Penguin has pulled together a stunning new list of books by writers who have written about black Britain and the diaspora over the last hundred years. The six launch titles, each with a new introduction by Bernadine Evaristo, range from fast-paced thrillers to historical fiction, and showcase a diverse pool of black writing talent. The reissued books are packaged with eye-catching designs by leading black British artists, and curated by 2019 joint Booker winner Evaristo, working with Hamish Hamilton in-house editor Hannah Chukwu.
“Our ambition is to correct historic bias in British publishing and bring a wealth of lost writing back into circulation,” says Evaristo. “While many of us continue to lobby for the publishing industry to become more inclusive and representative of our society, this project looks back to the past in order to resurrect texts that will help reconfigure black British literary history… My aim is to present a body of work that illustrates a variety of preoccupations and genres that offer important and diverse black British perspectives. I am very excited to introduce these books to new readers who will discover their riches.”
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Cover artwork by Alexander Ikhide @alexander_ikhide

Bernard and the Cloth Monkey by Judith Bryan

Winner of the Saga Prize 1997: a literary award for trailblazing new Black British novelists.

When Anita finally returns to London after a long absence, everything has changed. Her father is dead, her mother has disappeared, and she and her sister Beth are alone together for the first time in years. They share a house. They share a family. They share a past. Tentatively, they reach out to one another for connection, but the house echoes with words unspoken. Can they confront the pain of the past together? Dazzling and heartbreaking, Bernard and the Cloth Monkey is a shattering portrait of family, a rebellion against silence and a testament to the human capacity for survival.

“A rebellion against silence, a testimony to the human capacity for survival, it shows the transformative power of literature at its best.” Bernadine Evaristo

Judith Bryan is a writer, playwright and academic. Her short fiction and non-fiction have been published in various anthologies and her play Keeping Mum was produced at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, London, in 2011 for the WriteNow2 Festival of New Writing. Judith is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Hawthornden Fellow. She has taught creative writing at City Lit, Arvon, Spread the Word and to community groups. She is working on her second novel.
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@JudeBryanwriter

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Cover artwork by Joy Yamusangie @joyyamusangie

Minty Alley by C.L.R. James

The only novel from the revolutionary intellectual C.L.R. James, and the first novel by a black West Indian to be published in the UK.

It is the 1920s in the Trinidadian capital, and Haynes’ world has been upended. His mother has passed away, and his carefully mapped-out future of gleaming opportunity has disappeared with her. Unable to afford his former life, he finds himself moving into Minty Alley – a bustling barrack yard teeming with life and a spectacular cast of characters. In this sliver of West Indian working-class society, outrageous love affairs and passionate arguments are a daily fixture, and Haynes begins to slip from curious observer to the heart of the action. Minty Alley is a gloriously observed portrayal of class, community and the ways in which we are all inherently connected. An undisputed modern classic, this is an exceptional story told by one of the twentieth century’s greatest Caribbean thinkers

“Light-hearted, comic, occasionally sobering, always engrossing, the novel is a lovely and captivating read.” Bernadine Evaristo

C.L.R. James was born in Trinidad in 1901 and was one of the prominent figures in the West Indian diaspora. He was a writer, socialist and pioneering voice in literature. He wrote extensively on Caribbean history, Marxist theory, literary criticism, Western civilisation, African politics, cricket and popular culture. His works include World Revolution, The Black Jacobins and Beyond a Boundary. He died in 1989.
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British Library: C.L.R. James

 

Cover artwork by Tomekah George @tameks_g

Incomparable World by S.I. Martin

In the years just after the American revolution, London was the unlikely refuge for thousands of black Americans who fought for liberty on the side of the British. Buckram, Georgie and William have earned their freedom and escaped their American oppressors, but on the streets of London, poverty awaits with equal cruelty. Ruthless, chaotic and endlessly evolving, London forces them into a life of crime, and a life on the margins. Their only hope for a better future is to concoct a scheme so daring, it will be a miracle if it pays off.

“Adventurous and exuberant. A rollicking thriller that pulsates with vivacity.” Bernardine Evaristo

S.I. Martin is a museums consultant and author, specialising in black British history and literature. He is the author of several books of historical fiction and non-fiction for teenage and adult readers, including Britain’s Slave Trade (written for Channel 4 to tie in with its documentary of the same name), Jupiter Williams and Jupiter Amidships.
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simartin.org.uk
@simartin

 

Cover artwork by Daniel Clarke @danielmclarke

The Dancing Face by Mike Phillips

University lecturer Gus knows that stealing the priceless Beninese mask, The Dancing Face, from an exhibition at the heart of the British establishment will gain an avalanche of attention. Which is exactly what he wants. But such a risky theft will also inevitably capture the attention of characters with more money, more power, and fewer moral

Naively entangling his loved ones in his increasingly dangerous pursuit of righteous reparation, is Gus prepared for what it will cost him?

