaches (and beyond), but Starr isn’t about to give up fighting for Khalil, and for what’s right. Alongside the intense struggles and conflicts faced by Starr’s family and community, there are some truly heart-melting moments between Starr and her white boyfriend Chris (their shared love of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air is super cute), and also between Starr and her parents. Complex, gripping, stirring and so, so important – I can’t recommend this remarkable debut enough. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Under-your-skin powerful novel about a talented young black woman who refuses to be silenced. Bri is a smart hip-hop writer from rough, tough Garden Heights, the same housing project that provided the setting for Thomas’s remarkable debut, The Hate U Give. Her underground rap legend dad was murdered twelve years ago, leading to her (now clean) mom seeking solace in drugs. Bri’s dad’s legacy means she has a hell of a lot of baggage when she performs at a big open mic event. While she chokes the first round after being goaded by her opponent in a scene that will have you desperately urging her on, Bri’s powerful lyrics and performance mark her out as something special. But as her hip-hop reputation is on the rise, so other aspects of her life take a downturn. There’s serious money trouble at home, and at school she’s unjustly suspended, the latter of which leads to her writing the track that further rockets her reputation, “On the Come Up”. But this brings further struggle. There’s the racism of black women being labeled “aggressive” for merely expressing their views. There’s a painful falling out with “tight since womb days” friend Malik. And there’s a cruel conflict between self-preservation (shutting up and putting up to avoid being wrongly locked up, or worse) in a racist society, and the heightened need to speak out precisely because of this situation. Impeccably plotted, with a multiple storylines woven to a pulse-pounding conclusion, this is an astoundingly affecting novel that shines a light on the struggles of young black women, and celebrates freedom of speech and making noise about who you are, as seen through unforgettable Bri, a 100% authentic character whom readers will root for, cry for, yell out loud for, and grin for joy with. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Angela Makholwa’s The Blessed Girl is a wildly witty South Africa-set novel underpinned by smart and serious commentary on corruption, duplicity, drug abuse, sexual abuse, and what it’s like to be “blessed” (“a person, usually female, who lives a luxurious lifestyle funded by an older, often married partner, in return for sexual favours”). Hats off to the author for interweaving a rambunctious, read-in-one-sitting rollercoaster with shining a light on real-life struggles. Super-confident Bontle has been “charming the pants off people since the day I was born” when her parents “knew that I was destined to go far because of the way I looked, hence they named me Bontle – The Beautiful One… Watch out, world!” Bontle sure knows how to get what she wants from one of the many men she has falling over her, paying for her penthouse, flash cars, designer clothes, cosmetic surgery - luxuries her hair extension business would never give her. Bontle may not have excelled at school, but she does have a “PhD in MENcology, baby!” and manages to juggle several men at once, putting her troubled past behind her – for a time at least. Cracks begin to show when some of the men slip from her manicured grasp, when her past starts snapping at her heels, and Bontle must piece herself back together. Balancing outrageous entertainment with exposing ugly underbellies and a young woman’s realignment of a life swerved off-course, readers who enjoyed Sarong Party Girls will adore this. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
From the multi-award-winning author of The Poet X and With the Fire on High comes Elizabeth Acevedo’s exceptional dual-voiced novel about loss, love and sisterhood across the sea, a story partly sparked by the fatal crash of a flight from NYC to Santo Domingo in 2001. Camino Rios has always lived in the Dominican Republic with her aunt Tia, “a woman who speaks to the dead, who negotiates with spirits”, a woman who’s like a mother to her: “Even when Mama was alive, Tia was the other mother of my heart.” Life’s not easy for them on the island, but they have it better than their neighbours as a result of Camino’s beloved Papi working in the US for most of year. To Camino, Papi is a “A king who built an empire so I’d have a throne to inherit”, and she lives for the summer months when he comes home to them. But all life is thrown into terrible disarray when she goes to meet Papi at the airport and learns that his plane has fallen from the sky, and then: “I am swallowed by this shark-toothed truth.” This story is blessed with such divinely piercing language throughout. At the