All posts filed under: Features

9 Black Book Podcast Interviews

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 …

Where are the joyful Black books?

If you spend any time with me, the conversation will probably veer onto books. From there it’ll take me about 2.5 minutes before I start talking about my desire to see more books by Black authors. The slide from ‘more Black books’ into a lament on the lack of joyful Black books then becomes sure and unstoppable. Why? Because I love joy. I love safety and peace and goals achieved and lives celebrated and love that fills you up until you glow. Alas, it’s difficult to find joyful themes in Black UK books, to find hero(ines) that win the day and lives were things turn out well. That’s not accidental. The 2015 report, Writing the Future, concluded that the “’best chance of publication’ for a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) writer was to write literary fiction conforming to a stereotypical view of their communities, addressing topics such as ‘racism, colonialism or post-colonialism’.” Since then, I think the parameters have expanded somewhat, but the focus is still on struggle, dysfunction and pain.

10 Things You Should Know About Angie Thomas

Her first novel, The Hate U Give, topped the New York Times bestseller charts for over a year and birthed a star-studded film adaptation that achieved critical and commercial success. Her second novel, On the Come Up, hit store shelves in February and shot straight up the bestseller lists. Like THUG, it has been snapped up for a big-screen adaptation. There’s no question that Angie Thomas is a powerhouse of a writer. Here are 10 things you should know about her. 1. She was born in Jackson, Mississippi Mississippi has turned out a remarkable number of writers including Richard Wright, Mildred D Taylor and Jesmyn Ward. Thomas likes to joke that her home state is known for two things: writing and racism. “And I happen to be a writer who writes about racism.” Thomas grew up in Jackson’s predominantly black Georgetown neighbourhood. “I grew up hearing about black people who were killed, like Emmett Till and civil rights leader Medgar Evers. Evers actually lived in the same neighbourhood I grew up in and when he …

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 …

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.’