Saturday, 22 November 2014

Black Book Swap 6: The Raffle Books

At recent Black Book Swap events we have been given books to raffle. I am especially delighted by the ones that we have been given for BlackBookSwap 6, which takes place on Saturday 29 November, and so I have decided to profile them here. For a chance to win one of these books join us next weekend - we shall be starting at midday sharp. We loved being in Brixton, but feedback has always been that we needed more space. Black Book Swap 6 is taking place in Camden's brand new library at Pancras Square (5 Pancras Squre N1C 4AG) This is an exciting opportunity for the BlackBookSwap team. 

You can check out the BBS6 programme in my previous blogpost here:  http://bit.ly/BBS6prog  And book tickets here: Book a place 

Africa39


In this wonderful selection of stories across all genres, 39 authors under 40, from south of the Sahara have been picked from 200 manuscripts that were put forward. The original selection was undertaken by Binyavanga Wainiana - founder of the Kwani Trust, and the judges  were Margaret Busby (UK/Ghana), Publisher, broadcaster and reviewer, editor of the anthology Daughters of Africa; Elechi Amadi (Nigeria) Author of plays, memoir and novels, including The Slave, Estrangement and The Woman of Calabar. and Osonye Tess Onwueme (Nigeria/USA) Playwright, poet and scholar.

Africa 39 was edited by the formidable Ellah Allfrey and it has an introduction by by Wole Soyinka. Phew! And I've not mentioned any of the authors yet. So here are some of them Chika Unigwe, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, former Black Book Swap contributors - Chibundu Onuzo and Nadifa Mohamed; Tope Folarin, Tayie Selasi; and of course Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who has signed copies of her books for the past two BBS events. And there are many more author's in Africa39 from all over the continent. 

I had this copy of Africa 39 book signed at the recent London launch party at South Bank Centre - it has been signed by Binyavanga, Nadifa, Stanley Kenani and Clifton Gauchauga. So in addition to Africa 39 being a treasure trove of some of the finest contemporary writing you can savour today, this one is particularly special because it's going to a lucky Black Book Swap supporter. 

Review of Africa39 from the Glasgow Herald:
A selection from novels, in a thick, bright yellow volme that promises much and consistently delivers. What unifies all these authors, other than talent, is their sheer diversity. There's a tremendous variety of outlooks, and a profusion of styles . Africa39 sports some fine writing and confronts preconceptions at every turn.

Thank you to the team from the HayFestival who gifted Black Book Swap 6 a copy of Africa39.

Six Stories and an Essay by Andrea Levy.


This books seems to have arrived with barely any fanfare. I came across it on my first visit to the new Foyles bookshop which is on the old St Martin's art college site in Charing Cross Road. It's been open a few months now, but I only got there at the end of October. The bookshop is fabulous and I am delighted that my first ever purchase there is an Andrea Levy book, as I have always admired her work. I am in awe of her drive to tell the stories and history of Jamaicans on both islands - here in the UK too - in a seamless way.  Don't you just adore that cover? It 's Andrea when she was a baby. 

Here's how Amazon has written about Six Stories and An Essay:

"None of my books is just about race," Levy has said. "They're about people and history." Her novels have triumphantly given voice to the people and stories that might have slipped through the cracks in history. From Jamaican slave society in the nineteenth century, through post-war immigration into Britain, to the children of migrants growing up in '60s London, her books are acclaimed for skilful storytelling and vivid characters. And her unique voice, unflinching but filled with humour, compassion and wisdom, has made her one of the most significant and exciting contemporary authors.

This collection opens with an essay about how writing has helped Andrea Levy to explore and understand her heritage. She explains the context of each piece within the chronology of her career and finishes with a new story, written to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. As with her novels, these stories are at once moving and honest, deft and humane, filled with insight, anger at injustice and her trademark lightness of touch.


Thank you to Headline, Andrea's publishers who gifted us a copy of Six Stories and An Essay. 

