Word of Colour

Bernardine Evaristo selects her top 20 recently published Black Womxn Writers for International Women’s Day

Bernardine Evaristo, winner of the 2019 Booker Prize for Girl, Woman, Other, has curated a list of recent books by 20 “brilliant” Black British womxn writers for International Women’s Day in partnership with Words of Colour Productions, Waterstones and Bristol Libraries.

Inspired by the belief that community, not individual success, will create a more inclusive publishing landscape, Bernardine handpicked 20 recently published titles by black womxn. Featuring well known names, including Malorie Blackman, Candice Carty-Williams and Dorothy Koomson alongside rising stars, such as Theresa Lola, Irenosen Okojie and Alexandra Sheppard, the list covers novels, short stories, fiction for children and adults, poetry, prose and memoirs.

Bernardine Evaristo said: “Last year was particularly fruitful for writing by black womxn, with several debut authors of non-fiction in particular, which is why they are well-represented in this list. It’s a field that’s been arid up to this point, signalling an absence of our conversations from the intellectual culture. Each book explores its own individual cultural territory, whether that of the natural world, or a fictionalised memoir of a young actress, or a recalibration of feminism through an African prism. There still aren’t many of us writing novels or publishing poetry or children’s books, but the commercial and critical success of many of these titles makes me hopeful for the future.”

The curated list’s launch is part of a Bristol Literary Takeover, spearheaded by Words of Colour, to elevate the voices of Black British emerging and mid-career womxn writers outside of London, and includes a career development workshop, to be run by Evaristo on Tuesday 10 March 2020 at Bristol Old Vic.

Joy Francis, Founder, Words of Colour Productions, said: “We are excited to be launching the list in Bristol, our second home and where there is a dynamic creative community led by womxn of colour. The idea that Black womxn writers are a niche market with a limited readership couldn’t be further from the truth. Bernardine winning the Booker Prize, with the rights to Girl, Woman, Other being sold in 23 territories around the world, is a testament to that. The fact that books by Black British womxn are attracting a diverse international audience, and are inspiring more black book clubs and book bloggers of colour in the UK, is a wake up call to publishers and booksellers. Bernardine’s curated list is one to savour – and to build upon.”

The list, which will be displayed in Waterstones bookstores and libraries across Bristol, aims to celebrate the increasing number of black womxn being published while recognising that they are still under-represented in the wider literary landscape.

Edouard Gallais, Events Manager, Waterstones Bristol Galleries, said: “Bernardine’s list is made up of bestselling successes and new high-quality writing and we are excited to support the black womxn authors as part of this special curation. I’m particularly looking forward to engaging readers in discussions and debates around the selection. The more we keep the conversation going, the better, which is what bookshops are about: sharing passions, engaging readers and being a cultural hub in the community where ideas circulate.”

Katharine SeymourReader Development LibrarianBristol Central Library, said: “We are delighted to be able to share Bernardine’s specially curated list with Bristol Library users to celebrate International Women’s Month 2020. These are wonderful recommendations for a wide variety of ages and readers, and many of these titles are available and accessible for free through Bristol Libraries and the Bristol Libraries free e-book app Libby.”

Throughout March, booklovers will be encouraged to share their favourite titles from Bernardine Evaristo’s curated list on social media using the hashtag #WaterstonesBristolTakeover.