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Black History Month: 7 books by emerging black authors to put on your reading list

Use October as an opportunity to get stuck into some of the best books of 2022.

It’s been a brilliant year so far for major debut novels.

Whether thrillers, gritty coming-of-age tales or fluffy romcoms are your style, a whole host of up-and-coming black authors have you covered.

While Black History Month is a good excuse to broaden your reading list, black authors are writing brilliant books all year round…

1. Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley

At 20 years old, debut novelist Leila Mottley was the youngest person on this year’s Booker Prize longlist. Nightcrawling is a triumph – particularly considering Mottley started writing the harrowing tale at just 17. It’s not a book for the faint-hearted – but you will be richly rewarded if you pick it up.

Loosely based on a true story, Nightcrawling follows 17-year-old Kiara in Oakland, California – her dad is dead and her mother is in a halfway house, and unable to find a job, she feels like her only option is sex work. It’s a tough read, particularly when the young Kiara falls in with a brutal ring of police officers. It doesn’t paint an optimistic picture of life as a young person with no prospects – but in the darkness, there are heartwarming glimmers of life, both with Kiara’s best friend and through her nine-year-old neighbour Trevor.

(Bloomsbury Publishing, £16.99)

2. When We Were Birds by Ayanna Lloyd Banwo

This was one of the most hotly anticipated debuts of 2022, and for good reason. Ayanna Lloyd Banwo mixes real and fantasy in the setting of Trinidad, using local dialect to follow the stories of Darwin – a young Rastafari man working as a gravedigger – and Yejide, who has the power to talk to the dead.

Their tales soon become intertwined, with Banwo building a colourful and moving world around them.

(Hamish Hamilton, £14.99)

3. An Olive Grove In Ends by Moses McKenzie

This is a captivating coming-of-age story following the life of Sayon Hughes. Born into the infamous Hughes family of Bristol’s Clifton neighbourhood, he feels like the only way he can get out is by dealing drugs – and subsequently, he’s involved in an altercation where someone is killed.

Moses McKenzie deals with Sayon’s inner turmoil with tenderness and realism, highlighting just how difficult it is to escape your circumstances – no matter how hard you try. The book is full of wisdom, and McKenzie’s prose is simply beautiful.

(Wildfire, £16.99)

4. Wahala by Nikki May

Wahala is soon to be a major BBC series, so you might want to get your hands on a copy before it hits our screens.

It’s told from the perspectives of three mixed-race friends in their 30s living in London – Ronke, Simi and Boo – all wanting different things out of life, and wondering how they’ll get there. When Simi’s childhood friend Isobel walks into their lives, she seems to have all the answers – but things aren’t quite as they seem, and their close relationships start falling apart. It’s a tense, claustrophobic thriller you won’t want to put down.

(Doubleday, £14.99)

5. Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola

We’re cheating a bit with this one – Honey & Spice isn’t Bolu Bablola’s debut, as she released a book of short stories in 2020. However, it’s her first full-length work of fiction – and there’s a reason why it was picked for Reese Witherspoon’s book club.

It’s got all the hallmarks of a classic romcom – but with a 2022 update. Kiki Banjo has a radio show warning the women of her university about how to avoid players and stop getting their hearts broken – until a new man, Malakai, comes on the scene, and she forgets all of her own advice. While the content is largely light and bubbly, there’s heart to Babalola’s writing too, as she doesn’t shy away from serious topics like racism and revenge porn.

(Headline Review, £16.99)

6. Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn

Lizzie Damilola Blackburn almost certainly takes home the prize for best title this year, and luckily the book itself lives up to the hype. A lot of books are hailed as ‘the new Bridget Jones’, and while Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? does hit a lot of the same marks as Helen Fielding’s classic novel, it feels a lot fresher and more well-rounded.

British Nigerian Yinka isn’t just a single woman desperate to find a man – she’s witty, loveable and occasionally naive, and while her extended family seems desperate for her to couple up, is that all that awaits her in life? It’s a warm hug of a read, and one many will find relatable.

(Viking, £14.99)

7. Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

When Eleanor Bennett dies, she leaves an emotional recording for her estranged children, Byron and Benny. This tale crosses continents, from the Caribbean to the USA, as the children learn about the hardships their mother faced – but will it bring the siblings together?

It’s a sweeping story, with Wilkerson masterfully bringing together all the different threads, making social history the backbone of everything.

(Michael Joseph, £14.99)


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