PSA: These are all my own views/thoughts.
It’s Black History Month over here in the UK and as promised, I’ll be bringing you as much content as I possibly can this month!
I want to talk about Black British Authors and why they aren’t getting as much recognition as they truly deserve.
Now, you’re probably thinking two things as you’re reading this and it’s either:
1. They are – Girl, Woman, Other won The Booker Prize Award 2019 and Queenie won The British Book Awards 2020
2. If you’re trying to compare it to the US, that’s silly because the US is a lot bigger than the UK
And in both cases you’re most definitely right. However, I still feel like there’s just not enough recognition being pushed in their direction.
Maybe it’s because the sheer size of the US dwarfs the UK. Black American Writers are often more recognised simply because of how huge the continent is. Nationally they’ll receive way more coverage than a Black British writer ever could.
Which is why I feel like British bloggers, bookstagrammers and booktubers need to support them as much as possible.
Ways to Support:
- Jacaranda #TWENTYIN2020: Twenty in 2020 is a historical publishing initiative. It is the first time a UK publisher will publish 20 titles by 20 Black British writers in one year. The books include adult fiction, nonfiction and poetry. The aim of the initiative is to normalize the presence of diverse literature and to amplify the voice of Black Britons as valued members of British culture and society. They’re also doing 20% for Black Pound Day!!
- Buy a Black British Author’s Book: Buy from anywhere you can. I don’t normally endorse Amazon so please avoid it if you can and buy from your local bookshop! There’s so many authors to buy from e.g. Malorie Blackman, Bernardine Evaristo, Talia Hibbert, Zadie Smith, Bolu Babalola, Candice Carty-Williams, Akala, David Olusoga, etc etc
- Post about the book on your social media: I know this is the bit most people are sceptical about but the more awareness you raise for the book, the higher the chances of more people seeing it. You never know who you could influence to buy a copy. Might be friends, relatives or work colleagues
- Leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads etc: leaving a review helps to boost the book’s visibility. It’s something I’m going to work hard on doing this month. I know I get so consumed with my blog that I forget to post a review on these big sites. They help so much. Even if it’s a couple of lines about what you liked. It’ll help in the long run.
Whilst Britain’s size has played a role in why Black British authors probably aren’t as well-known globally compared to Black American authors, there are other reasons as to why Black Brtish authors just aren’t getting the representation.
Unfortunately, it stems from institutional racism which I’ll explain further in my post. Now, I do truly believe Britain have a huge issue when it comes to admitting that racism exists in this country. Akala talks about it beautifully in Natives and how there’s almost some kind of refusal to admit any notion that ‘Great Britain’ has deep-rooted issues in itself, which does stem from ignorance and the fact that institutional racism has allowed these issues to be disregarded as long as they don’t affect those privileged.
If you don’t believe me, you just need to look at how Reni Eddo-Lodge author of ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ was the first Black British author to take the overall No1 spot in the UK’s official book charts.
To make matters worse this was after the biggest global Civil Rights Movement in history.
This was after people suddenly woke up and realised how deep-rooted institutional racism runs in this country.
I do believe Reni Eddo-Lodge deserved this award as from what I’ve heard she’s written an incredible non-fiction novel about the legitimacy of structural racism and why some White people are in denial about it. I plan to read her novel this week for Black History Month and hopefully have a review out on it a bit later.
It just sucks that it is shadowed by the events of May/June. She should have won that award prior to George Floyd’s death. She should have won it simply because her novel was informative and amazingly written.
You can even look at how Bernardine Evaristo was not only the first Black woman to win The Booker Prize in 2019, she was the first Black British person to win.
2019 was only twelve months ago.
The Booker Prize has been running since 1969…
It’s taken 50 years for a Black British person to win that award…
Do with that information what you will.
So why is it only now that Black British authors are slowly getting recognised for their outstanding literary work?
“There is also the misguided belief, still in the 21st century, that Black and Asian people are not considered to be a substantial readership, or to even be readers.” – Bernardine Evaristo
I’ll be honest, this is just completely unacceptable as a view and it’s one that I truly believe is the driving force behind Black British authors not getting the recognition they deserve.
If publishers believe that their audience is predominantly white, books written by white authors are going to get the bigger marketing and publicity budget. You’ll see their novels plastered on posters in train stations, written about in newspapers and with massive campaign tours.
Black authors will get the lower budgets and less publicity. You won’t hear about them as much and if you do, it’ll be through Bookstagram, bloggers and booktube.
Perhaps, there’s a belief that those who can’t relate won’t connect with the novels written by Black British authors.
I sincerely hope not. I’m a firm believer in keeping your reading diverse. It’s how you learn about other cultures and beliefs. It’s essentially how you educate yourself to be less ignorant. Therefore, it’s essential that everyone is reading books by everyone and anyone, regardless of culture or race. Yes, there will always be some books you can relate to more than others but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be read. Neither does it mean they shouldn’t have bigger marketing/publicity budgets.
Maybe, it’s the rhetoric that books on Black joy don’t sell aswell as Black pain. I’m here to say that not only is that a lie – but it’s proven by Bolu Babalola’s ‘Love in Colour’ being a Sunday Times Bestseller.
Black joy does sell. And I’ll tell all publishers for free that we as a community want more of it.
So this Black History Month and forever more (because really and truly, reading Black British authors shouldn’t be confined to one month), I challenge you all to read a Black British author this month. Just one. It doesn’t matter whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. Let’s start promoting Black British authors because they deserve it.
Let’s break this rhetoric in Britain that Black Books don’t sell or that Black joy won’t do as well.
Let’s dismantle whatever the lie is.
Thank you for this, great post. Love the practical ideas on how to support Black British authors.
Thank you so much! I’m so glad you like it!