Bernardine Evaristo “Black Britain: Writing Back”

The full title of this article by is “Bernardine Evaristo rediscovers six novels by Black writers for ‘Black Britain: Writing Back’ series.” The first six books of the Black Britain: Writing Black series will be released on 4 February, 2021. As Peter Jordens writes, the authors of the first six books in the series are:

Judith Bryan (UK, of Jamaican and Guyanese heritage)
C.L.R. James (Trinidad and Tobago, 1901-1989)
S.I. Martin (UK, 1961, of Antiguan heritage)
Mike Phillips (Guyana, 1941)
Nicola Williams (UK, of Guyanese heritage)
Jacqueline Roy (UK, 1954, of Jamaican heritage)

Here are excerpts from the article:

The first books to be published are The Fat Lady Sings by Jacqueline Roy; Incomparable World by S.I. Martin; Minty Alley by C.L.R. James; Without Prejudice by Nicola Williams; Bernard and the Cloth Monkey by Judith Bryan and The Dancing Face by Mike Phillips.

The origins of the Black Britain: Writing Black series began a year ago, in the wake of Evaristo’s Booker Prize win. “We got together to talk about how we could harness the energy and excitement of that moment to make further change happen,” said Prosser. The covers of the books have been redesigned by Black British artists and the audiobooks will be voiced by Black actors.

Evaristo told Penguin.co.uk that “these books will take the reader from 18th-century London to 1920s Trinidad; from inside the heads of women in the mental health system to inside the life of a working-class Black woman barrister making her way in a white, middle-class, male profession; from the ethics of stolen African artefacts in British museums and into a family home haunted by past that lingers in the present.”

Five of the titles were originally published in the Nineties by contemporaries of Evaristo. “It was much harder back then to sustain enough interest in our literature and I suspect that in these more progressive times, these books will find larger readerships,” she says. “Each generation builds on those who went before and I’m keenly interested that today’s writers and readers will engage with novels that still feel current in their complex narrativisations of Black lives.” [. . .]

The remaining book, C.L.R.  James’s Minty Alley, was published in 1936 and was the first book by a Black Caribbean writer to be published in England. Evaristo calls James, who also wrote plays and non-fiction books, “legendary”.

For Prosser, the series has offered an opportunity to work again with James: “As a young editor one of the first books I had the luck to work on, at academic publisher Blackwells, was The C.L.R. James Reader – so it is especially moving to me to see his only novel form the cornerstone of this series.” Having published Black authors, from Evaristo to Zadie Smith, in the decades since, Prosser says the series is “a dream come true”. [. . .]

For original post, see https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2020/october/black-britain-writing-back-bernardine-evaristo-hamish-hamilton-series.html

Also see https://www.penguin.co.uk/series/bbwb/black-britain–writing-back.html

“The forgotten black British novels everyone should read”
Bernardine Evaristo, The Guardian, January 30, 2021
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/jan/30/bernardine-evaristo-the-forgotten-black-british-novels-everyone-should-read

“Booker winner’s mission to put UK’s forgotten black writers back in print”
Dalya Alberge, The Guardian, January 9, 2021
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/jan/09/booker-winners-mission-to-put-uks-forgotten-black-writers-back-in-print

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