Peace and Conflict by Irene Sabatini



Irene Sabatini was one of the early author interviews that I did on this blog - read the interview here: Irene Sabatini She was such a generous supporter of this blog. Irene won the then Orange Prize for her debut novel The Boy Next Door, the story of a mixed-race relationship between two Zimbabweans, as their nation begins to lose it's certainities. Irene is now back with her second novel Peace and Conflict which was published earlier this month. Here's the summary from Amazon:

This is the story of a hero. Ten-year-old Robert knows many things. He knows all about his hometown, Geneva, with its statues and cannons and underground tunnels and the Longest Bench in the World. He knows about the Red Cross and all the places his dad has been on his missions. He knows that his mum is writing a book about vampires and how long his older brother spends practicing his 'swag' poses in front of the mirror. He knows all about animals, too, because his Auntie Delphia is a vet in Zimbabwe.

But still he has questions. Is his neighbour, Monsieur Renoir, really evil? Why did he leave a Victoria Cross medal on Robert's doorstep? And why has Auntie Delphia disappeared? In the 'Peace and Conflict' unit in school, Robert learned all about wars and heroes. But as the lives of his friends, foes and family unfold, he discovers what it really means to be a hero...

Thank you to Irene and Little Brown for gifting the signed copy of Peace and Conflict for Black Book Swap 6.

Foreign Gods Inc by Okey Ndibe


I've had the pleasure of meeting Okey Ndibe a couple of time's this year. Most recently at the memorial conference for Chinua Achebe at London University, where the focus was also on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Arrow of God. Okey gave a wonderful lively and heart felt talk about meeting Achebe - through his then girlfriend, who was related to Achebe, and how he went on to encourage both his journalism and writing career over the years. Okey's talk was the only talk that actually made you feel that Achebe spirit was in the room and I loved that.  


Foreign Gods Inc. was published last autumn - here are a few of the reviews: The Guardian: www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/28/nigeria-chinuaachebe (no idea why the Guardian's linked it as Chinua Achebe. Daily Mail New York Times

And Amazon's description of the Foreign Gods Inc: 'From a disciple of the late Chinua Achebe comes a masterful and universally acclaimed novel that is at once a taut, literary thriller and an indictment of greed’s power to subsume all things, including the sacred.'

Many thanks to Black Book Swap team member @culturescout who has given us a signed copy of Foreign Gods Inc to raffle at Black Book Swap 6. 


Monday, 17 November 2014

Black Book Swap 6: The Programme




Black Book Swap returns on Saturday 29 November. We are so excited... and here is the programme.

This is the 6th run of our popular literature festival that is focused upon hearing from both newly published and established authors. Black Book Swap is a chilled out event that enables everyone to hear what the authors have to say, chat to them about their work, and purchase their books. We are always so pleased when authors say yes to us. Do come and meet them on the 29th.

Uniquely Black Book Swap is the only event that lets you, the reader exchange the book that you have finished for one that has been 'pre-loved' by others. This circulation of a books - whether loved or hated is a good thing. You'll be able to pick up something new, or something that you always planned to read. So check your book shelves and remember to bring your 'swap' with with you on Saturday 29 November.

Book tickets here: Black Book Swap 6

New venue 
We are delighted to be in a new venue for Black Book Swap 6. Pancras Square Library is a brand new library at the fabulous Kings Cross development. The Library is across from St Pancras International Station. 

Programme
5 Pancras Square, London NIC 4AG

12.00 Amanda Wilson is the publisher of Letters to a Young Generation which is a collection of letters from eminent black men to encourage and inspire today’s young men. She will be taking about why she launched her publishing house with this book. Cleon Wilson is one of the letter writers, and he will explain why he wrote his letter.

12.25 Desiree Reynolds is a well-respected poet and journalist, who used to work on the Jamaica Gleaner. Her first book Seduce is set on the fictional island of Church and explores race and class and the relationship between men and women in the Caribbean.

12.40 Stephen Thompson has published 3 books – both non-fiction and fiction. He is also the publisher and editor of the online literary magazine Colverstone Review. He will be talking about his new crime fiction novel No More Heroes that will be published next spring by Jacaranda Publishing.

