Of the thousands of books published in the UK in 2016, fewer than 100 were written by authors who aren't white, research suggests. A fresh generation of writers, however, are refusing to let their stories be sidelined.
Illustration credit: Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed
It appears to be a good moment for black British writing.
That's perhaps a curious statement to make in the face of research that paints a bleak picture of diversity within the publishing industry, but with a wave of books from young black women due to be released over the next few years, there is something to be cheerful about.
Fed up of not seeing their lives reflected in print, a new generation of female writers are knocking at the door of publishing houses determined to change that. And if that doesn't work, they're prepared to go it alone.
Friends Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene, from London, are the duo behind Slay in Your Lane, a book they describe as a “black girl bible”.
The book, they tell BuzzFeed News, was born out of frustration. Uviebinene, a 24-year-old marketing manager, recalls how she phoned up her longtime friend Adegoke and had a heartfelt conversation about how the challenges of being a black young woman living in Britain were getting her down. “There were things I was going through that I wasn’t sure how to navigate,” she says.
"I want us to be careful not to fetishise young black women’s voices – they’re not ‘a thing’ or ‘so hot right now’. They have always been important and always will be."
Adegoke, a multimedia journalist for Channel 4 News, suggested the pair put their heads together and write the inspirational, relatable book they wanted to read. “Black women have a lot of things to navigate such as work, health, representation, and education," she tells BuzzFeed News. "We need something so specific to our experiences."
Months later, after a bidding war between nine publishers, 4th Estate – a small publishing house owned by HarperCollins that also works with author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – won the rights.
Slay in Your Lane will document the stories of influential black women in the UK across different fields, including Ade Hassan, founder of Nubian Skin, a nude lingerie and hosiery line for women of colour, and Anne-Marie Imafidon, CEO of Stemettes, an organisation that helps young women get into STEM careers.
Through their accounts, the authors hope to elevate and encourage black girls and women. Adegoke says the book’s Black British focus is important. “We are black and British women and we want to focus on our own experiences and struggles, and that’s the biggest driving force for this book,” she says.