Author: Shade Lapite

21 British Children’s Authors (of Colour) You Should Know

In July a writer friend posted a link to the report: Reflecting Realities – A Survey of Ethnic Representation within UK Children’s Literature 2017. The report was created by the CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education) and aimed to explore the extent and quality of ethnic representation in children’s publishing in the UK. The results were dire. The report concluded that of 9,115 children’s books published in the UK in 2017 4% featured BAME (black or ethnic minority) characters 1% had a BAME main character

Alyssa Cole is Expanding the Boundaries of Romance

At one point in 2017 it felt like Alyssa Cole’s name was coming at me from every direction. She’d pop up in every Twitter discussion that even vaguely mentioned a romance must-read list, whether the sub category was contemporary, historical or science fiction. During my 10 leagues deep obsession with the Hamilton musical I discovered Cole had contributed to a romance anthology called Hamilton’s Battalion, set during the founding father’s assault on Yorktown. She appeared on Shonda Rhimes’ culture website shondaland.com sharing book recommendations and she was splashed all over the Smart Bitches Trashy Books review website. Yet, despite the universe’s insistence that I read her work, it was the cover design for her novel, A Princess in Theory that finally made me pay attention. Many black authors have talked about the problems they experience creating appealing book covers for their work. Issues range from difficulties finding stock photography that feature black models, to publishing houses that woefully misrepresent the characters the author has created. Therefore, whenever I spot a good black book cover my …

Black Romance: race, progress and happily ever after

Last year my mother’s secondary school friend came to spend Christmas with us. We were settled in the living room, slumped in the obligatory post-turkey coma-haze, when this five-times-a-day praying, Muslim grandmother pulls out a battered paperback. I could see the cover from across the room, the pert, white woman with flowing hair and translucent billowing gown, clinging to her shirtless, muscled white, male love-interest. The cover design was so typical of Mills & Boon I barely needed the M&B trademark initials they stamp in the corner to identify it. I was so amused to see Aunty retreat into the world of throbbing bosoms and hardened members I had to snap a pic. For posterity.

How Racism in ‘Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry’ mirrors life in the UK

I was in primary school when I first read Mildred D Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Cassie Logan was my hero. Dark skinned, kinky haired, bold and outspoken. However, her life with her three siblings, school-teacher mother, farmer father and Big Ma was something I did not envy, mired as it was by extreme poverty and violent, overt racism. It seemed a world away from my quiet life in South East London. I’ve read the novel many times since then. It has never felt dated or clichéd or simplistic. It is one of those remarkable books that will meet you whenever you are. As a child in the 1980s, I connected with the simple story– the protagonist overcoming a monster. I rooted for the family facing down the menace of racism. But it was very much like reading a fantasy novel, the spitting, clawing racism of Cassie’s world bore no resemblance to my reality. Her world was 1930s rural Mississippi, Mississippi Burning, Mississippi Goddam, as Nina Simone cursed it. It was lynchings, burning …