In this sensational, original thriller, Phillips’ examines the powerful link between identity, sacrifice and possession, and questions our compulsive need to chase after ambitions that leave devastation in their wake.

“This book is brutal, deep, cunning and unbearably beautiful.” Independent

Mike Phillips was born in Guyana, but grew up in London. He worked for the BBC as a journalist and broadcaster on television programmes including The Late Show and Omnibus. He has written many critically acclaimed crime novels, including Blood Rights, which was adapted for BBC television, The Late Candidate, winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction, Point of Darkness, An Image to Die For, A Shadow of Myself and Kind of Union. He co-wrote Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multi-Racial Britain to accompany the BBC series, and an essay collection, London Crossings: A Biography of Black Britain (2001). Appointed the first Cross Cultural Curator for the Tate Galleries in 2005, Mike also wrote for the Guardian, and his public service includes trusteeships of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Most recently, he served as an independent adviser to Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams’ Windrush; Lessons Learned Review for the Home Office.
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British Council: Mike Phillips

 

Cover artwork by Jade Douglas @jadedouglas.design

The Fat Lady Sings by Jacqueline Roy

It is the 1990s, and Gloria is living in a London psychiatric ward. She is unapologetically loud, audacious and eternally on the brink of bursting into song. After several months of uninterrupted routine, she is joined by another young black woman – Merle – who is full of silences and fear.

Unable to confide in their doctors, they agree to journal their pasts. Whispered into tape recorders and scrawled ferociously at night, the remarkable stories of their lives are revealed.

In this tender, deeply moving depiction of mental health, Roy creates a striking portrait of two women finding strength in their shared vulnerability, as they navigate a system that fails to protect them. Life-affirming and fearlessly hopeful, this is an unforgettable story.

“A strong and humane work of fiction.” Jackie Kay

Jacqueline Roy is a dual-heritage author, born in London to a black Jamaican father and white British mother. After a love of art and stories was passed down to her by her family, she became increasingly aware of the absence of black figures in the books she devoured, and this fuelled her desire to write. In her teenage years she spent time in a psychiatric hospital, where she wrote as much as possible to retain a sense of identity. The Fat Lady Sings is inspired by this experience of institutionalisation and the treatment of black people with regards to mental illness. She rediscovered a love of learning in her thirties after undertaking a Bachelors degree in English, and a Masters in Postcolonial Literatures. She then became a lecturer in English, specialising in black literature and culture and creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, where she worked full-time for many years, and was a tutor on The Manchester Writing School’s MA programme.
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@Jacquel27815478

 

Cover artwork by Sumuyya Khader @sumuyya

Without Prejudice by Nicola Williams

Lee Mitchell is a thirty-year-old barrister from a working-class Caribbean background: in the cutthroat environment of the courtroom, everything is stacked against her. After she takes on the high-profile case of notorious millionaire playboy Clive Omartian – arrested along with his father and stepbrother for eye-wateringly exorbitant fraud – the line between her personal and professional life becomes dangerously blurred. Spiralling further into Clive’s trail of debauchery and corruption, she finds herself in alarmingly deep waters. Can she survive her case, let alone win it?

“Impressive… unique… in many ways as relevant today as it was over two decades ago. It is hard-wearing and long-lasting, a testament to the quality of the writing.” Bernardine Evaristo

Nicola Williams started her career as a barrister in private practice, specialising in Criminal Law, including three successful Commonwealth death penalty appeals before the House of Lords sitting as the Privy Council. She was a legal expert on BBC World for the OJ Simpson trial verdict in 1995 and a member of the first Independent Advisory Group to the Metropolitan Police Service (following recommendations arising from the Stephen Lawrence Report [1999]). She has been a part-time Crown Court Judge since 2010. A former winner of the Cosmopolitan magazine Woman of Achievement Award, she is an active volunteer for the Speakers for Schools programme, a charity which encourages young people from disadvantaged and under-represented communities to enter the professions. She is currently writing a follow-up to Without Prejudice.
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ruppinagency.com

 

Bernardine Evaristo is the author of eight books and numerous other works that span the genres of verse fiction, short fiction, poetry, essays, literary criticism, journalism and drama for radio and theatre. Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London, her writing and projects are based around her interest in the African diaspora. Her novel Girl, Woman, Other was joint winner the 2019 Booker Prize with Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, and in 2020 it won the British Book Award’s Author of the Year and Fiction Book of the Year, as well as the Indie Book Award for Fiction
bevaristo.com
@BernardineEvari

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