Lunch : 1.00 - 2.00

2.05 Jennifer Nansbuguga Makumbi is an award-winning Ugandan writer - she won the Commonwealth short story prize last year. She will talking about her debut novel Kintu - this bold and ambitious novel won the 2013 Kwani Manuscript Project, a new literary prize for unpublished fiction by African writers.

2.35 Panel discussion: Amanda Wilson of 9:10 Publishing and Valerie Brandes of Jacaranda Publishing will discuss how publishing works in this the digital age; what they think about self-publishing v ‘traditional’ publishing. They will share hints and tips about writing and what they think makes a good book.Come and tell us what books you'd like to see published.

3.05 Desert Island Books conversation with Dreda Say Mitchell
Dreda is the only Black British writer to have won the UK’s crime fiction award – she won it for best debut novel. In addition to telling us about the books that most inspire her, she will also be talking about her new book Vendetta, which is a race against time thriller that takes us into the world of the undercover cop, informers and double agents.

Close 4.15


The Black Book Swap team reserves the right to change the programme at any time.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Review in Ethiopian Airlines magazine





My review of Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole is in the current edition (May/June) of the Ethiopian Airlines magazine - Selamta,  read it here: www.selamtamagazine.com/stories/every-day-thief This review is based on the original Nigerian edition that was published by Cassava Republic in 2006. The wonderful cover above is of the UK edition published by Faber, while the cover that the US-based Selamta magazine used is from the American one. While sadly Nigeria is currently in the world news for all the wrong reasons, it remains high on my travel list of places in the world that I want to see. I originally wrote about Every Day is for the Thief back in 2012.


Monday, 21 April 2014

Wole Soyinka at 80



I am looking forward to seeing Wole Soyinka at the Royal African Society hosted event in May, that will celebrate his 80th birthday. (Full details and links to the event are at the end of this post.) I was lucky enough to see him speak a few years ago at a British Museum event and thought that the he was superb. While I have not read much of his work at this stage - he's on my ever increasing to be read (TBR) pile of books - certainly as a speaker I think that he is funny, thoughtful and inspirational. This is an event not to be missed! 
Professor Wole Soyinka, Nigerian playwright, poet and novelist, was the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986. In addition to his successful literary career, he is also well known for his political activism. Tomorrow (Tuesday 22 April) he will announce the 2014 shortlist for the Caine Prize for African Writing at Port Harcourt's Literary Festival. 
At his London 80th birthday event, Soyinka will be interviewed by the editor and critic Margaret Busby (read the interview I did with Margaret here)  to reflect on his wide ranging works. The conversation will explore the relationship between culture and politics and consider how literature and the arts speak to the contemporary African experience.
The Royal African Society event will also be the London launch of the Essays in Honour of Wole Soyinka at 80 which have been edited by Ivor Agyeman-Duah and Ogochukwu Promise. There will be a book signing following the launch.
Date: Thursday 8 May 2014, 6:30-8:30PM
Venue: British Library,  96 Euston Rd, London NW1 2DB
Tickets are: £10, (£8 Over 60s) and £6


Follow this British Library link to book a place: Wole Soyinka

Monday, 17 February 2014

Book Club: Sunday 23 February 2014



For February's Black Reading Group we shall be discussing Kerry Young's second book - Gloria. On this occasion we shall be at Waterstone's Trafalgar Square in the Costa Coffee Bar, as our usual Watersone's is undergoing refurbishment. The Trafalgar Square branch overlooks the square where at the corner of The Strand and Northumberland Square. Its not far from Charring Cross Station and Embankment tube station. Hope to see you on Sunday February 23 at 3pm. 

