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Malorie Blackman

October is Black History Month

14 October 2019

This year Black History Month is celebrating the accomplishments of Black Britons in all areas of achievement throughout history, with a focus on recognising women of achievement. You can find out more about what’s going on in your area by visiting the Black History Month website at https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/.

Following in the footsteps of Black History Month Magazine, we are focusing on women of achievement by promoting our own list of female Black British authors you should read.

Malorie Blackman OBE is a firm favourite at Calibre, notably for her bestselling Noughts & Crosses series. It explores issues of race in a fictional dystopia where the tables have been turned and the black ‘Noughts’ rule over the lower class, white, ‘Crosses’.  The former Children’s Laureate also writes television scripts and co-wrote the well-received Rosa Parks episode of the last Doctor Who series. Listen to the first Noughts and Crosses book under catalogue number (616377) and look out for the TV serialisation coming to the BBC soon, featuring none other than Stormzy!

Diana Evans is a journalist and author of the Orange Prize winning 26a (7493) which enters the world of adolescent twin sisters, their Nigerian mother and their English father who is struggling with demons from his past. Her latest book Ordinary People (13255) was a 2018 book of the year in The New York Times, The Statesman and the Financial Times. It explores the relationships of two thirty-something couples as the first flush of love dwindles in the middle years, under the pressure of work and children…

Aminatta Forna’s autobiography The Devil that Danced on Water (6426) is a powerful account of her African childhood in Sierra Leone, an idyll that became a nightmare in post-colonial Africa. Her novel Happiness (13408) begins with a chance encounter between two strangers on Waterloo Bridge; Attila is a Ghanaian Psychiatrist, and Jean is an American biologist. Disparate lives come together in the rush of a great city.

Jackie Kay MBE is a poet and author whose first novel Trumpet, published in 1998 (coming to Calibre soon), won the Guardian Prize for Fiction. It was inspire by the life of Billy Tipton, an American jazz musician who, on his death, was revealed to have been born a woman. Her book Red Dust Road (9561) is a memoir of her meeting with her Nigerian birth father, narrated by Jackie Kay herself. She has also written several short story collections.

Dorothy Koomson is an enormously popular novelist, her third novel My Best Friend’s Girl (7393) was selected for the Richard and Judy Summer Reads, after which sales soared to half a million. Dorothy worked as a journalist before taking the plunge and becoming a full-time writer.

Irenosen Okojie was born in Nigeria and moved to England when she was eight. Her first novel, Butterfly Fish (11764), won a Betty Trask Award in 2016; the story moves between 1970s’ London and nineteenth century Benin, West Africa, uncovering family secrets on the way. In 2018 she became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature under their 40 under 40 initiative.

Multi-award winning author Zadie Smith burst onto the scene with her first novel, White Teeth (11760), which garnered a number of literary prizes including the Guardian First Book Award, the Whitbread First Novel Award, and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize. It has been described as ‘a vibrant portrait of contemporary multicultural London, told through the story of three ethnically diverse families’, it is also immensely readable! A later novel NW (12242) follows the lives of four children from a north west London council estate. Both White Teeth and NW were dramatised for TV.

Author Kit de Waal was known as a short-story writer until she published her first novel for young adults; My Name is Leon (11828) was shortlisted for numerous prizes and won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2017. Set in 1981, Leon and his little brother Jake are living with foster mum Maureen. Leon’s aim is to reunite his family. The author worked for many years in family and criminal law and has sat on adoption panels; her own mother was a childminder and foster carer.