Black British writers: we’re more than just Zadie Smith and Monica Ali | Irenosen Okojie
This article relates to why I am making an effort to read more female and ethnic minority writers and as with any article, the comments make for an even more interesting read.
When I was a young girl of 11, my favourite thing to do on a Saturday was to spend my day in the library. This joy was to continue into a life long pleasure. I clearly remember when Islington libraries would have a section or shelf of ‘black and Asian’ authors. I would curiously read the backs of these books and would take one (haha read several) home.
This was how I read my first gay novel about an Indian boy falling in love with another man; about African American women’s lives at university and learnt about telephone prayer meetings and fell in love with a book called ‘the scholar’ by Courttia Newland, which was about urban teenagers in NW London and the difficult choices teenagers sometimes face. I recognised myself, my friends, and most importantly my surroundings in his books. It was a courageous choice to write about black teenagers in London in the early 90s, after all who was interested? Gang culture wasn’t yet with us. As an aside, I wonder if white authors writing about black teenagers get a better reception from publishers? Newland has a character in one of his books that is a struggling black author and I now wonder how much of that character was autobiographical?
There are small black and Asian publishers in the UK and these have been going since the 1980s and it would be great to read more black and Asian British writing.