Candice Carty-Williams, Bernardine Evaristo and the Power of Black Women writers
Both writers have become the first authors of color to win the British Book Awards in their main categories.
The struggles for civil rights and against racism taking place in the United States have had a great impact around the world highlighting the profound inequalities and lack of visibility that minorities have in the world of art and culture. But they have also made us rediscover great African-American authors, such as the writer Octavia Butler, whose works are currently being published in Spain.
At the same time, they have made us focus even more on the victories and the talent of authors of color who are changing the intellectual landscape with their works.
The writer Candice Carty-Williams has just been awarded one of the top prizes in British literature, the British Book Awards, for her debut work, Queenie, which tells the story of a young black woman in London. An award she is proud of, although Carty-Williams has said she would still like to be more proud of the publishing industry.
"I have no doubt that there are books written by black women who have come before me and who also deserved the award, but perhaps those voices were not seen or heard," she stated.
The news of Carty-Williams' victory and her tender, shocking debut, which addresses both racial and gender identity issues, comes just a week after a study revealed that British publishers were overlooking Black and Asian audiences, making Queenie even more celebrated, according to the judges, because it is "a book capable of changing the industry's perceptions of which stories can be commercially and critically successful," The Guardian reported.
Carty-Williams wasn't the only black female writer to be honored at Monday's awards ceremony, which was held virtually. Bernardine Evaristo, winner of the Booker for her novel Girl, Woman, Other, was the author of the year and is the first Black woman to be honored in the category, as well as topping the UK's June fiction lists.
"This is such an interesting moment in our cultural history because the Black Lives Matter movement has generated an unprecedented amount of auto-questioning in the publishing industry," said Evaristo, who finds her success on the most-read lists "quite surreal."
"I've been writing for a long time, and it's incredibly gratifying to know that my work is finally reaching more readers. It's also great to see so many other books by writers of color that are in the charts. I'm pretty sure this is unprecedented. Of course, this has been triggered by the tragedy of George Floyd's death and we should always remember that," Evaristo concluded.
The novelist recently participated in an open letter from the newly formed Black Writers Guild, calling for a radical change in British publishers to open up the spectrum and incorporate voices that "are not being heard today."
"We will see if they keep their promises," Evaristo told The Guardian. "I hope they don't return to the status quo once the talk of racism stops being so hot, as it inevitably will. It is a priority on today's agenda, but history shows us that unless there is a crisis, such as the riots or the murder of Stephen Lawrence, racism as an issue and anti-racism as a cause soon degrades."