I caught the podcast bug in 2014 when the world went crazy over Serial. Two episodes in and I decided that True Crime was not for me, but the show was a launchpad for discovering the multitude of other shows available.
These days I’m a badge-wearing podcast addict. I listen in the gym, on bus rides, during the weekly grocery shop, on flights, as I get dressed in the morning…basically whenever I have a few minutes free and I want to engage my brain. My Gen X heart grumbles that podcasts weren’t an option a decade or two ago. Talk radio in the 80s and 90s was a crowded field of the same middle-class, middle-aged, white guy sharing his views on every station. I wouldn’t have dreamed that a few decades later I would be able to curate a library of shows that reflected my life experiences and discussed topics of interest to me. The change is staggering.
There are tons of literary podcasts out there. Because sharing is caring, I have compiled a list of 9 excellent Black book podcast interviews I have loved and believe you will too.
1. Podcast: How to Fail, season 3 ep 7
Subject: Sharmaine Lovegrove
“By this time I had worked in Ottakers in Clapham Junction from 16, I had run a stall under Waterloo Bridge, I had worked in the London Review Bookshop for 5 years, and I couldn’t get a job as an intern working as a publicist… I would meet people and I would say: ‘how long have you been working at x publishing house?’ They’d say: ‘I just started and it’s so amazing’. I’d ask: ‘what did you do?’ and they’d never worked in a bookshop, they had no experience but invariably they knew somebody, they had an aunt…it was so outrageous.”
Sharmaine Lovegrove is head of the UK publishing imprint, Dialogue Books.
2. Podcast: Girl Have You Read, ep 10
“In terms of what the Christian market does, I could see the only thing out there that dealt with Black people was seeing them as slaves…The perspective that I felt that I was not seeing was one of…what happened when Black people had agency and were able to make choices and had control over their lives….How did they employ the use of Christianity in that?”
Piper Huguley teaches English at Spelman College and has written over 17 historical, Christian, romance novels.
Writer: Nnedi Okorafor
“I know that mother’s guilt thing so well…Learn to be selfish. You are important. Take the time you need to create because in creating it will bring you happiness that you will then transfer to your child. That’s just science.”
Dr. Nnedi Okorafor writes fantasy and science fiction for adults and children. She was written for the comic book series, Black Panther and Shuri.
4. Podcast: Smart Bitches Trashy Books, ep 240
“I feel like the biggest problem in American history is that people don’t want to face the bad parts, that’s why putting it in romance is a way of reckoning with that. It’s like, you can learn about the shitty things that your ancestors did, but also see that there are people flourishing and having happy endings and still having lives.”
Alyssa Cole is an American author of historical, science fiction, and contemporary romance novels.
5. Podcast: Another Round, ep 29
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
“I’m a writer. I’m not a preacher. I’m not a college professor. It’s not my job to make people feel good about the world. I write literature. The notion that art should be judged by whether it makes you feel good or not, whether it makes you feel good about tomorrow, is absurd.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates is an author, journalist and comic book writer. His 2014 essay The Case for Reparations examined the rationalizations for slavery and their effects on the US throughout the 20th century. His 2015 book, ‘Between The World and Me’ helped him win a MacArthur “genius” grant.
Writer: Alexandra Sheppard
“The friendship group that Helen has – one girl is white British, one is Ghanaian and one is Turkish – that was my friendship group growing up when I lived in London…It felt much more natural for me to write than a set of characters where everyone was the same.”
Alexandra Sheppard is a YA author and social media strategist
“I’ve seen the movie four times now and it still hasn’t clicked yet that it’s actually out there. I never would have imagined this level of success, this level of support, this level of love both me and the book and now film have been receiving.”
Angie Thomas is an American author known for YA novels The Hate U Give and On the Come Up.
8. Podcast: Minorities in Publishing, ep 71
Writer: Morgan Jenkins
“I feel like when women do discuss these experience, particularly Black women, we’re called bitter, as if bitter is not about emotion, as if bitter just completely compromises our perception of the world and the men who we interact with, as if that just destroys our credibility. That’s something that I hope we can do away with.”
Morgan Jenkins’ 2018 essay collection This Will Be My Undoing mixes commentary on pop culture, feminism and black history with her real life experiences.
9. Podcast: Not Another Book Podcast, ep 12
Writer: Tomi Adeyemi
“I feel very honoured that some people were like ‘oh so this whole book is real.’ I’m like ‘it’s very clearly a fantasy. But I’m glad that it felt so real. As much as I would love it, you are not going to find giant magical lions racing through Lagos, it is an industrialised city’.”
Tomi Adeyemi sold her fantasy trilogy, The Children of Blood and Bone, for a 7 figure deal. One of the biggest deals ever for a YA novel.
Have you heard a Black book podcast you’d recommend?