same time, across the Atlantic, Yahaira Rios learns that her hero Papi has died in a plane crash. She already knew he had a wife on the island (but not of his secret daughter), and has always longed to reconcile her Dominican heritage with her American life: “Can you be from a place you have never been? You can find the island stamped all over me, but what would the island find if I was there? Can you claim a home that does not know you, much less claim you as its own?” When it emerges that Papi wishes to be buried back in DR, Yahaira’s Mami insists that she will never let her “touch foot on the sands of that tierra.” But Yahaira has other plans, not least when she’s contacted by a girl named Camino Rios who bears an undeniable resemblance to Papi, and to her too. As well as being exceptionally affecting on grief, forgiveness and family secrets, Clap When You Land is also devastatingly sharp on the exploitative tendencies of tourism. In Camino’s words: “I am from a playground place…Our land, lush and green, is bought and sold to foreign powers so they can build luxury hotels...Even the women, girls like me, our mothers and tias, our bodies are branded jungle gyms…Who reaps? Who eats? Not us. Not me.” Overflowing with truths of the heart, and truths about inequalities that need to be broken, while also addressing the complexities of what it means to be of a place, I can’t praise this highly enough. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Xiomara Batista is a Harlem teenager whose parents moved to the US from the Dominican Republic. She has plenty of thoughts, plenty to say, but she’s been rendered voiceless by her domineering mother, by religion, and by the boys and men who objectify her body. She gets “all this attention from guys/but it’s like a sancocho of emotions… partly flattered they think I’m attractive, partly scared they’re only interested in my ass and boobs”. Such is the experience of many young women, but for Xiomara this is exacerbated by racism and her judgmental religious community, and powerfully expressed in her inimitable narrative voice. Talking of which, through the sexual insults, and despite her mother’s meting of cruel punishments, Xiomara does find her voice. She keeps a secret notebook of poems, and dreams of joining a slam poetry club. And she finds love too, with Trinidad-born Aman, a compassionate young man with family heartache of his own. Xiomara’s descriptions of their burgeoning relationship are stunning, evoking first love and passion in all its visceral beauty. Somehow, Xiomara pulls herself free from a mire of obstacles. She stands tall, she burns bright - a wondrously authentic character who finds her own faith through writing poetry. Winner for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019 | Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | Winner of the 2018 National Book Award Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
From the one-of-a-kind author of Poet X comes a one-of-a-kind novel suffused in YA’s finest features - friendship, shifting family relationships, fighting to find your voice, romantic passion – and more besides, thanks to the exuberant drive of its teen mom protagonist. Emoni has an extraordinary gift for creative cooking and a complicated home life. Her mom, whose family is “straight-from-the-Carolinas Black” died in childbirth, which caused her grief-stricken Puerto Rican dad to head home to his island. As a result Emoni was raised by his mother, the fabulous ‘Buela. Emoni is used to hearing other people’s problems with her dual heritage (“it’s like I’m some long-division problem folks keep wanting to parcel into pieces, and they don’t hear me when I say: I don’t reduce, homies. The whole of me is Black. The whole of me is whole”), but since falling pregnant in her freshman year she has a new set of struggles to contend with. It’s not easy being a teenage mom while also studying, working and dealing with Babygirl’s judgmental paternal grandmother, but somehow Emoni keeps it all going, finding soulful solace in the kitchen: “I’m happier in the kitchen than anywhere else in the world…my food doesn’t just taste good, it is good – straight up bottled goodness that warms you and makes you feel better about your life”. Enrolling on a culinary arts class makes Emoni even more determined to accomplish her gastronomic career goals, and also brings her heatedly close to new boy Malachi. But with multiple obstacles at every turn, when life reaches boiling point her best friend and family step-up as supporting sous chefs. Spiced with inspirational wisdom (“Taking risks and making choices in spite of fear – it’s what makes our life story compelling” says one of Emoni’s teachers; “The world is a turntable that never stops spinning; as humans we merely chose the tracks we want to sit out and the ones that inspire us to dance,” says Emoni), this luminous novel challenges multiple stereotypes and dances to its own love-infused, inspirational beat. