10 Books by Black Northern Writers
We are horrified by the acts of racism, injustice and intolerance that are the daily experience of many. New Writing North whole-heartedly supports the Black Lives Matter movement, and being anti-racist means we need to continuously learn and educate ourselves. In celebration of Juneteenth we wanted to highlight some of the recent books by Black writers living and working in the North of England.
Degna Stone is a poet and producer based in Tyne and Wear. She received a Northern Writers’ Award in 2015 and holds an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University. In her 2019 pamphlet Handling Stolen Goods, she draws on the lives of Black people of Caribbean heritage in the working class communities of the Midlands and North East of England and the cultural mix they create. The poems encompass both Siri and the trickster god Anansi, in his travels from West Africa via the Caribbean to Black working class communities in the Midlands and North East of England. The collection demonstrates not only how well she tells stories, but also her awareness of the difficulties of communication.
Danielle Jawando was born in Manchester. She has had several short plays performed in Manchester and London, and her short story ‘The Deerstalker’ was selected as one of the six finalists for the We Need Diverse Books short story competition. And The Stars Were Burning Brightly is her debut YA novel. When fifteen-year-old Nathan discovers that his older brother Al, has taken his own life, his whole world is torn apart. Convinced that his brother was in trouble, Nathan decides to retrace Al’s footsteps. As he does, he meets Megan, Al’s former classmate, who is as determined as Nathan to keep Al’s memory alive. Together they start seeking answers, but will either of them be able to handle the truth about Al’s death when they eventually discover what happened?
Ian Humphreys is an award-winning poet and writer. His work is widely published in journals including The Poetry Review, The Rialto and Magma. His debut poetry collection Zebra was published in 2019 and nominated for The Portico Prize for Literature. In Zebra the poems shimmer with music, wit and humour while exploring mixed identities, otherness, and coming-of-age as a gay man in 1980s Manchester. These acutely-observed, joyful poems pay homage to those who took the first steps – minority writers, LGBT civil rights activists, 70s queer night-clubbers and the poet’s own mixed-race parents. Ian was born in Bedfordshire, raised in Cheshire, and has lived in Hong Kong, Sydney, Manchester and London. He lives in West Yorkshire.
Jacob Ross was born in Grenada and now lives in Leeds. A fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he is the author of three acclaimed collections of short stories, A Way to Catch the Dust, Song for Simone, and Tell No-One About This – nominated by The 2018 Bocas Literary Festival as one of the three best works of Caribbean fiction published in 2017. His first novel, Pynter Bender, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Regional Prize, and his debut crime novel, The Bone Readers won the inaugural Jhalak Prize. The latest installment in his Michael ‘Digger’ Digson crime series, Black Rain Falling was published in March 2020.
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is a Ugandan novelist and short story writer and has a PhD from Lancaster University. Her first novel Kintu won the Kwani? Manuscript Project in 2013. Jennifer was awarded the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction 2018 to support her writing. She was awarded the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her story Manchester Happened, and her first full story collection, Manchester Happened, was published in 2019. Told with empathy, humour and compassion, these vibrant, kaleidoscopic stories re-imagine the journey of Ugandans who choose to make England their home. Weaving between Manchester and Kampala, this dazzling collection will captivate anyone who has ever wondered what it means to truly belong. Jennifer lives in Manchester and lectures in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Kayo Chingonyi was born in Zambia in 1987, and moved to the UK at the age of six. His first full-length collection, Kumukanda, won the Dylan Thomas Prize and a Somerset Maugham Award and was shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Prize. It was also shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre First Poetry Collection Prize, the Roehampton Poetry Prize and the Jhalak Prize. Translating as ‘initiation’, kumukanda is the name given to the rites a young boy from the Luvale tribe must pass through before he is considered a man. The poems explore this passage: between two worlds, ancestral and contemporary; between the living and the dead; between the gulf of who he is and how he is perceived. Kayo is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Durham University and lives in Leeds.
Lemn Sissay is a BAFTA-nominated, award-winning writer and broadcaster. He has authored collections of poetry and plays. His Landmark poems are visible in London, Manchester, Huddersfield and Addis Ababa. Sissay was awarded an MBE for services to literature and in 2019 he was awarded the PEN Pinter Prize. He is Chancellor of the University of Manchester. Lemn’s memoir My Name is Why reflects a childhood in care, self-expression and Britishness, and in doing so explores the institutional care system, race, family and the meaning of home. Written with all the lyricism and power you would expect from one of the nation’s best-loved poets, this moving, frank and timely memoir is the result of a life spent asking questions, and a celebration of the redemptive power of creativity.
Okechukwu Nzelu is a writer and teacher from Manchester. His work has been published in Agenda, PN Review, E-magazine and The Literateur and his essay ‘Troubles with God’ was published in the anthology Safe: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space. His debut novel, The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney has been shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2020. As Nnenna Maloney approaches womanhood she longs to connect with her Igbo-Nigerian culture. Her once close and tender relationship with her mother, Joanie, becomes strained as Nnenna begins to ask probing questions about her father, who Joanie refuses to discuss. Their lives are filled with a cast of characters asking similar questions about identity and belonging whilst grappling with the often hilarious encounters of everyday Manchester.
Sharna Jackson is an author and Artistic Director who specialises in developing and delivering socially-engaged digital initiatives for children and young people across culture, publishing and entertainment. Sharna has written five books, most recently High Rise Mystery. High Rise Mystery is the first in a middle-grade series. Summer in London is the hottest on record, and there’s been a murder in THE TRI: the high rise home to resident know-it-alls Nik and Norva. Armed with curiosity, home-turf knowledge and and unlimited time (until the end of the summer holidays) – who better to solve the case? Sharna is Southbank Centre’s Imagine A Story author for 2020. She was born and raised in Luton and currently lives in Sheffield.
Yvonne Battle-Felton was born in Pennsylvania and raised in New Jersey. She holds an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University and a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. She is a Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University. Her debut novel Remembered was longlisted for The Women’s Prize 2019. Set in 1910 Philadelphia, it follows Spring and her family. As her son Edward lays dying in the rundown, coloured section of a hospital, Spring has no choice but to tell him the story of how he came to be. With the help of her sister’s ghost, newspaper clippings and reconstructed memories, she must find a way to get through to him. To shatter the silences that governed her life, she will do everything she can to lead him home.