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Video Review: Midnight Robber

The Robber Queen is Tan Tan’s favourite costume to wear at carnival on the Caribbean-colonized planet of Toussaint. When her father is exiled to the brutal world of New Half-Way Tree, and Tan Tan is forced to go with him, she must reach into the heart of myth and become the Robber Queen herself in order to survive.

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Can you name 5 BAME tween boy books?

My nephew is 11 and obsessed with Derek Landy’s Skulduggery series. They’re a set of fantasy books about a skeleton detective and are as madcap as they sound. Every time I pop round he has his head stuck in a new book in the sequence. Either Landy has a factory churning these books out or he’s extremely prolific.

I keep artfully suggesting to my nephew that maybe he might consider expanding his reading diet a little, throwing in the occasional non-Skulduggery to stretch himself. (A recent study suggests UK teens are not reading enough challenging books). He politely ignores me.

Now with his sisters, I’d advance to Phase Two. I’d drop off a couple of books on every visit until one of them piqued their interest. The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas) was a big hit, as was Oh My Gods (Alexandra Sheppard) and Everything Everything (Nicola Yoon). Cinder (Marissa Meyer) alas, got a lukewarm reception. Thankfully, when you’re looking for teen fiction with a young female lead, you’re spoilt for choice. I can keep this up for a good few years.

However, when it comes to options for boys, the shelves suddenly look bare. There are a million articles about how/why boys hate reading. I’m going to take a leap of logic and suggest that publishers have responded to these studies by acquiring fewer books for tween and teen boys, the result of which is boys reading even less. It’s a downward spiral.

Despite the odds, because I like a challenge, I stepped boldly up to the plate.

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Homegoing calls out African complicity in slavery and offers healing

Last year I visited Elmina Castle, a slave fortress on the coast of Ghana. It’s a beautiful white-washed building, very similar in style to Cape Coast Castle, the slave fortress where Yaa Gyasi sets key pieces of action in Homegoing. The castles are two of about 40 such structures that were built along the Ghanaian coastline by Europeans. They were trading posts that became holding prisons for millions of West African slaves who were then shipped off to the Caribbean, the US and South America.

The structures are huge. They dominate the coastline. Markets and towns would have grown up around them, like the town of Elmina that sprouted up around Elmina castle. It is impossible that the locals did not know what the primary trade from these castles was. Did it trouble them? Why was the trade in African bodies accepted? Gyasi takes us aside, sits us down, and says, ‘let me a paint you a picture, let me show you how the system worked.’

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Video Review: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives

Baba Segi has three wives, seven children, and a home filled with riches. Now he has his sights set on Bolanle, a university graduate with a tragic past. When she joins his household, she unwittingly uncovers a secret which threatens to destroy the patriarchal foundation of his life.

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

Talia Hibbert is giving Black women happy endings (and publishers a lesson in business)

“When I was younger, I wrote stories with white heroines. I thought, ‘If I want to be published, this is what I’ll have to do. No one wants to read about black people.’”

Romance writer Talia Hibbert is talking about her protagonists. Specifically, about the effort it took to stop imagining them as thin, white women and write characters who looked like her.

“I grew up reading all these romances that I loved and they were so important, but they were also the kind of books that said, ‘His hand looked so dark against her pearlescent blah, blah, blah.’” She rolls her eyes and smiles.

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19 Black Books out in 2019

Have you written your reading list for 2019, yet? No? What are you waiting for? Let me lend a hand. Whether you’re a fervent fantasy fan, longing for some literary, hungry for a historical or crazy about crime, there’s a 2019 book out there for you. Here are 19 books by Black authors coming out this year.

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

Alexandra Sheppard1. OMGs – Alexandra Sheppard

Helen has just moved to North London with her dorky dad and self-absorbed older siblings. Her stress levels are off the charts as she tries to juggle new friends, a big crush and the secret fact that she’s half mortal and half Greek God.
3 January

2. New Daughters of Africa – Margaret Busby

25 years after Margaret Busby’s landmark anthology, Daughters of Africa, this new companion volume brings together the work of over 200 women writers of African descent. It showcases key figures and popular contemporaries, as well as overlooked historical authors and today’s new and emerging writers. Amongst the contributors are: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Malorie Blackman, Bernardine Evaristo, Aminatta Forna, Andrea Levy, Taiye Selasi, Warsan Shire and Zadie Smith.
24 January

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Alexandra Sheppard is bringing the magic of the Greek Gods to North London

I meet Alexandra Sheppard on a sweltering September evening. She’s travelled down from North London by bus to meet me at the Southbank Centre. She’s dressed in denim dungarees, her hair is pulled into a top knot and she has that baby-faced youthfulness that probably gets her carded all the time.

We’ve met once before, at a Black Girls Book Club event where I got her to agree to a proper sit down so I could get all the dish on her highly anticipated debut novel, Oh My Gods.

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