Finding Freedom in Fallibility with Raven Leilani’s Luster

A desire expressed many a time by me and other Black women is the desire to be seen and heard, to be afforded the space to stumble, learn and grow. Everyone expects us to fail, and to succeed is to be the exception. The space between renders us unremarkable. While our struggle for perfection isn’t going anywhere, Raven Leilani’s sharp and sparkling Luster presents us with a devastatingly human Black female protagonist: Edie, a twenty-three-year-old artist struggling to make ends meet. It’s in this novel that we are given the freedom to fall short of expectations, given permission to just be in our Blackness. Embrace fallibility as it gives you stories to tell, and those stories are your proof that you were here.

How Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s great Ugandan novel shows us other ways of knowing

In Kintu, an ancestral curse is responsible for the suffering that plagues a family over several centuries. It may surprise a few to know that Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi's debut, a now-established classic of African literature, was rejected by British publishers for being ‘too African’. Makumbi, and her lengthy 446-page novel which took a decade to write, eventually settled for the publishers at Kwani Trust. Where most African literature must harness Western critical acclaim before being celebrated back home, Kintu marks an important first in African literary history. But what makes Kintu truly remarkable is how openly it demands that we permanently change our definitions of reason, rationality, and knowledge.

How Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah’s The Sex Lives of African Women will set you free

I started this brilliant book voraciously, stealing a few pages while waiting on the bus and a couple more when in line at the grocery store. I finished it hesitantly, unwilling to let go of the dear companionship it provided for a few days and return to solo living. The Sex Lives of African Women is a safe space: it is pure, unadulterated freedom, somehow magically distilled and transformed into a 304-page book.

The story of Bernardine Evaristo’s astronomical success

After 40 years of writing, Bernardine Evaristo’s 8th novel -- Girl, Woman, Other -- proved to be her golden ticket to renown and success. A writer's writer has become a mainstream writer. But Evaristo’s career trajectory also evidences how white preferences still steer the publishing industry. Evaristo’s long-term publisher Hamish Hamilton admits that Girl, Woman, Other came at just “the right time”, which begs the question: the right time for who?

The publishing industry cannot continue to hide its anti-Blackness behind #BlackBestSeller

Instead of wondering when and what Colson Whitehead’s latest will be, readers should be asking how these Black-authored titles would be different if they were also Black-edited, Black-designed, and Black-publicised. Fighting publishing’s anti-Blackness is not scouring Amazon for a stray copy of bell hooks: it is demanding to know exactly how pushing Black-authored titles through a largely -- if not entirely -- white middle-class industry underserves its products and, ultimately, its own readers.

All I want for Christmas is the death of lazy, “diversity” language

All too often we scroll across well-meaning publishing people using POC when they mean Black, racism when they mean anti-Blackness. As the vengeful child of that late twentieth century’s identifier “political blackness” and the climate of strategic essentialism its legacy left behind, the publishing industry's current approach to diversity is—by its very nature—rooted in generality and therefore cultural ignorance.