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Shortlisted for the Specsavers National Book Awards 'New Writer of the Year' 2012. This gripping, provoking and emotional debut, written from the perspective of a troubled young girl in a young offenders institute awaiting trial for a vicious crime, is very hard to stop reading once you start. Hatred and love, infamy and identity, revenge and redemption are all explored with powerful yet lyrical writing. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2016. Shortlisted for the Best Crime Novel for Young Adults at the CrimeFest Awards 2017. A young man has an impossible choice to make, in this powerful coming of age urban thriller. The action is uncompromising and powerful, yet punctuated by moments of extraordinary tenderness and it will challenge preconceptions and melt the hardest heart. Costa Judges' comment: “A gripping topical thriller by a fresh new voice in children’s fiction.” A message from the Publisher who acquired this debut novel:"I knew I wanted to acquire this novel before I'd finished the first chapter. Patrice is going to be a new star in contemporary YA, and I can't wait to get this exceptional book into the hands of readers."Emma Goldhawk Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018 | From the acclaimed author of Liccle Bit and Crongton Knights, comes another story from the South Crong council estate. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2017. A surprising, emotional, and courageous novel, one where the words and feelings gradually unwind from the page and take up residence in your mind. Set in Nigeria during the 1980s, this is a story that at first feels like a window into another world, yet one that is somehow recognisable, as feelings are translatable, wherever they may be felt. Yejide desperately wants a child, her entire world collapses when her in-laws insist on her husband Akin marrying a new wife, in order to bear him children. We see the couple, feel their thoughts, the hurt and sorrow on both sides. I couldn't stop reading, yet the rawness, the pain was in every turn of the page. Unexpected revelations smacked into my awareness, turned my thoughts, captivated me further. Ayobami Adebayo, in her debut novel, writes with a clear and simple intensity. ’Stay With Me’ is utterly compelling, provocative, and a truly beautiful read. ~ Liz Robinson March 2017 Debut of the Month. Click here to read Ayobami Adebayo discuss her debut novel Stay with Me. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
February 2013 Debut of the Month. Winner of a Betty Trask Award 2013. Set in present day Lagos, this teenage romance between an unusually sophisticated street hawker and the daughter of a corrupt, hugely influential businessman erupts into tragedy as the author shows the casual lack of care for anyone unfortunate enough to be poor or to "get in the way". The subject is intriguing, the lovers an African Romeo and Juliet, and the background, contrasting poverty and immense wealth, beautifully portrayed. An interesting debut. Featured in Episode 6 of the LoveReading Podcast Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
August 2010 Debut of the Month. Shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize 2010. Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2010. A compelling story about a young boy, Jama, growing up in Somalia and searching for his father who has left to try and find work in the Sudan. The book gives great insight in to the culture, class system and religion and spares no punches in the harsh reality that is Jama's life. Fascinating, gripping and ultimately uplifting this is a book that deserves the comparisons to Half of a Yellow Sun and The Kite Runner. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award. Wickedly funny and devastatingly moving, 26a is an extraordinary first novel. Part fairytale, part nightmare, it moves from the mundane to the magical, the particular to the universal with exceptional flair and imagination. A coming-of-age novel with a difference. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Jack King - one of the most authentic and charming characters to have stepped off a YA page - and his best-friends-since-childhood Franny and Jillian are on the brink of a new chapter in their lives, picking out colleges, planning their careers, while having fun hanging out. And then Jack meets Kate at a party and falls for her big-time. They’re soul-mates who bond over their love of cereal until, all too soon, Kate dies. But this tragic event turns out to be the beginning of their story, for Kate’s death flips Jack back in time and he meets her again, as if for the first time, with Kate sensing that she knows him from somewhere: “The way you look at me. Like we’ve been doing it our whole lives.” Jack sets about trying to change the course of history, firstly so Kate doesn’t die, and then also to swerve bad stuff away from his friends. But, in