Bernardine Evaristo’s Project Brings Overlooked Black British Authors Back to Print

The series, “Black Britain: Writing Back,” launches with books by Jacqueline Roy, SI Martin, CLR James, Nicola Williams, Judith Bryan, and Mike Phillips.
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Bernardine Evaristo is on a mission to bring overdue recognition to Black British writers who have been overlooked in the literary canon. The Booker Prize winner has curated a series, “Black Britain: Writing Back,” with six titles, set for release in February by Penguin Random House imprint Hamish Hamilton.

The Guardian reports that the six launch books are:

Jacqueline Roy’s The Fat Lady Sings, a story of mental health; SI Martin’s Incomparable World, a reimagining of 1780s London with African-American soldiers; CLR James’s Minty Alley, a social realist novel; Nicola Williams’s Without Prejudice, a legal thriller; Judith Bryan’s Bernard and the Cloth Monkey, a family psychodrama; and Mike Phillips’s The Dancing Face, a thriller.

Hamish Hamilton has called the project a “landmark” publication of “lost or hard-to-find books, now rediscovered, by Black writers who wrote about Black Britain and the diaspora across the last century.” Through it, they said, Evaristo seeks “to correct historic bias in British publishing and bring a wealth of lost writing back into circulation.”

Speaking to The Observer, Evaristo said: “I wanted to bring back into the light and into circulation books that I think are really important, powerful books. One of the things we’ve had against us as black British writers is that people haven’t been that interested in our stories.”

Until recently, she said, there had been less interest in books by Black British writers as opposed to African American writers and African writers. She notes this as due to a lack of effective marketing and the lack of receptiveness of literary festivals.

Evaristo won the 2019 Booker Prize for her seventh novel Girl, Woman, Other, which explores contemporary Britain and modern womanhood through the interconnected stories of 12 characters. She is a member of the Black Writers’ Guild, a group calling for the publishing industry to address inequalities within the system.

Paula Willie-Okafor
Paula Willie-Okafor is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. She is a student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where she is custodian of The Writers' Community (TWC). Her writing has appeared in Kissing Dynamite Magazine and Praxis Magazine.

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