The most exciting book coming out next year, for me anyway, is The Good Immigrant, a collection of essays I’m editing featuring 20 rising star writers of colour essaying about race and immigration in Britain today. We had loads of press around it and I was glad to push through the names of extraordinary writers who should be on everyone’s ‘up-and-coming’ list, as well as a few more established ones. That, plus my recent forays into activism for increased diversity in publishing and #diversedecember made me wonder – which writers of colour am I most excited about next year. I asked a bunch of publishers to tell me who they were most excited about. Interestingly, out of the 50 or so names of writers I got from publishers, a very low amount were homegrown talent. I’m hoping 2016 sees more British BAME writers come through. In the meantime, here are the 12 writers of colour I’m most excited to read next year, based on what their books are about. Obviously, like all lists, this is subjective, based on my tastes, not exhaustive and if you feel like I’m missing people, tell me who else I should be excited about in the comments (imagine all lists had this disclaimer – we’d have a lot less to argue about online, I guess…)
She was one of the names all over my timeline this year, for her book The Vegetarian. The follow-up, Human Acts, due in January 2016 on Portobello, sounds like a vicious piece of literature. In 1980, in the wake of a viciously suppressed student uprising, a boy searches for his friend’s corpse, a consciousness searches for its abandoned body, and a brutalised country searches for a voice. In a sequence of interconnected chapters the victims and the bereaved encounter censorship, denial, forgiveness and the echoing agony of the original trauma.
Debut historical crime fiction set during the colonial times, I’m hoping this book will remind us what buttheads the British Raj was. The son of Indian immigrants, Abir Mukherjee grew up in the west of Scotland. A graduate of the LSE, he reluctantly works in finance and won the Telegraph Harvill Secker Crime Writing competition 2014. A Rising Man (May 2016, Harvill Secker) is Abir’s first novel and was inspired by his family’s roots in Calcutta. Captain Sam Wyndham, former Scotland Yard detective, is a new arrival to Calcutta. Wyndham is caught up in a murder investigation that will take him into the dark underbelly of the British Raj.
Catherine has been writing books for children and teenagers for years, and is a huge champion of diverse writing. Her last book, The Curious Tale Of Princess Caraboo (out now, Corgi) sounds top. It’s inspired by the true story of Mary Willcox a cobbler’s daughter from Devon who became a cause celebre in Georgian England. Out of the blue arrives an exotic young woman from a foreign land. Fearless and strong ‘Princess’ Caraboo rises above the suspicions of the wealthy family who take her in. But who is the real Caraboo? In a world where it seems everyone is playing a role, could she be an ordinary girl with a tragic past? Is she a confidence trickster? Or is she the princess everyone wants her to be? Whoever she is, she will steal your heart…
Kit De Waal
Kit has won the Bridport Prize three times in a row. Wow. Her book, My Name Is Leon is out from Viking next year, and when I put a call out for books, so many people told me this is a certified banger. Evoking a Britain of the early eighties, My Name is Leon is a story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to give Jake to strangers – since Jake is white and Leon is not.
Sareeta was born in Camberwell, South East London, but spent her formative years in Bahrain, when her family moved there for her father’s job. She currently works as a senior editor at a creative book packager. The Nearness Of You (coming in May 2016 on Piatkus) sounds like a bubbling contemporary slice of London life. Taylor Jenkins seems to spend her life wanting. A year out of university, she’s in a serious life-slump. Taylor’s life is thrown into a tailspin when she discovers the body of a suicide victim on the bank of the river Thames. In the wake of this discovery, she’s forced to confront the other gaping absence in her life. Her mother took the same route out when Taylor was only sixteen, and she’s never really dealt with the affect it had on her.
One of the Granta Best Of Young British Novelists 2013 class, Tahmima’s last novel The Good Muslim was a brilliant and heartbreaking piece of work. I’m excited she’s back. The Bones Of Grace (Canongate, May 2016) is the story of Zubaida, and her search for herself. It is a story she tells for Elijah, the love of her life. It tells the story of Anwar, the link in Zubaida’s broken chain. Woven within these tales are the stories of a whale and a ship; a piano and a lost boy. She’s been shortlisted for the DSC, and for the Sunday Times, and she’s just great. Okay?
Maxine Beneba Clarke
Maxine’s award-winning collection of short stories, Foreign Soil, is coming to Corsair in April 2016. In this collection of award-winning stories, Melbourne writer Maxine Beneba Clarke has given a voice to the disenfranchised, the lost, the downtrodden and the mistreated. We meet a desperate asylum seeker who is pacing the hallways of Sydney’s notorious Villawood detention centre, a seven-year-old Sudanese boy who has found solace in a patchwork bike, an enraged black militant who is on the warpath through the rebel squats of 1960s Brixton, a Mississippi housewife who decides to make the ultimate sacrifice to save her son from small-town ignorance, a young woman who leaves rural Jamaica in search of her destiny, and a Sydney schoolgirl who loses her way. Foreign Soil was also shortlisted for the Stella Prize for Australian Women’s Writing (2015).