classic time travel tradition, this has dangerous effects. Cue Jack wryly referencing Back to the Future and Groundhog Day while up to his neck in serious complications. Take away the pulse-quickening time travel element and you’d still have a novel heated by much heart and humour. With it, this is a firework of urgent, impactful YA fiction, a book that’s ablaze with tough choices and all kinds of love. Throughout there’s a whole lot of heart-melting cuteness - the trio’s friendship, the sweet relationship between Franny and Jillian, Jack’s parents’ perfect marriage. The plot progression and developments revealed through the various play-outs of the past are brain-flippingly smart, with twists wending through to Jack’s desperate need for “one more re-set to undo this tragedy”. Reader, I cried on the bus. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
In a Nutshell: Striving for goodness when the world has you down as bad Picture this. You’re an honors student with a top university in your sights. You work hard, and you follow your mother’s advice to always put your best foot forward. So how come, when you help a friend in need, you’re man-handled by the police and arrested? How come the cops tell you that they “know your kind...Just couldn’t resist the pretty white girl who’s locked her keys in her car, could ya?” As Yale-bound African American Justyce knows only too well, “things aren’t as equal as folks say they are”. At every turn he’s caught between worlds: a white classmate attributes his success to positive discrimination, while he’s accused of being a race traitor by some of his black peers. He airs this elemental conundrum with SJ, his debate partner: “white people hold most positions of authority in this country. How do I deal with the fact that I DO need them to get ahead without feeling like I’m turning my back on my own people?” And what’s he supposed to do when he falls for SJ and his mama’s dead against him dating a white girl? As the compelling, gut-wrenching story unfolds, Justyce writes a journal to Dr Martin Luther King Jr. to work through his thoughts, vent his frustrations and to ask what Dr King would do in his situation. Then a tragedy strikes that threatens to disarm Justyce’s pledge to do as Martin would do. Important, timely and unforgettable, this powerful exposé of racism, injustice and the injuriousness of profiling articulates the persistent everyday battles faced by thousands of kids in Justyce’s shoes with scorching lucidity. Quite simply, everyone must read this poignant punch-packer of a debut. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
This endearing character-driven treasure from the award-winning author of Dear Martin is a race-against-time romance replete with real-life hardship, class conflict and hope. Rico is a high school senior who works at Gas ‘n’ Go after class to keep her family afloat and then races home to look after her little brother so her mom can pick up extra shifts. In the intensity and exhaustion of this hamster-stuck-in-a-ball situation Rico’s lost sight of what she wants for her future, but selling a jackpot-winning lottery ticket gives her new focus: to find the little old lady she believes won the ticket. Then maybe – just maybe – she’ll be rewarded with a life-changing cut of the multi-million-dollar winnings. To this end, Rico reluctantly enlists the help of handsome, rich “Zan-the-Man”, a tech whizz who “has no idea what it’s like to constantly be on the brink of not having what you need to survive.” But, as Rico discovers, while Zan’s set to take over the throne of his family’s toilet paper empire, his dad has made sure he knows the value of money. Their opposite-side-of-the-tracks narrative plays out with heated banter and feverish frisson, with class conflict rearing its head at every turn as Rico struggles to accept Zan’s generosity just like her mom refuses to apply for government support. Quirkiness comes courtesy of interludes told from the points of views of inanimate objects - the winning ticket, a taxi, a stash of $100 dollar bills, Zan’s fancy bed sheets, a salt shaker – and the novel’s conclusion is as thrilling and life-affirming as it is unexpected. Readers will be left rooting for Rico and Zan to forge the futures they deserve. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