About the author

Kerry Young was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to a Chinese father and mother of mixed Chinese-African heritage. She came to England at the age of ten. Kerry’s background is in youth work where she worked both locally and nationally, and has also written extensively. She has Master’s degrees in organisation development and creative writing, and a PhD in youth work. Kerry Young is a Buddhist in the tradition of Vietnamese Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh. Her interests include Tai Chi, weight lifting and golf. She also loves jazz and plays alto and tenor saxophone. Read more about Kerry on her website

What's it about

Jamaica, 1938. Gloria Campbell is sixteen years old when a single violent act changes her life forever. She and her younger sister flee their hometown to forge a new life in Kingston. As all around them the city convulses with political change, Gloria’s desperation and striking beauty lead her to Sybil and Beryl, and a house of ill-repute where she meets Yang Pao, a Kingston racketeer whose destiny becomes irresistibly bound with her own.

Sybil kindles in Gloria a fire of social justice which will propel her to Cuba and a personal and political awakening that she must reconcile with the realities of her life, her love of Jamaica and a past that is never far behind her.

Set against the turbulent backdrop of a country on the cusp of a new era, Gloria is an enthralling and illuminating story of love and redemption.
What they say about it

Kerry Young is a stand alone talent in the new emerging generation of writers from the Caribbean region. Her stories are gritty and also funny and very real. Read her if you want to know about the Caribbean. Kerry Young is unique 
Monique Roffey, winner of the OCM BOCAS Prize for Caribbean Literature

Gloria is a brilliant, observant, sometimes complex read, but with clear and simple messages, it speaks to the feminist and equal rights campaigner in all of us. 
Western Mail

A very authentic portrayal of a woman's lot in 1950s, 1960s Jamaica. I fell in love with Gloria and was turning over the pages rapidly, willing her to conquer her situation. A triumph 
Alex Wheatle, author of Brenton Brown

A vivid portrayal ... Kerry Young's heartfelt, sparky and affecting debut novel is a chronicle of multicultural Jamaica, both in its cultural richness and in its strife and tensions 
Guardian

A pacy but absorbing saga of domestic struggle and gangland manoeuvring set against the violent backdrop of postwar Jamaican politics 
(Independent on Sunday)

Kerry Young tells the absorbing, uplifting story of a young woman's escape from the brutal poverty of rural Jamaica to a new life in the violent world of its capital, Kingston ... Written in the gentle, hypnotic patois and encompassing the birth pangs of Jamaican independence, this is a highly evocative portrait of a country in transition, and of one woman's search for self-awareness and self-respect 
Mail on Sunday

First impressions

When we read and discussed Pao, Kerry Young's first book, back in 2012, the one person that we wanted to know more about was Gloria. So here it is - Kerry Young's second book sets her story during 1950s & 1960s Jamaica - pre- and post-independence. I am determined to get into it, but so far I have struggled a bit. It's all my fault, I really need a good few hours just focused upon it. Instead I've been rushing about and doing other things, so I am not yet quite as absorbed by Gloria as I thought that I would be at this stage. I am not yet 100 pages in. I think also that I'd not realised I'd recall Pao so quite so vividly, so in these early pages of Gloria, I've found myself confused; it's has taken me a while to realise that the two books cover the same story - so I have been going back through the early pages to make sense of it. I imagine that this will continue until Gloria finds her own self and the story moves on. 

Nonetheless I am really looking forward to learning about this period of Jamaica's history. While my mother was in Jamaica during early part of the book, by the 1960s she was here in the UK. Jamaica was only discussed in a personal family kind of way. By the time I was reading about Jamaica by myself, mostly through our weekly delivery of The Jamaica Gleaner, this era was long gone.  

Of course our discussions will pick up on the connections and differences between the two books. I love the way that Kerry writes the Jamaican accent it bounces of the page. I am sure also that we shall analyse the role and impact of Jamaica in the region and beyond - . I hope also that we shall discuss Cuba and what might have been had their been stronger collaboration across the Caribbean. The role of women in the Caribbean will be very much on our minds - Gloria is such a character to be admired - so conscientiously taking care of her own. It's the nature of the business that is the challenge. Kerry's agent will be at this book club meeting and I hope that we shall also cover the role of the agent in the contemporary publishing.


