Laura Dern narrates 'Little Women' audiobook

6 BRITISH YA AUTHORS OF COLOR FOR YOUR TO-BE-READ LIST

6 BRITISH YA AUTHORS OF COLOR FOR YOUR TO-BE-READ LIST

 

Over the years – especially recent ones – there have been many necessary conversations about the importance of increased representation in the U.S. publishing industry. Readers deserve to see themselves in the stories told and to be able to identify with the authors writing those books. This also extends to the diversity of publishing industry professionals. Progress has been made, but more needs to be done. And this is an issue that’s not specific just to the U.S.

There’s also a lack of diversity and inclusion in publishing in the United Kingdom, Britain included. The Guardian reported on a survey in 2019 that showed publishers aren’t doing enough to “improve the racial and regional diversity of the publishing workforce.”

Keep in mind that there are contemporary authors from the region doing great work, and there are different ways to work towards increased representation. One way that readers can make a difference is by reading diversely – not only does this show the industry that minorities authors have reader support, you’ll get to enjoy a lot of good books that are worth reading.

Consider adding books by the following six British authors of color to your to-be-read list, if you haven’t already. I’m adding books to my list too.

MALORIE BLACKMAN

Writing since her late 20s, Malorie Blackman has written children’s books, for television, and for the stage, according to the British Council. Thus far, she has had 69 books published. In 2008, Blackman was appointed an OBE, and from 2013 to 2015 she was the Children’s Laureate. She has also received a variety of other awards for her writing.

The Noughts and Crosses YA series includes: Noughts & Crosses, Knife Edge, Checkmate, Double Cross, Crossfire, and Nought Forever. Noughts and Crosses was adapted for the screen by the BBC. In addition, Blackman has written more YA books like Chasing the Stars.

ALEX WHEATLE

So far, Alex Wheatle’s literary achievements include: being named an MBE; being shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal in 2016; and the YA Book Prize in 2018. Wheatle is also on the shortlist for the 2021 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature, per an official announcement.

Interested in reading some of Wheatle’s books? Look no further. Among his works is the Crongton series (Liccle Bit, Crongton Knights, Straight Outta Crongton, and Home Girl).

DEAN ATTA

Dean Atta has been “named as one of the most influential LGBT people in the UK by the Independent on Sunday and ‘one of poetry’s greatest modern voices’ by Gay Times”, per Hachette UK.

The Black Flamingo is a novel in verse that explores identity; the book was recognized as a Stonewall Award winner. For more from Atta, there is also his work, I Am Nobody’s Nigger. 

When asked if poetry can change the world, Atta said via Time Out, “I believe it can – whether it’s one person picking up a poetry book or a video that goes viral on YouTube. Poetry can be life changing.”

LONDON SHAH

If you like otherworldly stories, consider reading London Shah’s dystopian sci-fi writing. According to Shah’s website, “The Light at the Bottom of the World is her debut novel and the first in the Light the Abyss duology.” The story takes place in an underwater, future world.

The Light at the Bottom of the World was picked as a Junior Library Guild selection; a “Best Fiction for Young Adults 2020” book by the Young Adult Library Services Association; and other selections. It’s included among 10 of the Best Genre Blending Young Adult .

DANIELLE JAWANDO

Author Danielle Jawando has written for the stage and television, including for the show Coronation Street, a very popular soap opera in the United Kingdom.

And The Stars Were Burning Brightly is Jawando’s debut novel. The story explores the aftermath of a young man’s suicide and his younger brother’s journey to find answers. Her book was selected as one of 5 UK YA Books to Read in 2020.

MUHAMMAD KHAN

Not only does author Muhammad Khan write, he’s an engineer and teacher too. Books by Khan include I Am Thunder and Kick The Moon. According to Pan MacMillan, “I Am Thunder was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize, won the Branford Boase First Novel Award, the 2018 Great Reads Award and a number of regional awards.”

In 2018, Book Riot published an interview with Khan. In that article, the author mentioned that the characters in I Am Thunder are inspired by his students.

 

August is Women in Translation Month! Started by Meytal Radzinski, this initiative focuses on celebrating women authors whose work is in translation. According to Radzinski, approximately 30% of new translations into English are books by women writers. And speaking from personal experience, it’s even more difficult to find women in translation on audio. So if, like me, you’re always struggling to find audiobooks for Women in Translation Month, here are a few to get you started!

