Written by Sophie Wyatt
The education system is key in developing balance within society. However, the UK’s school syllabus is failing to offer diversity and inclusivity in its english literature classes. Lit In Colour was set up by Penguin Books and The Runnymede Trust in 2020 to give students the chance to study texts by black, asian and minority ethnic writers.
34.4% of UK school students are of black, asian or minority ethnic heritage. But only 0.7% study texts by authors of colour, and only 0.1% study a piece by a womxn of colour. It is important that this imbalance is tackled not only so authors of other races and their work receive recognition, but to give children a range of diverse literature to study and absorb. Currently English Literature exam boards focus on texts such as Frankenstein, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. While these texts are classic and a huge part of the history of English Literature, they are prioritised at the expense of writers of colour, in particular womxn of colour.
We have put together a list of groundbreaking novels by womxn of colour that could be included within the UK school systems to pave the way for a diverse and inclusive syllabus.
Taking Up Space incorporates stories and conversations of young womxn of colour to explore what it truly means to be heard within a growing society. This text goes beyond simply looking at the lack of inclusivity and diversity, and dives into the lives, obstacles and achievements of ethnic minorities across the country, and world. Described as an ‘act of resistance’, Taking Up Space is a ‘guide and manifesto for change’.
Inspired by the true story of Baroness Floella Benjamin, Coming to England is a story of love, hope and triumph. The story takes us from Trinidad to Windrush London to the ruling government. Filled with a new found courage of the young and innocent, Coming to England is accompanied by vibrant illustrations that help to create a story of a brave little girl taking on a new, cold and unwelcoming home.
Comparing the lives of Hasan in 1960’s Uganda and Sameer in present-day London, Hafsa Zayyan’s ‘We Are All Birds’ explores racial tensions in two very different centuries. It also touches on generational differences and the difficulty in finding yourself in a world you feel you, or have been told you don’t belong.
Zayyan exploded onto the literature scene with this novel, that also won the inaugural Merky Books New Writer Award. And is just the start of things to come from this young, flourishing author.
Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series is, to this day and iconic collection of books. Rich in moral and social conflicts aside of racial attitudes, Blackman’s long awaited new novel Crossfire continues the idea of a community of noughts and crosses. With the addition of political tones, this novel continues to give reader chilling comments on society with thriller-esque tones that continue to grip us.
Growing up as an immigrant in the American South, Gifty dreams of travel and heroism. But when her father and brother fall by the wayside in their new home, her family drops from four to two. Years later Gifty returns to her past in order to understand the darker sides of family life, the ongoing opioid crisis, and what it did to those she loved.
Transcendent Kingdom touches on love, loss and acknowledging difficult areas of our past life as we continue to move forward.
Zadie Smith’s collection of essays headed Changing My Mind is split into five sections: reading, being, seeing, feeling and remembering. Author of The White Teeth and Autograph Man, Smith continues to amaze readers with her essays here (some released for the first time). Commenting on politics, race and generalised aspects of life, the essays in Changing My Mind consider the perspectives and thoughts of a number of different people and places.
A innovative thriller following the life of thirty-year-old barrister Lee Mitchell. From Caribbean descent, it seems that it is not just the law that is stacked against Lee in the court room. As the line between professional and personal becomes blurred, Lee must get to the crux of the case, the law system and find her place within it.
Without Prejudice explores being a womxn of colour within the justice system. It’s imbalances and inequalities. And sets out to make the world of law more accessible to all genders and races.
Following the intersecting lives of 12 British womxn of colour, Girl, Woman, Other explores generational, racial and gender related differences. But also showing how the lives of others can be so closely related to your own, even when you don’t realise.
Bernadine Evaristo is an incredible storyteller and continues her streak of writing from the perspective of instantly connectable characters. Each character shares relatable and simultaneously unique situations that shape the way they are in present day. This dynamic novel is one for the ages.
Head over to the Lit in Colour website to read more on stats and novels that could pave the way for a balanced literature syllabus.