Over the past few weeks, many campaigners, activists, and social media users have been sharing how people can show up for the Black Lives Matter movement, including here in the UK. One way is engaging with literature – both fiction and non-fiction – that explores Black British history and identity. If you're equipped with information, you are far more likely to be an effective anti-racist ally. However, it's also important to read works by Black creatives that aren't strictly "educational" but instead celebrate Black British life or simply tell a compelling tale. For example, there are countless Young Adult (YA) novels by Black British writers to sink your teeth into, and I've listed a handful below to get you started. Although not all of the novels featured in my list fit neatly into the YA category, they will certainly appeal to lovers of this genre.
When you think of YA fiction, it’s likely that one name immediately comes to mind. I spent hours pouring over Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses when I was growing up; she really was the queen of young adult writing, and her stories dealt with the complexities of race, power, and ill-fated love in a way that young readers could easily understand. With the latest instalment Cross Fire coming out in 2019 and the books being adapted into a huge BBC One series this year, the author is clearly still top of her game, and as popular as ever.
However, while Blackman's talent should absolutely be celebrated (and her books read and re-read as often as possible), it's worth noting that she is not the only Black British YA author to deserve a spot on your bookshelf. Authors such as Alex Wheatle (a multi-award-winning London-born writer with 14 books to his name) and Aminatta Forna OBE (whose books have been translated into 22 languages), as well as legendary novelist Andrea Levy and Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo are also pivotal players in the UK's YA literary canon. They, along with seven others, are featured below.