Bernardine Evaristo is curating a new series of lost or hard-to-find books, now rediscovered, by black writers who wrote about black Britain and the diaspora across the last century. The writer said the ambition of the Black Britain: Writing Back series was to correct historic bias in British publishing, showcasing "important and diverse black British perspectives".
The series will launch under Hamish Hamiton with six novels–ranging from literary thrillers to historical fiction–with Evaristo contributing introductions to each. Every title will also be repackaged with "a fresh, bold look", featuring cover artwork by black British artists.
The first six titles in the series 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 (pictured). Respectively they were last published by The Women’s Press, Quartet Books, Secker & Warberg, Headline, Flamingo and Collins Crime.
Simon Prosser, publishing director of Hamish Hamilton, commissioned Evaristo to select and introduce the six books kicking off the new series. It launches on 4th February 2021, with Hannah Chukwu, editorial assistant at Hamish Hamilton, handling the editorial process.
The series will continue with a selection of non-fiction books in October 2021.
Evaristo said: "Our ambition is to correct historic bias in British publishing and bring a wealth of lost writing back into circulation. 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."
Prosser said: "A year ago, after Bernardine’s historic Booker win, we got together to talk about how we could harness the energy and excitement of that moment to make further change happen. Among the first things we discussed was the idea of a series to shine a spotlight on the rich tradition of black writing in Britain, much of which had been unjustly ignored, forgotten or lost by the mainstream. So many books and writers sprang immediately to mind — we immediately decided: let’s do it!
"Twelve months on, it is a special pleasure to be announcing the first six titles in the series we imagined — and the title of the series itself, Black Britain: Writing Back, which we hope will become a part of the new mainstream, putting great books and writing from the black British experience back on the shelves.
"Bernardine has brought all her trademark energy, wisdom and generosity to selecting and introducing the series. And at Hamish Hamilton, Hannah Chukwu has done a brilliant job in putting this first list together, managing the project editorially and being its ambassador both in-house and to the world. I can’t wait to see what the next six books in the series will be."
Chukwu said: "It has been an absolute joy working with Bernardine and these brilliant authors to bring these pioneering books into the limelight – the breadth of talent, vision and imagination is extraordinary – and I’m delighted that this is only the start for this series."
Jacqueline Roy, author of The Fat Lady Sings, said: "The series is a validation of my work and that of other black British writers and I hope it will lead to exciting opportunities for all of us who have struggled to be heard."