Demand for anti-racist reading sends Reni Eddo-Lodge into the history books
It finally happened: a Black British author has topped the UK bestseller lists for the first time ever. Here's the lowdown.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know and (if you’ve read it) love Reni Eddo-Lodge’s non-fiction book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. Released in 2017, it’s now topping the book charts, galvanised by the BlackLivesMatter movement, and has ensured Reni goes down in the history books. Because, believe it or not, she has just become the first Black British author to take that coveted gold spot.
Reni remarked on the surprise on Instagram: “I’m the first Black Brit to reach number one on the overall UK book charts - meaning that WHY I'M was the most sold book in Britain last week. I'd read so many great books by Black British writers growing up that I'd always assumed that one of them had done it before me.”
Black British authors riding high in the bestselling charts
Earlier this month when she headed the paperback non-fiction charts as people vowed to improve on their antiracist reading, Reni had some strong words for UK publishing, which is under heavy criticism for its low Black author output. She said: “The fact that it's 2020 and I'm the first... is a horrible indictment of the publishing industry.”
Since 1998, only one other black author, former US first lady Michelle Obama, has scored the overall best-selling book in the UK, with her 2018 memoir Becoming. Other Black authors currently in the top 10 include Layla Saad for her polemic Me and White Supremacy, Booker winner Bernardine Evaristo, and hip-hop artist Akala for his memoir Natives.
Reni continued her Instagram post by thanking some of the brilliant Black authors for their influence - and we’re most certainly adding them to our bookshelves. “My work stands on the shoulders of so many Black British literary giants - Bernadine Evaristo, Benjamin Zephaniah, Zadie Smith, Andrea Levy, Stella Dadzie, Claudia Jones, Stuart Hall, Linton Kwesi Johnson, C L R James, Caryl Phillips, Jackie Kay, Helen Oyeyemi, Dorothy Koomson, Paul Gilroy, Colin Grant, Gary Younge - to name a few. I'm pouring one out to all of them tonight, to thank them for paving the way.”
More Black representation in books
To ensure the current climate of change is a lasting one, more than 100 authors have formed a new Black Writers Guild to call for sweeping changes and to boost the number of books by Black writers in the long run. Authors include many of the names Reni mentioned, as well as Malorie Blackman who wrote Noughts & Crosses, historian David Olusoga, Ordinary People’s Diana Evans and Don’t Touch My Hair’s Emma Dabiri.