   



Sunday, 9 February 2014

Book Reviews on TV

It is always such a pleasure to be invited inside other people's world's however briefly, to see how they make things happen. Last month through mutual friends I was invited to be the book reviewer/commentator on Rosemary Laryea's Culture Vulture's TV show and the filming took place last Wednesday. Culture Vulture's is a Sky channel show made by the TV company OHTV. - a UK based black TV company. It was a fascinating experience. Not long before this opportunity came up, I'd observed a Twitter conversation amongst book lovers remarking on the fact that there is no book review programme on any of the mainstream channels. Previously The Review Show that used to come on after  BBC2's Newsnight would have a monthly book review show, but now that The Review Show has been cut loose and appears randomly, I rarely catch it, and I've no idea whether they continue to do books. It seems to be me that the best book review programmes are on the radio. So I was delighted, if a bit anxious, to have a go at reviewing on  Culture Vultures. Fortunately I hit off from the first moment I met with my co-reviewer  Natialie Mcleod, who was doing the theatre reviews, and runs her own drama group. We chatted away as if we'd known one another for ages. The format of the show is that Natalie and I talked to the show's host about Rosemary, about two selections we'd made in the first half of the show. In the second half a keynote/celebrity guest came on and talked about their work. Three shows were filmed over the day, and the guests for each show were actor/director, Femi Oyeniran; singer songwriter Hil St Soul and the vocalist from the musical Thriller, Tyrone Lee. It was a a huge pleasure to meet them all and hear about their work and inspirations. These are the books that I selected, the first two will be on episode, 5, the second two on episode 6, and the final two on episode 7.  Series 4 of Culture Vultures will air throughout the spring months : Culture Vultures on OHTV






Every Day is for the Thief will be out in March.

Fifteen years is a long time to be away from home. It feels longer still because I left under a cloud.
 A young Nigerian living in New York City goes home to Lagos for a short visit, finding a city both familiar and strange. In a city dense with story, the unnamed narrator moves through a mosaic of life, hoping to find inspiration for his own. He witnesses the “yahoo yahoo” diligently perpetrating email frauds from an Internet cafĂ©, longs after a mysterious woman reading on a public bus who disembarks and disappears into a bookless crowd, and recalls the tragic fate of an eleven-year-old boy accused of stealing at a local market. Along the way, the man reconnects with old friends, a former girlfriend, and extended family, taps into the energies of Lagos life—creative, malevolent, ambiguous—and slowly begins to reconcile the profound changes that have taken place in his country and the truth about himself. In spare, precise prose that sees humanity everywhere, interwoven with original photos by the author, Every Day Is for the Thief—originally published in Nigeria in 2007—is a wholly original work of fiction. This revised and updated edition is the first version of this unique book to be made available outside Africa. You’ve never read a book like Every Day Is for the Thief because no one writes like Teju Cole.




The first ever biography of Eartha Kitt was published last August 

'The most exciting woman in the world' Orson Welles. 'A sadistic nymphomaniac' The CIA. 

Eartha Kitt was a skinny, mixed-race woman with an odd, angular face who was able to persuade fifties white America that she was the sexiest thing they'd ever seen. She could count Marilyn Monroe, T.S. Eliot, Prince Philip, James Dean and Albert Einstein amongst her friends and admirers. As comfortable in playing Catwoman as she was acting in avant garde theatre, as likely to be investigated by the CIA as to appear with Frankie Howerd, there had never been anyone like her in showbusiness before and hasn't been, sadly, since. 
In this panoramic account of Eartha Kitt and the convulsive era in which she lived, racism, music, and politics combine in an unforgettable portrait of an extraordinary woman.


Malika Booker's first poetry collection was published last year, by Peepal Tree Press. Read Bernadine Evaristo's review here 
.


A new edition of Tropic Death will be published later this year, and a biography of the Harlem Renaissance Caribbean writer, Eric Walrdond will be out in June. 

