Half way through 2016’s Black History Month the first Cambridge Companion to British Black and Asian Literature (1945-2010) is published, edited by Goldsmiths, University of London's Dr Deirdre Osborne.
While a number of existing anthologies cover black and Asian literature, there is no other volume comparatively addressing fiction, poetry, plays and performance by British contemporary black authors, providing critical accounts of qualities and impact in one book.
The Cambridge Companion to British Black and Asian Literature (1945-2010) charts distinctive black and Asian voices within the body of British writing and examines the creative and cultural impact that African, Caribbean and South Asian writers have had on British literature.
The book offers historical context and new critical perspectives on key literary themes – race, politics, gender and sexuality among them - as multiculturalism and cultural identities have evolved.
Dr Osborne is co-convener the MA Black British Writing at Goldsmiths, the first and only course in the world to focus solely on black UK poets, novelists and dramatists.
She has played a leading role in bringing prominent black British figures to Goldsmiths, among them Dr Nawal el Saadawi in 2010 and 2015 and Malorie Blackman OBE for the 2008 conference ‘On Whose Terms?’. The former Children’s Laureate became a Goldsmiths Honorary Fellow in 2011.
In Dr Osborne’s introduction to the Cambridge Companion, she emphasises the magnitude of post-war black and Asian migration to the UK on British culture, with first-generation settlers’ energies at the helm of rebuilding war-damaged Britain into a multicultural society.
“While emigre writers of the period were concerned with cultural self-maintenance as a strategy against racist hostility, they also turned their gaze unsparingly on British society through their literature,” Dr Osborne explains.
The range of chapters in her book recognise how, for over sixty years, British black and Asian writers have claimed their cultural citizenship in the face of social and cultural disregard, and transformed the English language itself.
Chapter contributions include British Black and Asian LGBTQ writing by Kanika Batra, (1940s-70s) by Susheila Nasta, and John McLeod's Adoption Aesthetics.
The Cambridge Companion will serve as a key resource for scholars, graduates, teachers and students alike.
Dr Osborne comments: “In an educational climate where many students are rightly asking ‘why is my curriculum white?’ and ‘why isn’t my professor black?, young people make it clear that their generation expect the automatic inclusion of perspectives, that often disturb the familiar white British cultural canon."
The Cambridge Companion to British Black and Asian Literature (1945–2010) is available priced at £17.99 (paperback).