Black Issues, White Writers?

14 01 2012


Where are Britain’s black writers?

It seems our stories are truly acknowledged only when coming from the pen of white authors

It seems like a boom time for black literature and drama. Tiny Sunbirds Far Away, which focuses on the life of a young girl in Nigeria, is shortlisted for the Costa first novel award next month. Pigeon English, the story of a Ghanaian boy living in Peckham, made the Booker shortlist. And Channel 4′s Top Boy, depicting black gangster life in Hackney, east London, has just been commissioned for a second series. A reason to be cheerful in shiny, diverse, Britain surely?

Well, maybe not. These three works are all the creations of white authors. There is clearly no shortage of talented black writers – Courttia Newland, Malorie Blackman and Andrea Levy, to name a few – so why is it that, right now, the stories that receive the most mainstream recognition all seem to be the ones written by white people?

I would never tell an author only to “write what you know” – if everybody did this, there would be many fewer stories, and nowhere near as many interesting ones. It’s always good to think outside your own personal box, and if you do your research – Ronan Bennett said his research for Top Boy took years – and are thoughtful about it, you can tell a good story about any kind of person without making it into a train wreck, as these titles demonstrate.

Caption: Kwame Kwei-Armah, Bola Agbaje and Roy Williams

Read full article @ UK Black Writers Board

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