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October is Black History Month, a celebration of the achievements of Black people in Britain. Founded in the 1980s, it is a movement that travelled from America and aims to challenge racism and explore the unacknowledged Black history of Britain. There is still a huge lack of diversity within all areas of the publishing industry and whilst many publishing houses are making changes to rectify this, there is still a long way to go. Black authors are achieving so much within the industry and it is essential to highlight their incredible works of fiction not just in Black History Month, but all year round.
We’ve put together a very small selection of the amazing books some Black British authors have produced that you should definitely read:
1 – Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Queenie, the winner of the British Book Awards Book of the Year 2020, is a dark and brutally honest novel that depicts a young woman attempting to navigate her way through everyday life amid failing relationships, difficult friendships, and a workplace environment in which she is constantly compared to her white peers. Queenie is a 25-year-old Jamaican British Londoner, feeling out of place in both of her cultures and unsure where to turn. She searches for relief — and comfort — in the wrong places, leading to disastrous and sometimes dangerous encounters with men. Queenie is a difficult yet inspirational read of a woman’s struggles with identity, relationships, and mental health.
2 – Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Girl, Woman, Other, winner of the 2019 Booker Prize, celebrates the lives of 12 incredible Black women and non-binary characters, taking readers on a journey across continents and generations in an exploration of familial relationships, racism, classism, sexuality and Black British heritage. It is an incredible tale told in a free verse format, which perfectly compliments the momentum and mood of the novel. Bernardine Evaristo weaves together the lives of characters who lead completely separate lives, yet interconnect at various points, to create a profoundly moving and beautiful novel.
3 – Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez
This debut novel examines unacknowledged British history in a raw and explorative coming-of-age novel. Jesse McCarthy is a 19-year-old that escapes his immediate family and his repressively strict religious community whilst being forced to come to terms with his racial and sexual identities. In London, despondent and disempowered, Jesse turns to sex work. Rainbow Milk tackles liberty, race, class and sexuality in this dual-perspective, multi-generational novel.
4 – Ordinary People by Diane Evans
Ordinary People is a deeply moving exploration of relationships — between father and son, husband and wife, and mother and child — and their intersections with grief, identity, friendship and sex. Told from the perspective of two couples that have reached their breaking point, Diane Evans constructs a masterfully written and poetic exploration of what it takes to make a relationship work.
5 – Bad Love by Maame Blue
In this debut novel from Jacaranda Books, an independent publisher dedicated to publishing diverse books, a young London-born Ghanaian woman Ekuah Danquah attempts to begin a meaningful relationship whilst still wrestling with her tumultuous feelings for her first love. In Bad Love, Eukauh recalls her first relationship with a musician she loved deeply, only for him to unexpectedly disappear from her life. Validated by her successful career, Ekuah decides to try her hand at love, only to find the feelings for her first love resurface once more.
6 – The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré
The Girl with the Louding Voice is an unforgettable novel about one girl’s determination to speak up for herself — and other girls like her — until she is heard and to fight for an education. When 14-year-old Adunni is sold to become a local man’s third wife, she runs away, desperate for a better life and way to live as a free woman. Despite her powerlessness and forced subservience, Adunni is committed to standing up for herself and earning her “louding voice”.
7 – The Ice Cream Girls (and All My Lies Are True) by Dorothy Koomson
The Ice Cream Girls follows two teenagers who witness a tragic accident and face years in the spotlight with the press and courts. Over the years, the two girls grow into women that have led very different lives, until Poppy decides to come clean with the truth. Serena, however, is desperate to ensure the past stays hidden — even when some secrets refuse to stay buried. The sequel — All My Lies Are True — was released in July of this year and takes place following the events of the first novel. Both are fast-paced and gripping thrillers from bestselling author Dorothy Koomson.
8 – Hold by Michael Donkor
Hold is a captivating coming-of-age novel following the lives of two young girls as they navigate through their education, their friendship, and their identity. “Housegirl” Belinda is sent from her rural village in Ghana to live in London, befriend a sullen girl she’s never met and teach her how to follow the rules. Uprooted from her home and her younger sister, Mary, Belinda finds a strange and unexpected kinship with Amma. However, as the pair grow closer, the secrets they had been guarding so closely threaten to spill out.
9 – My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
My Sister, the Serial Killer is a satirical and deeply disturbing portrayal of sisterly love, in which Ayoola continues to murder her boyfriends in “self-defence”, leaving Korede to — literally — clean up her messes. Despite knowing that her sister needs help, Korede can’t bring herself to go to the police. However, that is until Ayoola begins a relationship with the doctor Korede has long been in love with, forcing her to choose between the man she loves and the sister she treasures.
10 – Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola
In this single-author short story collection, Bolu Babalola retells various historical and mythical tales in an attempt to decolonize the portrayal of love. Set across the world and throughout the ages, Love in Colour retells famous tales and brings to life new stories that highlight the beauty and diversity of love. From Nigerian goddesses and Ghanaian politicians to criminal queens and homoromantic Greek mythology, this collection of powerful short stories truly captures the essence of human emotion.