According to research by education charity Teach First, pupils are likely to complete their GSCE's and leave secondary school "without studying a novel or play by a non-white author," per the Guardian. Reviewing the syllabus of the English Literature curricula in particular, Teach First found that the books "taught in most schools are not representing the multitude of perspectives and backgrounds that make up [the UK's] most diverse population."
So, what would the UK's independent book shop owners, authors, distributors, and agents add to the syllabus? Below are nine recommended reads by BAME authors, and why they should be studied by GCSE students.
"I would say Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. It’s something I think a lot of people read at university in African Literature modules but it’s as damning an observation of humanity, pride and tradition as any Shakespeare play. It’s also rich in culture, and the erasure of other cultures that exist within the UK is one of the many reasons Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic citizens are othered both in school and wider society. Things Fall Apart is also a brilliant example of near-perfect writing and excellent storytelling."
"I'd put forward Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It's a story about navigating the multiple cultures that one is a part of – as an immigrant or first-generation person in the West — and how it can be quite the endeavour. Doing this while carrying your Blackness and still trying to maintain one's humanity in a westernised world is quite the journey, and Adichie portrays this brilliantly!"
"I chose The Lamplighter not only because it's poetry, which is an overlooked form when discussing Black literature, but unusually it focuses on four enslaved women's voices and their stories. It is immensely powerful, harrowing and impactful as Kay skilfully uses her mastery of pathos to evoke the sadness, horror and brutality of the slave trade through these women's eyes. So few women get their voices heard through history, let alone slave history and Jackie Kay's work reveals the ugly truth of Britain's slave past for them in a complex, compelling and compassionate way."
Discover more of BookLove's content on thisisbooklove.com.
"A classic forbidden love story made even more dangerous by the segregated society that its main characters live in. Malorie Blackman expertly inverts assumptions about ruling and under classes to create a thought-provoking look at racism and prejudice."
Discover more of Round Table Books' content on roundtablebooks.co.uk.
"This title focuses on how the tech sector is shaped by historical prejudices and inequalities — teaching us how to read technology through the lenses of history and experience. Instead of confining herself to the technical reasons that infrared soap dispensers don’t react to darker skin or that algorithms that use names to predict the ethnicity of job applicants exacerbate workplace discrimination, Benjamin reconfigures technologies as vessels of history. This book is essential to understand the emerging #NewJimCode."
"My recommendation is And The Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando, which is about one teenage boy's journey of coming to terms with his big brother's tragic suicide. This debut YA novel is better suited for older teens due to the themes of grief, mental health and bullying, and might be a difficult read for some. However, Jawando balances the darker moments with warmth, humour and compassion. It's also a rare example of a Black British Northern voice in YA – it's vital that young readers are exposed to a varied spectrum of Black voices in literature, so as to avoid being reduced to a single narrative."
"A clear, simple and necessary book that highlights the story of the Windrush generation. Kandace Chimbiri balances the narrative of excitement and expectation individuals experienced with the realities of the challenges they also faced."
"It’s about a Nigerian woman who after migrating to the UK overcomes a series of setbacks and difficulties in her quest to achieve an independent life for her and her children. I would recommend this book because it wonderfully illustrates the migrant’s experience in the UK ( told from the perspective of the migrant), while also depicting the unique struggles faced by many African women who have grown up in a patriarchal culture, and are living in defiance of gender conformity. The protagonist is a second class citizen both by virtue of being a migrant and a woman. There is a lot to unravel here from a literary perspective."
Discover more of Imagine Me Stories' content at imaginemestories.com.
"I would suggest Year of Impossible Goodbyes by Sook Nyul Choi. It's a historical fiction novel set in Pyongyang during the Japanese occupation of Korea. It's heart-rending, but beautifully told. It shines a light on a part of the world that's now very mysterious, and it's a reminder of the many families who were torn apart when Korea was divided."
Follow @Catkcho on Twitter.
"An accessible and touching story that highlights the struggles refugees face, without centring the ethnicity of its characters in a tokenistic way. Onjali Q. Rauf has written a powerful story that honestly shows the cruelty and bigotry refugees face, while still providing a positive and uplifting story for readers."
"The misconception that algorithms are impartial are debunked in this important and timely offering. Noble’s research confirms that data discrimination is a REAL social problem that privileges whiteness, and discriminates against people of colour — specifically women of colour. This book is essential for anyone hoping to understand our current information ecosystem."