In a Nutshell: Be Your Best “Be bold. Be brave. Be beautiful. Be brilliant. Be (your) best”. So resolves main character Jade in this timely, inspirational novel that will surely motivate many young women to do the same. Talented collage artist Jade is a bright teen with her eyes wide open to the world. She wants to learn Spanish “to give myself a way out. A way in. Because language can take you places”, and she has a scholarship to attend a mostly-white private school. While this is a great achievement and will open doors for her, Jade is acutely aware of how different she is from her classmates, not only because she’s black but also “because their mothers are the kind of people who hire housekeepers, and my mother is the kind of person who works as one”. Initially reluctant to accept a place on a programme for “at-risk” girls (she’s fed up of being labeled as someone who needs help), Jade takes it because “girls like me, with coal skin and hula-hoop hips, whose mommas barely make enough money to keep food in the house, have to take opportunities every chance we get”. Maxine, her mentor, takes her out to eat and buys her art books, but clued-up Jade is pretty sure that flaky Maxine could do with learning some life lessons herself, plus she creates some rifts between Jade and her mom. In fact, everywhere she turns, Jade encounters conflict, leading her to wonder “if a black girl’s life is only about being stitched together and coming undone…I wonder if there’s ever a way for a girl like me to feel whole”. But one thing’s for sure, Jade’s not going to let anything distract her from being a success and making a difference. At once moving and motivational, this incisive novel tackles issues of race, class and identity with power and depth, and Jade is one of those extraordinary characters you’d love to meet in real life - we could all learn a lot from Jade. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Renée Watson’s remarkable What Momma Left Me is a wise and nourishing story rooted in themes of resilience, healing and love. With high school on the horizon, African American Serenity is struggling to piece her life back together following the brutal death of her beloved momma and the loss of her dad. Amidst this sensitively evoked maelstrom, Serenity finds hope in the form of her wholesome grandparents, church (where Grandpa is a pastor), brother Danny and new friend and confidante Maria, a bright beam of light who harbours her own bleak secrets. Serenity handles her grief, set-backs and challenging dilemmas with dignity, her grandparents a constant, calming presence as they impart wisdom, such as this nod to Maya Angelou’s ‘Still I Rise’ poem: “That’s why we say ‘we rise’, children. There have been lots of things that have tried to keep us down. But we’ve got resilience running through these veins.”Empathetically charting Serenity’s grief, first romance and growing up (what Serenity does to save Maria from an unsafe situation shows strength and wisdom way beyond her years), this huge-hearted novel comes highly recommended for its honesty, depth and engaging readability, along with Watson’s Piecing Me Together and Watch Us Rise (the latter co-authored with Ellen Hagan). Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Witty, profound and illuminating, this will surely see its acclaimed author receive many more accolades. Our setting is Lagos, 1976, where a new military regime has been in power for six months. Amidst a politically tense atmosphere - a countercoup is anticipated – Nigerian greetings-card shop owner Remi meets Frances, an American bead collector. The two women strike up a friendship of sorts, sharing views on the likes of motherhood, politics, their cultural and personal differences. Remi’s husband is deeply suspicious of Frances, and suspects she’s a spy, a view Remi thinks is absurd until the bloody coup comes, and she worries she was wrong to trust Frances. This immersive novel serves up many insights into Lagos life and politics, and Remi is a riveting narrator – an intelligent, intriguing woman who carries herself with composure and makes many shrewd observations about the world, from male power (“Perhaps that was why peace was unattainable. The inability of men to define what it meant to win or lose”), to the brutally simplistic approach of British colonialists (“Where were the considerations for intricacies like how our cultures and religions overlapped?”), and American self-preservation (“Everyone knew the United States picked and chose which countries to meddle with”). I came away feeling enlightened, and entertained by Remi’s wit. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
April 2017 Book of the Month. An absolute page-turner of a novel, at times uncomfortable, yet powerful and oh so compelling. Roni and Nika meet when they are 8 years old, as the years pass their relationship changes, yet in their thoughts they remain as entwined as ever and a particular torment lives on. Dorothy Koomson sends us backwards and forwards in time, this isn't an easy ride, and it isn't meant to be. The jagged, almost serrated feel to the change in time lines meant I was alert and at times apprehensive as I watched events unfold. The story is so commanding it keeps you firmly in the moment, so aware of the pain and fear, waiting with bated breath yet still shocked as more revelations occur. Resolute, heart-rending, thought-provoking, and so beautifully compassionate, ‘When I Was Invisible’ left me with a tear in my eye and touched my heart. One of our Books of the Year 2016. