I recently had a client ask me to curate a personalised book prescription for literary fiction books written by Black British authors in the wake of the #blacklivesmovement. This is the list I curated. It includes a diverse range of young adult fiction and literary fiction written by Black British authors including my two favourites, Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman Other and Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. I’ve also thrown in a book by Marlon James whose magical realism books, A Brief History of Seven Killings and Black Leopard, Red Wolf are just mind-blowing. Lastly, I’ve chosen some lyrical poetry to really help capture the experiences of racial prejudice felt in the UK for decades. There’s real diversity, style and creativity to the books prescribed, I hope they provide an elegant and exquisite reading experience.
(a) Girl, Women, Other(Literary Fiction) by Bernadine Evaristo
A tribute to British black womanhood in a novelistic style through the voices of 12 characters, each different and remarkable in their own ways, weaving together a tapestry of the almost invisible lives of black woman through the years — a tapestry that is still being woven as their stories continue to evolve in an age where more and more light is being shone on womanhood in general.
The twelve narratives range from a lesbian theatre playwright to a farmer, a banker, and a haughty schoolteacher with supporting characters who aim to challenge the public assumptions of black women in a delightful and thought-provoking way. How different each and every one of these women are, too different to be herded under the simplistic description of the one-size-fits all ‘black woman’. Their dreams and ambitions resonate with those of the British community far and wide. At the same time, the characters etched are exceptionally different that you’ll never find them in any other fictional novel and that is the beauty of Evaristo’s characterisation.
Engrossing and dazzling, the women are linked in many ways, through love, work, chance, some wanting more from life, some stuck in family expectations, some struggling to navigate womanhood. This provides for a supremely human form to each of the characters through non-linear storytelling that leaves you wanting more. You feel ever connected to these women, through Evaristo’s magical writing.
(b) Black Leopard, Red Wolf (Fantasy Fiction) by Marlon James
Black Leopard, Red Wolf, the first book in the Dark Star Trilogy series is an epic fantasy set in Ancient Africa — a fictional world that you’ve never known before, drawing on the mythology of Western and Central African folklore. Fabulous characters, storylines, there is something Tolkien-esque about the book yet completely original in every way. Though ancient historical fiction, it explores the current themes of gender equality, political corruption and queer identity in a novel way, keeping us entertained every step of the way.
From the winner of the Man Booker prize, this is a mighty piece of literary magic.
A Sunday Times Bestseller shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and longlisted for the Women’s Prize in Fiction, Queenie, often labelled as ‘Bridget Jones meets Americanah’ is a masterpiece on one woman’s emotional journey. Set in South London, Queenie, Candy Carty-William’s black heroine, is 25 years old, works as a culture journalist and is in a long-term relationship with her white boyfriend. Queenie’s abandonment by her mother at the age of eleven pretty much haunts her existence throughout the narrative — it’s the reason why Tom and her go on a break.
Her sense- of self-worth is rock bottom leading to things that she regrets including hooking up for casual sex with an office colleague, a taxi-driver and a random doctor. Her desire to go to therapy to ‘fix’ herself is seen as shameful by her grandmother.
What is so addictive about this book, especially for female readers is that Queenie embodies all the questions and situations that young women face today in trying to find their place in the world and society, without losing their sense of self and personal identity.
Perfect for fans of Sally Rooney and Diana Evans.
Another book set in South London, this is the remarkable story of two couples who find themselves caught up in very normal, everyday circumstances. Melissa who’s just had a baby struggles to cope with the life-change creating distance with her partner Michael. Then there’s Stephanie who is happily married to Damian, living in the suburbs of South London with their three children, but their lives are thrown into chaos too when Damian’s father dies. Two normal couples struggling with everyday events make the story seem ordinary — however what is unique and refreshing about the book is the immersive, experiential effect of the book divulging into the age-old questions of identity, parenthood, sex and grief, love, friendship and old-age — it is literally the story of everyone’s lives and the periods in our lives where our own existence is threatened — due to some life-change or loss. Beautiful, lyrical prose this books is an absolute must-read.
Complex and full of suspense, Darling is a psychological thriller about a black stepmother and her white teenage daughter — both voices are powerful and Rachel Edwards pulls their narrative together to weave an elaborate web of mystery as trust begins to disappear between the two — who will get rid of who? Rachel Edwards’ debut novel, she has a fascinating voice and style and this should be essential reading for anyone looking to enter the literary world of fiction writing.
A real soul-wrencher, Edwards emotionally astute second book examines youth violence and its long-lasting and disordering effects on the families of victims. This a timely novel on the emotional destruction caused by brutal loss in the wake of the #blacklivesmatter movement. Moving, raw and tragic, this is a story that’s happening now. A gripping read, it might rip your heart out.
A riveting poetry collection exploring the social inequality, racism and injustice set in the backdrop of the New Cross Fire of 1981 (an arson attack on 439 New Cross Road, South East London where a house party was taking place) that killed 13 black teenagers bringing the death toll to 14 when one other committed suicide driven by grief) which continues to haunt us decades later. A striking voice in British poetry, Bernard uses Jamaican patois and dancehall rhythms to bring to life the prejudice felt through London. A must-read for anyone interested in the long history of racism in Britain.
A book that opened at number one on the New York Times young adult best-seller list is a powerful eye-opener about what is happening in America right now.
Whilst a novel, the book was inspired by a series of police shootings on unarmed black youth, that are misunderstood by the media and whose murders are barely investigated by the police. A great literary contribution to the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
A big hello and thank you for reading! Passionate about literature, psychology, and life I launched Book Therapy as an alternative form of therapy using the power of literature. I create reading lists/personalised book prescriptions based on your individual needs, this is my signature personalised reading service. You can also check out Book Therapy’s other free reading lists and A- Z of book prescriptions (covering both fiction and non-fiction). These suggest books based on your existing life situation (e.g. anxiety, job change, relationship heartache) as well as interests (e.g memoir, historical fiction, non-fiction, crime etc). There’s also a Children’s A — Z of Book Prescriptions. Feel free to check out the blog for more literary gems. There’s also a post on my personal story of how I entered the world of bibliotherapy and book curation. And if you’d like to connect, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.booktherapy.io.
Book Therapy is a participant in the Amazon EU, US and Canada Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com and Amazon.ca
Originally published at https://www.booktherapy.io.