INTERVIEWS

“This book was the way to offer a kind of solidarity”: A conversation with Emmanuel Iduma

It may seem odd, but Emmanuel Iduma does not see A Stranger’s Pose as experimental: “experimenting meant that failure was allowed…I hope [when writing a book] to do something that could be considered fitting at least and to some degree successful.” A combination of forms and styles, A Stranger’s Pose is a dreamy travelogue and memoir through west and north Africa that explores the nature of estrangement, identity and grief among other things. In this interview, I speak to Emmanuel about the book’s ideas and diverse influences as he prepares for next year’s publication of his new work, a memoir, I Am Still With You.

“I needed to write a book that reflected reality”: A conversation with Lọlá Ákínmádé Åkerström

Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström’s fiction debut—an award-winning Nigerian-Swedish travel photographer and writer living in Stockholm—is a striking story. A unique distillation of commercial and literary fiction that feels like a tragedy, In Every Mirror She’s Black is an unputdownable read many have called “the perfect book club book”. In this interview, Ákínmádé Åkerström talks freely about how In Every Mirror She’s Black upends mainstream ideas about Nordic society, her difficult journey to publication, and writing Black women.

"I want the book to create space, especially psychic space in our imaginations": A conversation with Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah

Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah cares about African women, sex, and sexuality. In 2009, she co-founded the award-winning blog, Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women, with her best friend Makala Grant after an inspiring girls holiday in Ghana. Last summer, she published The Sex Lives of African Women. In this interview, Nana gives us her perspective on the book’s genesis, ethos, and her best book recommendations.

Meet Mocha Girls Read: A Q&A with founder, Alysia Allen

Mocha Girls Read is a book club for Black women who love to read, want to read more and meet like-minded women. Though they are based in the Los Angeles area, they meet monthly in 13 cities across the US. In this interview, Alysia tells us more about Mocha Girls Read and shares advice for those working in book communities centered on diversity.

“I hope Black girls will leave the book feeling that alrightness”: A conversation with Tamara Winfrey Harris

Tamara Winfrey Harris is the New York Times bestselling author of The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America and Dear Black Girl: Letters From Your Sisters on Stepping Into Your Power. In this interview, Tamara talks about her work, the Black girl experience, her reading recommendations, and what she’s got coming.

“I felt that I had grown up and become Jewell Parker Rhodes”: A conversation with Dr. Jewell Parker Rhodes

Dr. Jewell Parker Rhodes should not need an introduction. An award-winning, prolific writer whose oeuvre spans generations, she is the author of 7 children’s books and 7 adult books. In this interview, she sheds light on learning those traditions from her dear Grandmother, how to adapt oral culture for printed children’s books, everything she still yearns to write about, and her remarkable journey from not knowing Black people write books, to writing some of the best ones around.

“I’m writing the stories I need to write”: A conversation with Dean Atta

Dean Atta is a Greek-Cypriot Jamaican-British poet who was named one of the most influential LGBT people in Britain by the Independent on Sunday. Weaned on spoken word and online poetry culture, Dean rose to internet fame when he wrote a poem titled “I am Nobody’s Nigger” following the death of Stephen Lawrence. On an early morning in late June, he is bright and bubbly, talking effusively about his writing and bouncing between topics with that palpable joy that is so characteristic of his work, particularly his debut novel, The Black Flamingo (2019).

“I grew up obsessed with this alternate version of myself”: A conversation with Safia Elhillo

Safia Elhillo is an award-winning Sudanese-American contemporary poet and Stanford University Fellow. Author of The January Children (2017), Home is Not a Country (2021), Girls That Never Die (forthcoming), and co-editor of anthology Halal If You Hear Me (2019), her work has been recognised internationally for its originality of form and capacity for tenderness. In this interview, Safia speaks to us about the inspiration behind Home is Not a Country, her roots, and writing a world that reflects the one she grew up in.

"I am not a planner": A conversation with Chibundu Onuzo

On a sweltering and slow Monday morning in mid-June, I had the privilege of chatting to the fresh-faced Chibundu Onuzo over Zoom a few days after the publication of her third novel, Sankofa (out last week with Virago). We talked about her relationship to writing as a profession, what it’s like for a non-planner to fashion a novel out of a PhD, and how Sankofa relates to the cultural coordinates that orient it in modern-day Ghana.

"Black queerness gives us space to imagine": A conversation with Hari Ziyad

One of nineteen children raised by a Hindu Hare Kṛṣṇa mother and a Muslim father, Hari’s is a coming-of-story about growing up a Black queer boy in a carceral world that criminalises Black children for existing. In this interview, the bestselling author of the debut memoir titled Black Boy Out of Time talk at length about the limitations of writing, community care, the role of theory, and the global publishing industrial complex.

“I learned to read between the lines”: A conversation with Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa

We had the pleasure and privilege of speaking to a veteran of historical fiction, Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa, whose pioneering novels have put Afro-Latinx history on the literary map. The 2009 hardcover edition of Daughters of the Stone was listed as a 2010 Finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize. In this interview, she tells us more about her inspirations, the power of historical fiction, its demands on the writing process, and her forthcoming novel.

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Addis Ababa Noir: A dark, gritty collection of short stories set in the shadow of the city

Boasting fourteen dark, gripping tales, Addis Ababa Noir, an Akashic Books anthology, comprises the work of some of Ethiopia’s most talented writers. These stories draw you to the side of a city that is filled with greed, power, death, and despair. Edited by Maaza Mengiste, this Akashic Books anthology which is being reissued by Cassava Republic Press this summer comprises the work of some of Ethiopia’s most talented writers.

Prolific romance author Alyssa Cole delivers a chilling thriller about gentrification

When No One is Watching is said to conversate with the likes of Get Out. A psychological thriller about gentrification, the comparison is at its strongest once readers understand they’re being asphyxiated in the protagonist’s psyche as forcefully as Black residents are being plucked out of Gifford Place. It is a familiar tale, if only so to its Black and brown readers.

Parsing Freedom: A Review of Kaitlyn Greenidge’s Libertie

Coming of age as a free-born dark-skinned girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson lives in the shadow of her exceptional and exceptionally light-skinned physician mother. But Libertie, who finds freedom in music and motherhood, years for a regular life away from the burden of representation. Libertie is a novel of ideas that grapples with the meaning of freedom in a violently anti-Black and colorist world.