 

 

 

THE MEMORY POLICE BY YOKO OGAWA, TRANSLATED BY STEPHEN SNYDER, NARRATED BY TRACI KATO-KIRIYAMA

Set on an unnamed island, The Memory Police follows a novelist as she works on her latest manuscript. Every so often, something new disappears. Sometimes it’s perfume, birds, or emeralds. After something disappears, the community must destroy all traces of that object ever existing. The Memory Police continuously search the town for people who can somehow still remember the objects that have disappeared. So when the novelist learns that her beloved editor, R, can remember these lost items, she volunteers to hide him in her house. Traci Kato-Kiriyama brilliantly narrated The Memory Police, using her voice to enhance the creepy atmosphere of the closed off island.

 

 

 

NOTES OF A CROCODILE BY QIU MIAOJIN, TRANSLATED BY BONNIE HUIE, NARRATED BY JO MEI

Originally written in the mid ’90s, Notes of a Crocodile is a Taiwanese cult classic about queer young people living in late ’80s Taipai. The narrator shares her story as a sort of confessional, describing her writing process as the story progresses. We learn about her girlfriend, her other queer friends, and her experience feeling isolated and alone. The translation is so nimble, making me feel as if I was reading the book in its original language. The audiobook narrator, Jo Mei, captures the first-person narration with near perfection.

 

 

 

MY BRILLIANT FRIEND BY ELENA FERRANTE, TRANSLATED BY ANN GOLDSTEIN, NARRATED BY HILLARY HUBER

I adore a good book about intense female friendship, and wow does Elena Ferrante deliver. The first in her Neapolitan quartet, My Brilliant Friend follows Elena and Lila as they grow up in a poor, working-class neighborhood in post-WWII Naples. Their relationship is full of a cruel competitiveness that is only made worse when Lila’s family refuses to pay the fees for her to attend middle school. Ann Goldstein works as the translator for all of the novels in this series, giving the quartet a cohesive style and voice. Hillary Huber narrates the entire series as well, allowing listeners to invest in the series and its characters as performed by Huber.

 

 

 

BREASTS AND EGGS BY MIEKO KAWAKAMI, TRANSLATED BY SAM BETT AND DAVID BOYD, NARRATED BY EMILY WOO ZELLER AND JEENA YI

Let me introduce you to one of my favorite audiobooks in translation of late: Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami. Told in two parts, this novel centers around Natsu, a novelist living in modern day Tokyo, Japan. When her sister and her niece visit one summer, Natsu is overwhelmed by her sister’s obsession with getting breast implants. In part two, Natsu begins to realize that even though she has no desire to have sex with anyone, she still wants to be a mother. This novel analyses women’s place in Japanese culture, especially the stigma of single women who want to become mothers. Veteran narrator Emily Woo Zeller beautifully performs this story, immediately drawing us in to her rendition of Natsu’s narrative voice.

 

 

 

THE ENLIGHTENMENT OF THE GREENGAGE TREE BY SHOKOOFEH AZAR, TRANSLATED BY ANONYMOUS, NARRATED BY PRIYA AYYAR

Set in Iran during and after the Iranian Revolution, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree follows a single family as they move to the country after their home is destroyed. In the country, they discover a different world than the one they left behind in the city. Using elements of magical realism and Iranian folklore, Azar tells a story of familial bonds and the importance of individual freedoms and expression—and that’s just scratching the surface. One of my all-time favorite narrators, Priya Ayyar, performs this novel with such emotion and vocal skill. I just can’t recommend this book enough!

 

 

 

THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG BY MURIEL BARBERY, TRANSLATED BY ALISON ANDERSON, NARRATED BY BARBARA ROSENBLAT AND CASSANDRA MORRIS

I love a precocious child narrator and my goodness, Muriel Barbery delivers. In the center of Paris, self-proclaimed child genius Paloma decides that life is so pedestrian that she’s going to kill herself. But when she becomes friends with the building’s concierge, Renée, she begins to think more deeply about her plans. Full of philosophy and slow, introspective narration, this book had me fascinated with its characters within the first few pages. The two narrators each narrate one of the two perspectives in the novel, giving both Paloma and Renée such unique voices.