Sometime this year, Lola Olufemi, a Cambridge student, penned an open letter, signed by over 100 other students, recommending the English Faculty include more works from Black And Minority Ethnic (BAME) writers within the canon. The Telegraph, being the fucking Telegraph, headlined this request as “Student forces Cambridge to drop white authors” and the internet got itself a mini race row to yam over. And like any internet based outrage it only takes an hour of research to see how many streets apart the truth lives from the vitriol.
Decolonisation of English Literature isn’t about kicking white authors off the reading list even though, let’s all be bloody honest, Milton has had his day. Come on now, we get it, you love the bible and you wrote some fanfic, chill for a minute, mate*.
Decolonisation is the thinking that, as much of what is considered Canonical Literature - the great works like Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare - has been authored by caucasian males, thanks to class, gender, wealth, and privilege, and chosen by a literary critical scene, dominated by caucasian men who decide what literature, what conventions and what narratives are canon, it might be a teenybitalotunfair, and everyone would gain from the inclusion of other marginalised voices.
I’m talking about people of colour. I mean, how much more fun does the Marvel Cinematic Universe look now that we all have Black Panther to look forward to, eh? I’m saying we need more people of colour in in the curriculum. More colour. Who doesn’t like a rainbow, eh? Forget I said that.
With this article, I was tasked with discussing a few post colonial texts. I had a think, with my brain and stuff, and I felt I had two choices: a) write about Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Jean Rhys, the great post-colonial texts I read that one time and toss into house party conversations when strangers are yabbing on a bit about 1984, or b) talk about the new, exciting pieces of new BAME literature by artists, alive, right now, talking about BAME experiences going on as we speak. with their own approaches to literary text. Come On, Let’s Decolonise This Article! Ahem, note: some of these people are also my friends or acquaintances. Most of them.
Warsan Shire’s Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth: Before she was providing the poetry between Beyonce’s most recent album (PS: Dizzee Rascal, call me for Boy In Da Corner 2) Warsan made a name for herself with her breathtaking imagery and use of metaphor whilst performing in the London spoken word scene.
Her experiences as a Kenyan born, Somali Muslim Brit are woven into this engaging pamphlet and you’d be hard pressed to find a writer who can be both tender and sharp in the same freaking line. Her words are strong coffee: doesn’t mess about, goes deep, wakes you the hell up.
Inua Ellams’ Barbershop Chronicles: This one here is cheating because a) it’s a play, and b) by the time you read this, it’ll be sold out, unless they do another run, and if they do, sell your smart phone on eBay and get a ticket.
If you’ve ever wanted to see what conversations across barbershops in several African countries and London would sound like, this is your best and cheapest option save a round trip. And even that won’t be as tightly written and funny. It’s very funny.
Bridget Minamore’s Titanic: “Titanic” is an apt metaphor for a sinking of something originally thought too big to do the aforementioned sinking, by forces beneath the surface. And Bridget’s Titanic, about a doomed relationSHIP OH MY GOD I ONLY JUST GOT THIS JUST NOW is a collection of breakup poems, almost written in real time, but with the kind of humour and cultural irreverence that you’d find from a second generation Ghanaian Londoner at the peak of her powers.
Witty, laugh out loud and also, heartbreakingly insightful, like a warm blanket and plate of pepper soup** for the flu.
The Good Immigrant: (Various Authors): If you haven’t read this, go and read it. Various BAME authors pen non fiction short pieces on the immigrant/diaspora experience, edited by Nikesh Shukla. To say any more is to ruin one of the best books of 2016. Just buy a copy and thank me later.
*This was a joke don’t come for me I block ppl online.
**West African delicacy. If your palette is too western, please substitute with chicken soup.
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