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Set in the early 1900s as the Virgin Islands shift from Danish to American rule, this is a sublime and thought-provoking novel. An epic family saga suffused in the islands’ complex history, and the strange magic of two sisters – Anette, who can see the future, and Eeona who possesses an extraordinary siren-like beauty. “Men will love me. It is the magic I have,” she remarks. Orphaned by the sinking of a ship, this captivating novel follows the sisters through sixty years. As they experience births, deaths, losses, loves, conflicts (and curses), sweeping change swells through their St Thomas homeland, shifting the sands around race and the land ownership. While their half-brother Jacob experiences institutionalised racism in the US Army, and witnesses segregation and the start of the Civil Rights Movement, back on the island Americans are busy buying up land and privatising beaches, giving rise to clashes between locals and incomers. It’s hard to believe this is Yanique’s debut. The writing is spellbinding, assured and invokes a desire to return to its world, and its themes are vitally important, not least the very relevant issue of outsiders making prime - and formally public - land inaccessible to locals. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Beginning with an address to Anansi, the trickster story teller god of African folklore, (“Anansi, your four gifts raised to nyame granted you no power over the stories I tell”), Derek Owusu’s That Reminds Me is a one-of-a-kind reading experience. K’s story will break your heart, and heal it. And Owusu’s writing will leave you stunned - it’s that unique, that honest, that impactful. K is a working-class boy born to Ghanaian parents in Tottenham. Fostered as a child, he’s relocated to an unfamiliar rural environment, where there are woods and fields instead of flats and video shops. When he returns to London at the age of eleven, the city has become alien to him - and his birth parents have too. Once again K must re-find himself. Piece himself together, and perhaps find friendship and love along with his identity. Told through K’s fragmented memories, this is an exceptional coming-of-age story that lingers long in the soul. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Set in Lagos, Nigeria, Tola Rotimi Abraham’s Black Sunday is a rich and accomplished coming-of-age debut that lays bare the hardships, heartaches and hopes of four siblings from 1996-2015. Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyke (“we were never stupid girls. We were bright with borrowed wisdom”) live a pretty contented life until their mother loses her job at the Ministry of Petroleum. With her sacking underpinned by broader political dealings, there’s nothing she can do to keep the family afloat but take-up a teaching post, which she hates. Later, when she leaves the family and the twins’ father loses their family home, they and their brothers are cared for by their Yoruba grandmother. With the narratives split between the four siblings, each of them must deal with abandonment and abuse as Lagos changes, and their lives take separate paths. The siblings’ intimate, affecting stories are wrapped-up in wider issues, such as church corruption and male exploitation of women. As Bibike notes, “Beauty was a gift, but what was I to do with it? It was fortunate to be beautiful and desired… But what is a girl’s beauty, but a man’s promise of reward? If beauty was a gift, it was not a gift to me, I could not eat my own beauty, I could not improve my life by beauty alone.” Meanwhile, Ariyke turns to religion. Universal emotions are also deftly handled, such as when their brother Peter comments “I think families who spend a lot of time arguing about the small stuff do it because they do not have the courage to talk about big things.” Fortunately for readers, Black Sunday is a brilliant book that has the courage to talk about the big things with honesty, humanity and beauty. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Edited by trailblazing broadcaster, editor and critic Margaret Busby OBE - Britain’s first black woman publisher when she co-founded Allison and Busby in the 1960s - New Daughters of Africa is an extraordinary feat of publishing, presenting as it does the diverse work of 200+ women of African heritage across more than 900 pages. In 1992, Busby published Daughters of Africa, and this epically-proportioned - and realised - re-visitation duplicates none of the writers featured in the first incarnation. Busby hopes in her introduction, “may all who find their way to this anthology, regardless of gender, class or race, feast well on its banquet of words.” And I defy any reader not to do just that. This rich feast presents all kinds of writers – academics and activists; critics and curators; fiction writers and filmmakers; poets and politicians, to name but a few - from all parts of the world. There are wise words to chew on from familiar figures, among them Diane Abbott, Angela Levy, Bernardine Evaristo, Malorie Blackman, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Afua Hirsch. And there are individuals and pieces I was grateful to discover for the first time, such as Bermudian Angela Barry’s Without Prejudice story, and Yvette Edwards, a London writer of Montserratian origin. The collection’s historical entries are engrossing too, among them Sarah Parker Remond’s (1815-1894) “Why Slavery is Still Rampant” piece, and Meta Davis Cumberbatch’s (1900-1978) powerfully rousing poem, “A Child of Nature (Negro of the Caribbean)”. This is an exceptional anthology to savour - a uniquely nourishing banquet for mind and heart. