John Murray Press imprint Two Roads has signed a personal memoir by BAFTA and MOBO-award winning artist Akala which is also a political book about race and class.
Senior commissioning editor Kate Hewson pre-empted world rights to Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire from Adrian Sington at Kruger Cowne.
Taking stories from Akala’s life – from the first time he was stopped and searched as a child, to the day he realised his mum was white, to his first encounters with racist teachers – Natives "spins out to examine the social, cultural, historical and political factors that have got us to where we are", said the publisher. It will cover "everything" from the police, education and identity to politics, sexual objectification and the far right, and will "speak directly to British denial and squeamishness when it comes to confronting issues of race and class that are at the heart of the legacy of Britain’s racialised empire".
Hewson praised Akala's "rare talent", saying she was "blown away not just by how complex, wide-ranging and compelling his arguments were, but also by how incredibly accessible and personal his voice was", when she first heard him speak. She said: "It’s a rare talent to be able to communicate complex ideas so clearly and so passionately, and we’re extremely excited to be publishing this powerful book."
Akala, a multi-platform artist, said he was looking forward to telling his story in a book as it offers "a certain clarity and conviction". He also added that he hopes to add some understanding to the subjects of race and class.
"In Natives I will use personal stories and experiences as well as a wealth of historical data to explore how race and the much older inequalities of class shaped my childhood life and subsequent worldview in a hope to add at least an iota of understanding to these two massive socio-political forces", said Akala. "I am sure a great many readers will have had similar experiences to mine. Whilst I love speaking, organising and performing there is something more permanent about writing… it offers a certain clarity and conviction. This is still just the beginning of my journey as a writer and I am grateful to share some of my story..."
A BAFTA and MOBO-award winning artist, social entrepreneur and co-founder of The Hip-hop Shakespeare Company, Akala has spoken and written about politics and race on Newsnight, This Week, Frankie Boyle’s Political Autopsy and in the Guardian, as well as in the online videos of his many lectures on the Facebook Live, TEDx and Oxford Union platforms.