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

What is it? Novel, Novella or novelette?

29 10 2011

When is a novel not a novel? When it’s a novella

Julian Barnes won this year’s Booker prize with a book that was just 150 pages long. What should we call it?

One of the themes to emerge from the Booker Prize is the length at which a novel becomes a novel. Is Julian Barnes’s award-winner The Sense of an Ending a novel, or a novella? Might it even be a novelette? This issue caught the attention of our own Laura Barnett, who was hard-pressed to find a meaningful distinction. The fact that few people nowadays would describe Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as a novella, even though it has been regarded as such in the past, shows the extent to which the term has fallen into disrepute.

Another slant on the issue of length came last week in an archive piece on HG Wells at 70. “There is a time to write novels and a time not to,” said an uncharacteristically eeyorish Wells. “The novel is not one thing; it is many things. Every age has its own sort of novel. When we are young we delight to play with possibility. We write fantasies and vivid impressions. This is the time for short stories, quick short stories.”

Read full article @ The Guardian