In Germany, we celebrate “indiebookday” today – to make independent publishers more visible, to share the stories we enjoyed and, let’s face it, to distract ourselves from the crazy times we’re living in. I have to admit that I have no idea what’s going on in the German literary field right now. But as I have been living in the UK for almost one year and had the privilege to work on the British literary field (and how ‘authors of colour’ are treated by it), I was able to read lots of British books (before the child care system broke down).
My recommendation for today‘s indiebookday is the London-based indie OWN IT! (with the lovely motto “Because Stories Are Life”), passionately run by Crystal Mahey-Morgan (who is also an agent) and Jason Morgan. I am currently reading JJ Bola’s novel “No Place to Call Home”, which tells the story of a family who fled to the UK from the Congo. I haven’t come that far yet (because of the challenges to combine home office work and childcare for a toddler – oh, the joys of parenting in academia, but I’m not really complaining as this is actually a quite privileged position right now. I really feel for the freelancers all the others who face even worse uncertainty), but even after the first few pages I am already hooked and in love with characters and the language of the book: “Their conversations were always a song and a dance, a mix and match, a jumping up and down to a song moving side to side, on a record going round and round. It was cooking: a well prepared meal with spicy seasoning, an acquired taste though often not palatable for the average person.” (Yep, can confirm that not everyone ‘gets it’, including my old French teacher who dismissed my family’s Algerian and 1950s infused version of French as “gutter French”… Get a life…) Anyway, I’m looking forward to the rest of the book.
There were two more books published by OWN IT! that made great presents to some friends of mine: The 392 by Ashley Hickson-Lovence (a multivocal bus trip from Hoxton to Highbury) and Soccology by Kevin George (about the mental strengths and strategies of professional footballers). I’m pleased to share that they all enjoyed the books very much.
And last, but not least, three more shoutouts:
- As always, to 404ink in Edinburgh! I loved their Nasty Women collection, enjoyed Nadine Aisha Assat’s poetry collection Let Me Tell You This and struggled a bit with Chris McQueer’s short stories about the Scottish working-class in his collection Hings (I had to read some of the stuff out loud and I’m happy nobody nobody hear me
- To Peepal Tree Press in Leeds, who just resurfaced on my radar in this past year. They’re the “Home of the Best in Caribbean & Black British Writing“, indeed, and brought us poets like Malika Booker and the multitalented Jacob Ross (who won the first Jhalak Prize for his crime novel The Bone Readers), to name just two.
- And to Jacaranda Books: I came across them through Irenosen Okoje and her short story collection Speak Gigantula. I met the publisher’s team and some of their authors at an event in London, when they announced their “20 in 2020” programme: they committed to publish 20 ‘authors of colour’ in 2020 – because they wrote amazing books, but also to show the industry that it is possible to find these talented authors, if you want to.
I hope that at least some of these amazing books and publishers will make it across the Chanel!
Well then: Happy Indiebookday! Stay safe – and don’t forget to support your local dealer 😉
- OWN IT! www.ownit.london
- “The 392” by Ashley Hickson-Lovence ownit.london/shop/the-392-by-ashley-hickson-lovence-2
- JJ Bola, “No Place to Call Home”: ownit.london/no-place-to-call-home-jj-bola
- Kevin George, “Soccology“: ownit.london/shop/soccology-by-kevin-george
- 404ink: www.404ink.com
- Peepal Tree Press: www.peepaltreepress.com
- Jacaranda Books: www.jacarandabooksartmusic.co.uk