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10 Questions for ‘Symona’s Still Single’ author, Lisa Bent

In September 2020 Lisa Bent released her debut novel, Symona’s Still Single, the story of a 37-year old Jamaican British woman looking for Mr. Right while trying not to panic at the loud ticking of her biological clock. Symona’s Still Single was launched by indie publisher, Jacaranda as part of their ground-breaking #Twentyin2020 initiative whereby they would publish 20 Black British authors in one year. It’s a funny, charming romance made richer with stories of female friendship. Lisa’s counselling degree and belief in the power of continuous self-reflection colour her writing and are visible in the experiences and adventures of Symona as she searches for love. 

I put 10 questions to Lisa and she provided some fascinating answers.

1. How did you hit upon this idea for a book?

I was a social commentator on Facebook. From politics, bus antics to social issues and dating trials and tribulations, I made my opinion known. My dating posts always created the most interest, but it wasn’t until December 2017 that I realised I was onto something. 

My encounter with MR TK Maxx, caused a stir and this was the trigger that pushed me to write the book. The beginnings of this encounter appear in chapter 22. The real life story has been embellished for fiction.  

2. Why is it important to see Black women in love in art?

Pain and trauma is part of the human condition, but for some reason it appears firmly attached to our narratives. Joy, empowerment, wealth, happiness and love exists for us too and it is vital these stories are told. Not just for Black women, but for Black men too. 

In a prejudiced society, the love we have for ourselves and those who look like us is necessary to continue healthy connections and unions. The term Black love is relevant today and art, in its many mediums, should work to rebalance the negative stereotypes. Who we are, is not what we have been told. Reshaping, retelling, redefining the narrative from our truth, is our responsibility. 

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2021 Black Books

40 Black Books out in 2021

Happy New Year! To buffer ourselves against the (not inconceivable) event 2021 is not the safe harbour we’re hoping for, I suggest the following. Read through the 2021 upcoming books, highlight those you like and preorder a book for every month of the year. Every 30 days you’ll get a delivery, like a gift from the abyss, a new book to bring you light and joy regardless of how the year shapes up.  

You’re welcome. 


  1. A River Called Time by Courttia Newland

In a parallel London where colonialism and slavery never existed, Markriss Denny becomes one of the few selected for a job and a home in the Ark. It was originally built to save many but has rapidly became a refuge for the elite. Markriss soon discovers someone else has the same ability to leave their body and travel. 

2. Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor

When Fatima finds a seed beneath her family’s shea tree, mysterious powers soon follow. She becomes Sankofa, a girl wo can kill with a look, the adopted daughter of death. Her gift earns her respect and fear but it takes time to learn how best to wield it.

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Sareeta Domingo is Making Waves

On a bright April day last year, I managed to grab a quick lunch with Sareeta Domingo. She’d whittled an hour out of her fiercely busy schedule to chat with me. To be safe, we ate at the Pret a Manger off London Bridge, a short walk from the Harlequin Mills & Boon office where she works as an editor.

When we spoke on that April day, Domingo was a published author with a romance novel (The Nearness of You) and an erotic novella (The Confessional Diaries of a Girl in Town) under her belt. In the months since that interview she has released Love, Secret Santa, a sweet Christmas romance for teens, cued up Love on the Main Stage – a summer romance for teens – for release this month, she has a July novel coming as part of Jacaranda’s 20 for 2020 campaign called, If I Don’t Have You, and she’s worked with a clutch of remarkable writers (including Dorothy Koomson, Daniellé Dash and Sara Jafari) on a new anthology celebrating women of colour in love called, Who’s Loving You (due out in Feb 2021). All this alongside the full-time, full-on day job.

That’s a lot, right?

Yet there’s more. If you attend a Black publishing event in London (pre-pandemic of course), you’re guaranteed to catch sight of her. Book launches, panel discussions, bookclub events – she shows up and supports fellow creatives, indie publishers and anyone working to make UK publishing more inclusive. She’s also started doing a weekly ‘book of the week’ segment on Morning Mari (@marinx666) on @worldwidefm.

Where does she find the time? How does she juggle it all? We’ll come back to that.

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Why Publishing Advances Matter

On June 6, 2020, Leatrice “Elle” McKinney, (aka L.L. McKinney, author of A Blade So Black) kicked off a Twitter conversation about publishing advances. Using the hashtag #PublishingPaidMe she asked white authors to share the advances they’d been paid for books so Black authors could get a sense of how their own advances compared. Very quickly a huge disparity between the size of payments became obvious.

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Mansa Musa

Mansa Musa: Glitter and Gold, streaming now…

I spent my Christmas on a train travelling from Canada’s east coast to the west. When I wasn’t gazing out of the huge plate glass windows at mountains, frozen lakes and endless prairie land, I was reading Mansa Musa and the Empire of Mali by P. James Oliver.