Eric Walrond (1898-1966), in his only book, injected a profound Caribbean sensibility into black literature. His work was closest to that of Jean Toomer and Zora Neale Hurston with its striking use of dialect and its insights into the daily lives of the people around him. Growing up in British Guiana, Barbados, and Panama, Walrond first published Tropic Death to great acclaim in 1926. This book of stories viscerally charts the days of men working stone quarries or building the Panama Canal, of women tending gardens and rearing needy children. Early on addressing issues of skin color and class, Walrond imbued his stories with a remarkable compassion for lives controlled by the whims of nature. Despite his early celebrity, he died in London in 1966 with minimal recognition given to his passing. Arnold Rampersad's elegant introduction reclaims this classic work and positions Walrond alongside the prominent writers of his age.


Helen Oyeyemi's 5th book will be out on 27 February

BOY Novak turns twenty and decides to try for a brand-new life. Flax Hill, Massachusetts, isn’t exactly a welcoming town, but it does have the virtue of being the last stop on the bus route she took from New York. Flax Hill is also the hometown of Arturo Whitman – craftsman, widower, and father of Snow.

SNOW is mild-mannered, radiant and deeply cherished – exactly the sort of little girl Boy never was, and Boy is utterly beguiled by her. If Snow displays a certain inscrutability at times, that’s simply a characteristic she shares with her father, harmless until Boy gives birth to Snow’s sister, Bird.

When BIRD is born Boy is forced to re-evaluate the image Arturo’s family have presented to her, and Boy, Snow and Bird are broken apart.

Sparkling with wit and vibrancy, Boy, Snow, Bird is a deeply moving novel about three women and the strange connection between them. It confirms Helen Oyeyemi’s place as one of the most original and dynamic literary voices of her generation.

Nnedi Okorafor's Lagoon will be out in April. 

Three strangers, each isolated by his or her own problems: Adaora, the marine biologist. Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa. Agu, the troubled soldier. Wandering Bar Beach in Lagos, Nigeria's legendary mega-city, they're more alone than they've ever been before.

But when something like a meteorite plunges into the ocean and a tidal wave overcomes them, these three people will find themselves bound together in ways never imagined. 

Together with Ayodele, a visitor from beyond the stars, they must race through Lagos and against time itself in order to save the city, the world... and themselves. 'There was no time to flee. No time to turn. No time to shriek. And there was no pain. It was like being thrown into the stars.'

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Book Club: Sunday 26 January 2014


The first book of  the Black Reading Group of 2014 will Bernardine Evaristo's Mr Loverman and I am absolutely delighted to be announcing that Bernardine will be us. A brilliant start to our literary year.  3pm - be there sharp, at Watersone's Piccadilly  (London) on Sunday 26 January.

What's it about

Barrington Jedidiah Walker is seventy-four and leads a double life. Born and bred in Antigua, he's lived in Hackney since the sixties. A flamboyant, wise-cracking local character with a dapper taste in retro suits and a fondness for quoting Shakespeare, Barrington is a husband, father and grandfather - but he is also secretly homosexual, lovers with his great childhood friend, Morris.

His deeply religious and disappointed wife, Carmel, thinks he sleeps with other women. When their marriage goes into meltdown, Barrington wants to divorce Carmel and live with Morris, but after a lifetime of fear and deception, will he manage to break away?

Mr Loverman is a ground-breaking exploration of Britain's older Caribbean community, which explodes cultural myths and fallacies and shows the extent of what can happen when people fear the consequences of being true to themselves.

What they say about it

Mr Loverman is hilarious, poignant, clever, controversial and courageous in equal measure. Loved, loved, loved it! (Dawn French)

A brave and important story... I enjoyed it enormously (Jonathan Kemp, author of London Triptych)

Bernardine Evaristo can take any story from any time and turn it into something vibrating with life (Ali Smith)

An undeniably bold and energetic writer, whose world view is anything but one-dimensional (Sunday Times)

This riproaring, full-bodied riff on sex, secrecy and family is Bernardine Evaristo's seventh book. If you don't yet know her work, you should - she says things about modern Britain that no one else does (Maggie Gee Guardian) Read the full review: here

