Compiled by Ajoke Adetunji, here is a selection of books written by black British authors.
Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez
This queer literary debut is a visceral and emotionally searing tale touching on fatherhood, freedom, love and loss across generations. Norman, a Jamaican immigrant, settles in the Black Country in the late 1950s and battles racism, disability and personal conflict. At the turn of the millennium, 19-year-old Jesse arrives in London and turns to sex work to rebel against his religious upbringing. A writer to watch, Mendez writes exquisitely on longing, lust and the desire to forge connections.
LOTE by Shola von Reinhold
Narrator Mathilda, who is black, working class and queer, is transfixed by the Bohemian socialites of the 1920s, who she’s emulated for much of her life. Later, Mathilda encounters a photograph of black poet Hermia Druitt, drawing her to the European town of Dun where Druitt once lived in the 30s in a bid to learn more about the forgotten figure. Set amid an artist residency, this arresting debut effortlessly explores infatuation, reinvention, the erasure of black figures from history and gender identities in what marks Von Reinhold as a unique new voice in literary fiction. LOTE is part of publisher Jacaranda’s campaign Twenty in 2020, the first initiative of its kind by a UK publisher to publish 20 black British writers in a single year.
The 392 by Ashley Hickson-Lovence
Set entirely on a London bus travelling from Hoxton to Highbury, The 392 takes place over just 36 minutes and explores themes including terrorism and gentrification in inner-city London. The tale unfolds through a crowd of passengers from all different worlds – schoolkids, addicts, high-flyers and the homeless – who are all tied through a shared suspicion as the threat of terrorism looms. A unique debut, Hickson-Lovence pays tribute to London and all the colourful characters that call the city home.
Think Like a White Man: Conquering the World… While Black by Nels Abbey
Former banker Nels Abbey takes on the persona of Dr Boulé Whytelaw III, a distinguished Professor of Modern White People Studies, in this satirical guide on the realities of working in white-dominated workplaces. As humorous as it dark, this memorable and timely “self-help gospel” touching on structural barriers may well be one of the most original debuts in years.
In the Palace of Flowers by Victoria Princewill
Inspired by the only existing first-person account of an Abyssinian slave in Iran, this original historical debut sheds light on the untold lives of two slaves torn away from their families residing in the Persian royal courts in the 1890s. Told from the perspective of Jamila, a concubine, and Abimelech, a eunuch, Princewill deftly sheds light into an oft-overlooked area of African history. Expect rich and atmospheric depictions of palace life.
Love in Colour: Mythical Tales from Around the World by Bolu Babalola
Celebrating love around the world in all its forms, this is a much needed and refreshing addition to the contemporary romance canon. Babalola retells 18 love stories from history and mythology, from Nigerian folktales, Greek myths, ancient legends from the Middle East, tales from South Asia to the contemporary. The chapter Tiara is a particular standout.
Under Solomon Skies by Berni Sorga-Millwood
Childhood friends Jack and Toni set out on a boat trip that goes awry and find themselves stranded at sea. Though initially optimistic that they’ll be rescued within hours, the first day draws to an end. Set in the Solomon Islands amid the environmental challenges it faces, Under Solomon Skies is an urgent look at the effect climate change on the island. Based on true events, Sorga-Millwood worked as a teacher trainer in the Solomon Islands.
Hold by Michael Donkor
Moving between Ghana and London, this captivating coming-of-age novel on sexuality, identity, friendship, family and forgiveness was shortlisted for the 2019 Dylan Thomas prize. Rule-abiding Belinda is summoned from Ghana to London to befriend Amma, a troubled girl who shows no interest in her friendship. But as the Brixton summer turns to autumn, Belinda and Amma are surprised to discover a burgeoning kinship.
If I Don’t Have You by Sareeta Domingo
A celebration of black love and the vulnerabilities that come with it, If I Don’t Have You is also part of publisher Jacaranda’s campaign Twenty in 2020. Look out for Domingo’s collection celebrating love released next year, featuring a wide variety of black contributors including Dorothy Koomson and Irenosen Okojie.
Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
The book explores the links between gender, class and race in Britain and other countries. It begins with a summary of the experience of Black and Asian people in the UK, including the Atlantic slave trade, Indian soldiers in World War I, the Bristol Bus Boycott, the 1981 riots and Labour Party Black Sections.
The book also covers institutional racism in British society, white feminism, and definitions of class which only include white people