Sharing some books by Black British writers in my stacks going into the new year! These are mostly fiction so give me some non fiction recommendations if you have any! I’ve read two of these so far and am getting into a third so these will probably run into February for me. Will post reviews as they are read. Most of these are 2021 releases so you may have seen them around. Excited to see what releases this year will bring from Black British writers. If you’d like to see a previous list, click here or more books here.
Lote by Shola Von Reinhold (Jacaranda Books Twenty In 2020)
Lote is a novel following present-day narrator Mathilda’s fixation with the forgotten black Scottish modernist poet, Hermia Druitt. LOTE is an explores of aesthetics, beauty, and the ephemeral realm in which they exist. From champagne theft and Black Modernisms, to art sabotage, alchemy and lotus-eating proto-luxury communist cults, Mathilda’s journey through modes of aesthetic expression guides her to truth and the convoluted ways it is made and obscured (from Jacaranda website).
I started listening to Lote in audiobook format and almost immediately knew this would be something special. There were so many ideas and artists to google that I wanted a physical copy to take notes in! If you are interested, Jacaranda’s Twenty In 2020 books are available free on Audible if you are already subscribed to the app. I’d previously listened to Bad Love by Maame Blue which was so well narrated
Experiments In Imagining Otherwise by Lola Olufemi (Hajar Press 2021)
Exciting to see another book from Lola Olufemi! Feminist Interrupted, her previous book which I had been reading, I found very inspiring. I love how hopeful and creative Experiments In Imagining Otherwise sounds: This is a book of failure and mistakes; it begins with what is stolen from us and proposes only an invitation to imagine. In these playful written experiments, Lola Olufemi navigates the space between what is and what could be. Weaving together fragmentary reflections in prose and poetry, this is an exploration of the possibility of living differently, grounded in black feminist scholarship and political organising.
Experiments in Imagining Otherwise is my current read, I’ve covered just a few pages but it already has my attention. Plus it has this playlist of brilliant tracks:
The Selfless Act Of Breathing by JJ Bola (Dialogue Books 2021)
The Selfless Act Of Breathing is a novel that tracks Michael Kabongo during a critical period in his depression. He is a British- Congolese teacher who finds himself questioning what his life is worth a time of hopelessness. Struggling with his father’s death, faith and his identity, he takes his life savings out of his account and plans to live his dreams until he’s out of cash- then end it.
When he gets on the plane, the reader gets on with him and you can feel the sadness. I have just recently read this, so will be posting a review
Misfits: A Personal Manifesto by Michaela Coel (Penguin Books 2021)
Another one of my recent reads! Based around her MacTaggart speech, Michaela Coel shares her thoughts leading up to and following the event- as well as the speech itself. Being a long time fan of Coel’s, I appreciated the honesty and unique quality of her writing. It gave an opportunity to learn a bit more of her feelings on obstacles she’s faced and triumphs she has enjoyed. Most importantly, we see the significance of defining herself as a misfit and feeling empowered by what makes her different as a Black woman in the TV industry.
Edit: Some thoughts on Misfits here
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Assembly by Natasha Brown Penguin Books 2021
Assembly is narrated by a Black British woman who comes of age during the credit crunch. She does all things you are “supposed to”- goes to uni, starts a career, buys her flat, keeps her head down. She is preparing to attend a lavish garden party at her boyfriend’s family estate, set deep in the English countryside. At the same time, she is considering the carefully assembled pieces of herself. As the minutes tick down and the future beckons, she can’t escape the question: is it time to take it all apart?
I was finally convinced to pick this one up after listening to Natasha Brown speak about her thought process and influences on Literary Friction podcast, so interested to read it.
Dread Poetry and Freedom: Linton Kwesi Johnson and the Unfinished Revolution by David Austin (Pluto Press 2018)
I’ve started this too and I love it. David Austin explores the radical politics and poetics of Linton Kwesi Johnson, asking: What is the relationship between poetry and social change? I don’t know nearly enough about Johnson’s work so this is a bit of adventure for me- especially finding the songs and poems Austin mentions.
Austin writes on themes of poetry, political consciousness and social transformation through the prism of Johnson’s work. Drawing from the Bible, reggae and Rastafari, and surrealism, socialism and feminism, and in dialogue with Aime Cesaire and Frantz Fanon, C.L.R. James and Walter Rodney, and W.E.B. Du Bois and the poetry of d’bi young anitafrika, Johnson’s work becomes a crucial point of reflection on the meaning of freedom in this masterful and rich study.
Dark Neighbourhood by Vanessa Onwuemezi (Fitzcarraldo Editions 2021)
In the first place, who can resist these Fitzcarraldo Editions??
I first wanted to read this book after hearing Onwuemezi read an excerpt on line which I cannot find now! but here is an interview.
Dark Neighbourhood is a debut collection of short stories that takes readers on a surreal and haunting journey through a landscape on the edge of time. At the border with another world, a line of people wait for the gates to open; on the floor of a lonely room, a Born Winner runs through his life’s achievements and losses; in a suburban garden, a man witnesses a murder that pushes him out into the community. Struggling to realize the human ideals of love and freedom, the characters of Dark Neighbourhood roam instead the depths of alienation, loss and shame
I love some good surrealism in a story, so I’m looking forward to this too
Hope you enjoyed the list and found a few books by Black British writers to add to your own reading list. Check back on the blog for reviews!