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Tani Adewumi’s life-affirming memoir is a “dare to dream” story with the power to make souls sing. As he and his parents relate their extraordinary experiences from living under Boko Haram in Nigeria to forging a new life in America, eight-year-old Tani’s voice is unfailingly endearing, with his parents’ narratives providing enlightening context, underpinned by their Christian faith. The tone is set in the introduction, in which Tani tells us that while he’s not sure what he’ll do when he grows up (maybe become a chess grandmaster, maybe a pilot, or maybe both), “I do know this much. I believe in miracles.” The story begins when Tani’s printer father is visited by Boko Haram and he evades their order to print posters that declare “No to Western Education” and “Kill all Christians”. When this makes the family a target, they flee to another area of Nigeria, then to Dallas after it becomes clear they’re not safe in their homeland. But their first experiences in America are from the life they’d hoped for. They stay with Tani’s great uncle, whose American wife becomes hostile, which compels them to move again. Thanks to the kindness of an old Nigerian friend, they’re able to move to New York where a pastor finds them a place in a shelter. Here Tani is given the opportunity to join a chess club, where meeting Coach Shawn proves to be life-changing. Tani’s natural talent for chess coupled with hard work, family support, and the kindness of coaches who give him a scholarship, sees him make fast progress. Within months he’s crowned State Chess Champion. But it doesn’t end there – when Coach Shawn suggests the family tell the national press their story to help them secure a place to live, the coverage leads to even bigger things. Alongside the overarching story, Tani’s mother shares fascinating detail about her Yoruba heritage, and this memoir is also poignant in showing the hard realities of migrant life. This comes recommended for readers who love discovering human stories that don’t shirk from the truth, but still radiate a feel-good message of hope. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Based on her great-great grandparents’ experiences, Tammye Huf’s A More Perfect Union is a heart-rending, soul-stirring story of the love between a black slave and an Irish immigrant. A lucid, bold tale of the despicable brutality of slavery, personal conflicts, and a bond that will not be broken. Henry O’Toole fled Ireland in 1848 to escape the famine. On arriving in New York, “America stabs me with homesickness” and he can’t find a job - “Every day it’s the same. No Irish”. Compelled to flee the city, he changes his surname to the English-sounding ‘Taylor’ and heads to Virginia. House slave Sarah is separated from her Momma and brother when she’s sold as a “quick-cleaning-slave-who-don’t-get-sick”. She and Henry meet when he comes seeking work as a blacksmith at the plantation she’s been sold to. Here Henry is moved by the sound of slaves singing at night, while Sarah paces her hoe in the kitchen garden to “the rhythmic strike of the blacksmith’s hammer”. The stirring attraction between them is palpable, but theirs is a forbidden relationship - inter-racial marriage is illegal, and viewed as an abomination. What’s more, she’s owned by another man. The couple are in an excruciating situation, their complex personal conflicts evoked with shattering clarity. Sarah has to reconcile loving a man whose white skin represents her oppression, and she’s also ostracised by fellow slaves. Then there’s the searing exchange when Sarah sees Henry making neck rings and shackles. When he protests that he has no choice, that he needs to earn money, that he knows what it is to be shackled by poverty, Sarah’s response captures the despicable inhumanity of enslavement: “’I know you been through a hard, hungry life,’ she says. ‘I want you to understand that slave suffering is a different thing. When somebody owns you, there ain’t nothing they can’t do to you.’” Both their voices are conjured with brilliant authenticity, and their story builds to an agonisingly edgy crescendo as the risks they take are as immense as their love. I cannot recommend this enough. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.