Evaristo has a lot going on in this unusual urban romance, but beneath her careful study of race and sexuality is a beautiful love story. Not many writers could have two old men having sexual intercourse in a bedsit to a soundtrack of Shabba Ranks's Mr Loverman and save it from bad taste, much less make it sublime. But the hero of this book, and his canny creator, make everything taste just fine (Melissa Katsoulis, Daily Telegraph) Read the full review: here 
A pacey fable about summoning both the daring and the art to live a truthful life . . . her writing simply fizzes with musical energy (Express)  Read the full review: here
A brilliant study of great characters in modern London (Independent)

Funny, brave ... I loved Mr Loverman (Ian Thomson, Spectator)

Transforms our often narrow perceptions of gay men in England . . . Comical, agonising and, ultimately, moving (Independent)

About the author

Bernardine Evaristo’s seven books of fiction and verse-fiction are: Mr Loverman (Penguin, 2013), Hello Mum (Penguin 2010), Lara (Bloodaxe 2009), Blonde Roots (Penguin 2008), Soul Tourists (Penguin 2005), The Emperor’s Babe (Penguin 2001), Island of Abraham (Peepal Tree, 1994).
Her editorial credits include the Winter 2012 centenary issue of Poetry Review: the poetry anthology Ten: new black and Asian poets (Bloodaxe 2010); Wasafiri: Black Britain-Beyond Definition (Routledge 2010); and the British Council anthology NW15 (Granta 2007). She reviews books for the Guardian, Times, Independent and Financial Times and has written fiction and drama for BBC radio.
Her honours include an MBE in 2009 and several awards for her writing; 12 ‘Book of the Year’ honours in British newspapers; and she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of  Literature in 2004 and of the Royal Society of Arts in 2006. She has also chaired and judged several literary prizes and founded the Brunel University African Poetry Prize in 2011.
She has taught creative writing widely since 1994 including at the University of East Anglia (UEA) as Writing Fellow in 2002, and again from 2011 onwards for the UEA-Guardian Masterclasses partnership. Since 1997 she has undertaken over eighty international tours as a writer giving talks, readings, courses and workshops. These include visiting professorships/writer residencies at several US universities including Barnard College and Georgetown University, and in South Africa and Germany. She has also taught courses for the British Council in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

She initially trained in theatre at the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama and latterly earned her PhD in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Visit Bernardine's website here

First Impressions

Mr Loverman is easily one of the best releases of 2013. If you did not read it then, now is the moment. I had the pleasure of discussing Mr Loverman and Bernadine's work and inspiration at the the last Black Book Swap [4] back in November : photos here The thing that stood out for me is when she said: 'I don't write victims.' A wonderful mission that is completely achieved in a book that covers the ultimate in relationships…a romance, committed friendship and hard won partnership that lasts well over 50 years. A married life of that length would be happily celebrated. Yet in the relationship between Barrington and the love of his life Morris, most of that time is spent in fulfilling friendship, but hiding its true nature.


This book is a challenge to something that some people sincerely hold dear - the belief that such partnerships are not equal. Media coverage here in the west suggest that the black nations of the world are unwilling or unable to live and let live. All the while we know that even here in liberal London the freedom to be - to love who you want to love, is not open to all. If you are in a happy relationship - married or otherwise, surely it is hard to see why that equity of relationship should not be available to all who want it.

While there are no victims in Mr Loverman (in the end), not everyone behaves well through out the story. I am sure that in the book club discussion we shall cover truthfulness and honesty in relationships - and where the line is on that will be contentious. How you find the you that you want to be; how do we make the foundations and place for the next generation; how should parents be with the favoured and not so favoured child - will all be up for challenging discussion. Finally, in addition to the wonderful characters that Bernardine has created here, London features as quite a character, Hackney comes up in many books that we've read. It's trendy Stoke Newington in particular this time, [now that I no longer live in Shoreditch 'trendy' is not the irritating word that it used to be], features strongly here, but the West End and Soho too - all providing us with the opportunity to consider this changing and challenging city of ours.