September 23, 2022

Twelve handpicked books across genres by writers of color in Britain

Consumed: A Sister’s StoryArifa Akbar

When Arifa Akbar’s sister fell seriously ill, she assumed the family would be back home after a brief stay in hospital. But that was not the case. Just a day before Akbar’s sister dies, the family discovers that their beloved daughter is suffering from tuberculosis. Years later, the author travels the world to follow the journey of tuberculosis, from the deathbed of Keats and the tuberculosis women of the opera to the resurgence of the disease in Britain today. consumes is a story of brotherhood, heartbreak and the strange mythologies surrounding tuberculosis.

someone loves youMona Archi

Mona Arshi’s debut novel is a coming-of-age story of an Anglo-Indian schoolgirl, Ruby. Sickly from early childhood, Ruby struggles with her mother’s mental illness, her reluctant father, and the array of parents rushing to play guardian. One day, Ruby simply stops talking and remains silent for years. She becomes a person in whom people confide, allowing her to imagine life as she wishes. Ruby finds an ally in her sister Rania, who, unlike her, talks a mile an hour. someone loves you explores trauma in its many forms – from grief and racism to sexual assault and occasional misogyny.

Gay Bar: why we went outJeremy Atherton Lin

gay bar is a sparkling story of gay bars in London, San Francisco and Los Angeles after the post-AIDS crisis from the 1990s to the present day. From the Los Angeles Black Cat Riots to Gay Liberation Front contacts, gay bars have also witnessed some of the most important moments in queer history. It is also the story of the author’s own experiences as a gay man. gay bar is a celebration of this important institution and a tribute to all those who have made gay bars what they are.

Like a tree, walkingVahni Capildeo

Vahni Capildeo creates a world for birds straddling the human and the natural. Birds are still part of our civilization, they – and other creatures of nature – have their own agenda. The poems remind us of how the environment serves us without our recognition or awareness. This juxtaposition of the ecological and the political is the central strength of Capildeo’s project. Like a tree, walking – a delightful analysis of how humans and nature co-exist and should co-exist.

keep the houseTice Cin

keep the house is an animated story of the London underworld, tracing the lives of children growing up in the drug trade and the adults around them. The reader is presented with vignettes as fragmented as the lives of the characters – families from Turkey and Cyprus to London, and children who are the product of neglectful fathers raised by neighbors and their community. keep the house not just a story of broken families and drug trafficking, but also a critique of the racial stereotypes, poverty and violence that are synonymous with such illicit enterprises – giving rise to devastating and timeless cultures.

A blood diseaseKayo Chingonyi

Kayo Chingonyi’s second collection of poetry follows the course of a ‘blood condition’ – from the banks of the Zambezi River to London and Leeds. The poems meditate on how distance and time, nations and history can collapse into a body. A blood disease is a tribute to grief and survival, to letting go and to the primal bonds built by blood and body.

The roles we playSabba Khan

Two-thirds of the Pakistani diaspora in Britain trace their origins to Mirpur – an area that has seen mass displacement after being submerged by the waters of a post-partition dam. As a second-generation immigrant to east London, Sabba Khan investigates Anglo-Asian identities in the context of history, race and gender. His early graphic memoirs present artful observations of identity, belonging, and memory through elegant illustrations.

HonorificsCynthia Miller

In her debut collection of poetry, Cynthia Miller invokes imagery of jellyfish flowers, glitch art, Greek mythology and spaceships to comment on family, Malay-Chinese cultural identity and immigration. The poems attempt to understand our attachment to material possessions and how they make us feel belonging and loved. Poet to Watch, Cynthia Miller Honorifics is as adventurous as it is innovative.

Things that I rememberedKei Miller

In this collection of essays, Kei Miller explores the silences that hold so many of our secrets. He wonders what it would mean to break those silences – the truths he would reveal, the institutions he could dismantle. Through letters to James Baldwin, encounters with Liam Neeson, Soca, Carnival, family secrets, love stories, and more, Miller imaginatively reconstructs everyday acts of racism and prejudice. Things that I remembered challenges us to ask ourselves why we keep the secrets we keep and our – and the world’s – responses to them.

the khanSaima Mir

Jia Khan is a successful lawyer. Her life in London is a far cry from the dirty northern streets she grew up on, where her father was in charge of the Pakistani community and headed the local organized crime syndicate. His ways were violent and bloody, but this ensured that everyone in the community was taken care of. But now his father, Akbar Khan, has been murdered and various troublemakers have arisen to take his place. Justice must be restored and Jia must return to take her place. the khan is a gripping novel about love, family, betrayal, corruption and being a woman in a power-hungry world.

Brown Baby: A Memoir of Race, Family and HomeNikesh Shukla

brown baby explores themes of sexism, feminism, parenthood and our changing ideas about home. The book is dedicated to the girls of Shukla – two mixed-race children in present-day Britain. The loss of the author’s mother is felt on every page as he struggles to come to terms with her absence from his life. brown baby is also an attempt to explain himself – who he is and what he stands for – to his mother through the choices he made in raising his own children. At its heart, it is a memoir about grief and the love that grew out of it.

Things we don’t tell the people we loveHuma Qureshi

A daughter asks her mother to shut up, only to shut her up for good; an exhausted wife walks away from her indifferent husband; on vacation, lovers no longer seem to understand each other. Things we don’t tell the people we love is a collection of stories about our most intimate relationships – the misunderstandings between families, the silences between friends and the dissonance between lovers. Set between the English countryside, southern France and Tuscany, and the electrifying cities of London and Lahore, Huma Qureshi shines a light on the parts of ourselves we prefer to keep hidden.