Taking a novel from page to screen is like putting a giant microphone in front of an author. The audience reach mushrooms like a chemical explosion.
That’s why I get so excited when I hear a book by a black author has been picked up for a TV or film adaptation. I anticipate the author’s fanbase growing, their stories travelling further, the writer receiving greater recognition and (hopefully) more money for their work. It’s just a steady stream of upsides.
Here are 6 books about to make the leap from page to screen.
Book 1 is called The Fifth Season and ushers us into a world plagued by catastrophic earthquakes, where mutants who can manipulate the earth are oppressed by humans.
The upcoming TV series is just the latest win for Jemisin. In 2016 she became the first black person to win the Hugo award for best novel.
(Site note: The Hugos are a slate of prestigious sci fi and fantasy prizes awarded at the annual World Science Fiction Convention.)
Jemisin’s win thwarted attempts by bigot groups who had been trying to game the vote, whining about an unfair bias towards liberalism and leftist ideologies.
Not only did Jemisin win with her novel, The Fifth Season, but this August (2017), she came back for a victory lap, claiming a consecutive win with her sequel, The Obelisk Gate.
Yep, bow down, this woman is phenomenal.
The award-winning writer, Octavia Butler, may have left us over a decade ago, but her stories are proving timeless.
Selma director and Queen Sugar creator, Ava DuVernay has announced she’s working on a TV adaptation of Butler’s Novel, Dawn.
Dawn is the first in the gripping trilogy, Lilith’s Brood. It takes us to Earth 250 years after a horrific nuclear war. The human population has been decimated, but an African American woman is cooperating with a powerful alien race to save humanity. The novels explores questions of slavery and colonisation.
3. The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
Fox 2000’s adaptation of the powerful young adult novel, The Hate U Give, has begun filming and it is a no-chill, star-studded affair.
The cast is headed by Amanda Stenberg (Hunger Games; Everything, Everything) and includes Common, Regina Hall, Issa Rae, Algee Smith and Lamar Johnson.
Fox 2000, a subsidiary of 20th Century Fox, won a bidding war for rights to the book. It quickly tapped George Tillman Jr., (Soul Food; Notorious) to direct.
Angie Thomas’s 2016 novel about a racist police shooting was bought by HarperCollins for a reported six-figure sum after a 13-way bidding war. It debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times young adult best-seller list and has spent over 22 weeks in the top spot.
The novel tells the story of Starr Carter, a black teen whose life straddles her private, majority-white school, and her tough black neighbourhood. After Starr sees police shoot her unarmed friend, Khalil, she finds the two halves of her life impossible to align.
Nnedi Okorafor’s 2010 novel, Who Fears Death, is being developed as a TV series for HBO. The news that George RR Martin will executive produce has sent the internet into a tailspin.
Okorafor plans to be very hands on with the show. In a Facebook post she said:
“i am very involved. i also know george well (we met in 2014 and stayed in touch); he’s been a sort of mentor to me through all this. and all those involved know what this story is; onyesonwu is in good good hands.”
Who Fears Death takes place in a post-apocalyptic future. The heroine, Onyesonwu, was conceived after a rape. Her dark skinned mother was attacked by a light skinned stranger as part of a larger system of oppression against darker people. Once Onyesonwu reaches maturity she begins to hunt for her father, desperate for revenge. The fact he is a sorcerer does not worry her, she has her own magical abilities and she is eager to wield them.
Marlon James’ award-winning book, A Brief History of Seven Killings is being developed into a series for Amazon Studios.
It’s being adapted by the two-time Grammy award winner, Melina Matsoukas. She scooped a Grammy in 2013 for her video for Rhianna’s, We Found Love, then again in 2017 for Beyonce’s, Formation. Matsoukas has also directed several episodes of Issa Rae’s hit show, Insecure.
A Brief History of Seven Killings begins with the attempted assassination of Bob Marley then delves into the aftermath, exploring the one day in multiple time periods.
Matsoukas has been very vocal about her excitement in taking on this role. In a statement issued after the project was announced, she said: “It’s been my dream to bring this story to life onscreen since reading the first line of Marlon’s book. I am deeply honored to be entrusted with this tapestry of stories so entrenched in roots, reggae, race, mysticism and politics, while working alongside Marlon to ensure an authentic portrayal of his words.”
The Book of Harlan is being adapted for the big screen. The film will be prepped and directed by Zimbabwean / British director, Mark Tonderai. His past work includes the horror thriller, House at the End of the Street.
The acclaimed novel is the fictional tale of a jazz musician who is sent to a Nazi concentration camp after migrating to Paris in the 1930s. It has been described by the Washington Post as ‘simply miraculous’ and this year won the American Book Award and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work.
The film will be developed by Tonderai for his production company, Shona productions. McFadden will help to produce.