One of life’s very best essayists and general amazing people, Roxane is back. A collection of essays about the obesity epidemic and what it’s like to live with the burden of extra weight in a culture that seems to openly disdain anyone who isn’t a Size Zero. Roxane Gay is the author of Bad Feminist, An Untamed State and the story collection Ayiti. Her work has also appeared in Glamour, Best American Short Stories, and the New York Times Book Review. The book is out from Corsair in June 2016.
1999, Victor, homeless after a family tragedy, finds himself pounding the streets of Seattle with little meaning or purpose. He is the estranged son of the police chief of the city, and today his father is in charge of one of the largest protests in the history of Western democracy. But in a matter of hours reality will become a nightmare. Hordes of protesters – from all sections of society – will test the patience of the city’s police force, and lives will be altered forever: two armed police officers will struggle to keep calm amid the threat of violence; a protester with a murderous past will make an unforgivable mistake; and a delegate from Sri Lanka will do whatever it takes to make it through the crowd to a meeting – a meeting that could dramatically change the fate of his country. In amongst the fray, Victor and his father are heading for a collision too. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist (Abacus, February 2016), set during the World Trade Organization protests, is a deeply charged novel showcasing a distinct and exciting new literary voice.
When Mallika loses her longed-for daughter at birth, it is not the only loss in the family: the surviving twin – a boy – loses the love of his mother. He grows up needing to be the daughter his mother wants, the son his scientist father accepts, and more, with the guilt of being the one who survived. In a recently independent India, haunted by its colonial past and striving to find its identity, he struggles to find his own self. Sarayu Srivatsa has created a moving family portrait, richly-coloured by the vibrant culture and landscape of India, where history, religion and gender collide in a family scarred by the past and struggling with the present. Sarayu Srivatsa lives in Mumbai.
Anjali is one of my favourite authors and a really awesome person and so, a new book from her is an exciting prospect. The Living is due from Fourth Estate in March 2016. This is the story of two lives. Claire is a young single mother working in one of England’s last surviving shoe factories, her adult life formed by a teenage relationship. Is she ready to move on from memory and the routine of her days? Arun, an older man in a western Indian town, makes hand-sewn chappals at home. A recovered alcoholic, now a grandfather, he negotiates the newfound indignities of old age while returning in thought to the extramarital affair he had years earlier. These lives are woven through with the ongoing discipline of work and the responsibility and tedium of family life. Lives laced with the joys of old friendship, the pleasure of sex, and the redemptive kindness of one’s own children. This is the story of the living.
Karan Mahajan was born in 1984 and grew up in New Delhi, India. His first novel, Family Planning, was a finalist for the Dylan Thomas Prize. Association Of Small Bombs (July 2016, Chatto And Windus) is about the effects of terrorism on victims and perpetrators. On the day the Khurana boys and their friend Mansoor go to pick up their family television set from the repair shop in Lajpag Nagar, disaster strikes without warning. A bomb – one of the many ‘small’ bombs that go off seemingly unheralded across the world – detonates in the Delhi marketplace killing the boys, to the utter devastation of their parents. Mansoor survives with only an injured wrist, but the scars of the blast go deep and nothing is ever quite the same after that day.
Special mention to Jacaranda Books, Peepal Tree Press and Influx Press who do sterling work promoting writers of colour. Check out their lists. Peepal Tree have an excellent anthology of short stories from BAME writers, called Closure. Influx Press’s Unreliable London anthology celebrates the diversity of London in its content and contributors alike. And Jacaranda have an incredible roster of authors, including Irenosen Okojie, whose book Butterfly Fish melted me so much last year.
I’m excited about next year.
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Nikesh Shukla is a writer of fiction and television. His debut novel Coconut Unlimited was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2010 and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2011. Metro described it as ‘…a riot of cringeworthy moments made real by Shukla’s beautifully observed characters and talent for teen banter.’ In 2011, Nikesh co-wrote a non-fiction essay about the riots with Kieran Yates called Generation Vexed: What the Riots Don’t Tell Us About Our Nation’s Youth. His Channel 4 Comedy Lab Kabadasses aired on E4 and Channel 4 in 2011 and starred Shazad Latif, Jack Doolan and Josie Long. He likes Spider-Man comics. A lot. Tweet him about that @nikeshshukla
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