Describe your book.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race
is my first book. It’s a culmination of years of political thinking, writing, and activism. Its inception was a blog post I wrote a few years ago at a point of emotional exhaustion — I had been trying to have these conversations in white-dominated progressive circles, and it had felt like banging my head against a brick wall. My aim with the book is to completely reframe current conversations about race — to see whiteness as a political perspective and bias where we'd been told there was objectivity.
What was your favorite book as a child?
The first book that really grabbed me was Charlotte's Web
. I can barely remember the plot, but there was something exciting about talking animals.
When did you know you were a writer?
I've always written, it's just that now I can call it my livelihood. Whether in the form of diaries, Myspace bulletins, or blogs, it's always been how I process my thoughts. Professionally, I called myself a writer long before I was making a living from it. Every paid job I've had has come second to writing.
What does your writing workspace look like?
It's a spare room with a rickety desk that I inherited when I moved into the house that I'm renting. I think it belonged to the old tenants. There's a bookcase that's filled with roughly 60% books to be read and 40% well-loved reads. On my desk there's a slightly singed peace lily plant; an award I won back in 2015; and a lovely portrait of me that was a gift from an old friend at my book launch. There's also usually a scented candle in rotation and a pile of paperwork I need to see to.
Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.
My readers are smart and engaged; if I wasn’t such an introvert, I’d like to be friends all of them. There are a lot of responses to writing about race that I wasn't prepared for, and sometimes I wonder if I am seeing what a therapist sees. At my book events there is high chance of people entering the room with a lot of emotion. One woman burst into guilty tears at my first-ever book event. That really set the bar high. There have also been happy tears, as well as anger and conflict between people in the audience. When that happens, I try to facilitate the conversation carefully. Everyone enters the room with a different level of understanding. There's always a lot going on.
Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
I've spent most of this year shouting about Kei Miller's Augustown
. It came out in 2016 and it's my favorite recent fiction. Kei is also a poet. Once I take a break, I plan to delve into his back catalog.
What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
I used to work at a market stall, which gave me interesting perspective as I met such a broad cross section of society. I've worked in lots of service sector jobs (cafés and bars) and I don't think the public face of writing is much different. You symbolize something for people and they treat you accordingly.
What scares you the most as a writer?
I got thrown off my bike by a car earlier this year and suffered a mild concussion. It affected my decision-making for a short while, and that really worried me. You don't appreciate the benefits of your brain until they're under threat!
Share a sentence of your own that you're particularly proud of.
"Whiteness is an occupying force in the mind." Hugely influenced by Frantz Fanon
What's your biggest grammatical pet peeve?
I'm not bothered by how other people use the English language. It's context-specific and always in flux.
My Top Five Books That I Read This Year:
It’s a mix of poetry, politics, business-minded nonfiction, music criticism, and vegan theory. By pure happy coincidence, none of the authors are white (flying in the face of publishing trends) and three are fellow black Brits.
Aphro-ism: Essays on Pop Culture, Feminism, and Black Veganism From Two Sisters
by Aph Ko and Syl Ko
This is super sharp criticism and theory on black feminism, with an animal rights perspective. As a vegetarian, it affirmed some of my beliefs, challenged others, and totally opened my mind.
Little Black Book: A Toolkit for Working Women
by Otegha Uwagba
An essential read for everyone considering starting a journey of self-employment. I definitely could have done with this when I was starting out.
Your Silence Will Not Protect You
by Audre Lorde
I’ve actually written the foreword for this abbreviated collection of Audre Lorde’s work, published by a tiny feminist press. It’s only the second time her work has been published in the UK.
Hold Tight: Black Masculinity, Millennials, and the Meaning of Grime
by Jeffrey Boakye
A book that charts some of the most significant songs over the last few decades that led to the meteoric rise of grime music. It was a trip down memory lane for me, and it’s nice to read something positive about a genre that’s largely been let down by the UK mainstream.
by Kayo Chingonyi
I love his poem, "calling a spade a spade."
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is a London-based, award-winning journalist. She has written for The New York Times, The Voice, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, Stylist, Inside Housing, The Pool, Dazed and Confused
, and the New Humanist
. She is the winner of an MHP 30 to Watch Award and was chosen as one of the Top 30 Young People in Digital Media by The Guardian
in 2014. She has also been listed in Elle
's 100 Inspirational Women list, and The Root
's 30 Black Viral Voices Under 30. She contributed to The Good Immigrant
. Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race
is her first book. It was chosen as Blackwell's Nonfiction Book of the Year, longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize, and shortlisted for the Books Are My Bag Readers Award for Nonfiction.