Our love affair with literature has been reinforced by the launch this year of the very first MA in Black British Writing.
Since its launch, academics, authors and playwrights have welcomed the course created and convened by Dr Deirdre Osborne and Professor Joan Anim-Addo.
Journalist Hannah Pool described the MA as a “landmark for black culture” and novelist Alex Wheatle MBE believed it added “to the fabric of British literature”.
Ahead of Valentine’s Day, we asked Dr Osbourne and the students on the course to choose the black British book they really love. As Dr Osborne says, “they represent love across many borders and the power of resilience, belief and nurture it inspires”.
Jackie Kay, Trumpet
A story which follows the death of jazz trumpeter Joss Moody. His passing exposes a secret— that Joss Moody is a trans man. The discovery is devastating for Moody’s adopted son Colman who speaks to the press and interacts with his mother grieving in a Scottish village.
Dr Osborne said that the students in the MA chose Trumpet as they considered it to be "most life-affirming and loving tale which has really impressed them as a representation of true love”.
Bernardine Evaristo, Mr Loverman
This story follows Barrington Jedidiah Walker, a 74-year-old man leading a double life. On one hand, he’s a husband, father and grandfather and on the other, he has a lover in his childhood friend, Morris. Jedidiah, born in Antigua, has a deeply religious wife named Carmel who believes he is sleeping with other women. Mr Loverman follows the story of what happens when their relationship breaks down. Students from the MA chose this novel because it is “a tale of the unexpected”.
Malorie Blackman, Noughts and Crosses
A tale charting the relationship and challenges shared by childhood friends Sephy and Callum, living in different social classes in their segregated society. Callum is a nought, a second-class “colourless’ citizen whereas Sephy is a Cross, one of the dark-skinned ruling class, and the daughter of the one of the most powerful men in the country. Noughts and Crosses follow how their social standings create obstacles in their lives.
Dr Osborne noted that students recommended Noughts and Crosses as a series because it represented “love sustained against all odds”.
Cush Jumbo, Josephine and I
A “one-woman monodrama” as Dr Osborne describes it, this is an homage to Josephine Baker. It intermingles the story of a modern day woman with Baker, an American-born dancer based in France, singer, actress and Civil Rights Activist noted for her refusal to perform for segregated audiences and for her assistance to the French Resistance during World War II.
Andrea Levy, Small Island
This story takes place in England in 1948 and covers Queenie Bligh’s struggle when her neighbours do not approve of her agreeing to take in Jamaican lodgers after the disappearance of her husband. Gilbert Joseph, a Jamaican man who joined the RAF to fight against Hitler, finds himself treated very differently after the war, which drives him to Queenie, a friend from the past. Gilbert is joined by his wife who finds London an experience very different from her dreams of a better life in England.