What an eye opener! Here’s your 60 second guide to the medieval ruler:

  • Kankan Musa was the 10th Mansa of the Mali empire
  • Mansa is a Sudanese word for ‘emperor’
  • His control of Africa’s salt and gold mines at a time when the commodities were hugely valuable made him the richest person in history
  • Ruled from 1312-1337
  • Turned the University of Sankore in Timbuktu into a fully staffed learning institution with the largest collection of books in Africa since the Library of Alexandria (246 BC).
  • Built the Djinguereber Mosque in Timbuktu (from pounded earth, straw and wood. It has stood for over 700 years)
  • Undertook an incredible 4,000km pilgrimage from West Africa to Mecca and back

Amazingly, while I was reading and travelling, Twitter began talking about Mansa Musa. Apparently Black Panther director, Ryan Coogler and actor Michael B Jordan are planning to make a film about the African ruler. The chatter began on Twitter (where debate is an Olympic sport) so opinion was soon divided. Some people argued that Mansa Musa was unworthy of a film because he owned slaves.

He did. Thousands of them.

Yet, I’d still pitch my tent in the ‘Yes, tell his story’ camp.


His life was epic. The same way we don’t question whether to make films about Churchill, Gandhi, Columbus or JFK – all of whom have problematic legacies. I don’t believe we should restrict ourselves to telling stories only about African figures we deem uncontroversial.

I’ll go further. I think a film would be too small a canvas to capture the adventures and numerous achievements of Mansa Musa. I’d prefer a five-season, streamed TV series a la The Crown. It would reek of money. Lavish sets, far flung locations, teams of costume designers, baked mud palaces, piles of gold everywhere…

If, however, I were restricted to an eight-part series, this is how it would break down.

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20 Black Books out in 2020

It’s 2020 people! Time to get rid of all the books that have been clogging up your ‘must read’ pile and replace them with shiny new ones. Yes, that is exactly how reading should work. Here are 20 books by Black authors coming out this year. Go forth, read and spread the good news.

(Click the book jackets to buy or pre-order)

Baby Riot1. Riot Baby – Tochi Onyebuchi

Ella sees things. Things that have not happened yet. After her brother is locked up on racially motivated charges, she has to decide whether to use her special abilities knowing she could start a revolution that could burn her city down.
January 21

Not so pure and simple2. Not So Pure and Simple – Lamar Giles

Del joins a purity ring club to get closer to his childhood crush. He doesn’t expect to learn more about himself and have to reflect on questions about what girls want from boys and what it means to respect them. This important story of masculinity is something everyone can learn from.
Jan 21

The worst best man3. The Worst Best Man – Mia Sosa

Carolina Santos is DC’s hottest wedding planner. It feels like bitter irony when she is left at the alter on her own wedding day. She sucks up the pain, soldiers on and feels like life is rewarding her fortitude when an incredible business opportunity comes her way. Until she discovers that seizing the opportunity means teaming up with the man who encouraged her fiancé to jilt her, a man she hates with the fire of 10 suns, the worst best man in the world.
Feb 4

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Black Book Christmas Gifts

Black Christmas Gift List

When Christmas is so close you can smell the turkey but you still have a stack of gifts to buy, you know what makes a great present? (Brace yourself, this may come as a shock but I’m going to say it anyway).

A Book!

A book and some colourful socks, a book and a box of chocolates, a book and a gift card, a book and – you get the idea, right?

The right book tells your loved one you care. They’ll never know that you scanned this list, bought 5 books for 5 people in 15 minutes, wrapped them all in record time – since nothing wraps easier than a book- and Tra la la! Christmas joy. It’s the gift the blesses the giver and the receiver. You’re welcome. Now go forth and share the Christmas spirit.


Heaven, My Home

Heaven My Home by Attica Locke

American Spy

American Spy by Lauren Wilkenson








They All Fall Down

They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall

Tell Me Your Secret

Tell Me Your Secret – Dorothy Koomson


Black Leopard Red Wolf

Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James

The Water Dancer

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates









The City We Became

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin











Get a Life Chloe Brown

Get a Life Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

The Wedding Party

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory









One Day to Fall

Therese Beharrie by One Day to Fall











Candice Carty-Williams

Grand Union

Grand Union by Zadie Smith








The Half God of Rainfall

The Half God of Rainfall by Inua Ellams










War Girls

War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi

Secret Santa

Secret Santa by SA Domingo









Let Me Hear a Rhyme

Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D Jackson

Daughters of Nri

Daughters of Nri by Remi K Amayo











Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o

Princess Arabella is a Big Sister

Princess Arabella is a Big Sister by Mylo Freeman








Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia










Notes from a Black Chef

Notes from a Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi

Broken Places Outer Space

Broken Places Outer Space by Nnedi Okarafor