You may have read or heard about a fantastic initiative on Twitter to get readers recommending and discovering more books by BAME authors: #diversedecember.
Inspired by this, the Picador editorial team have picked out a few books they’ve recently read and would recommend for #diversedecember.
James Baldwin's Another Country, published over 50 years ago, is a book that affected me deeply when I read it straight out of university, discovering new kinds of writing that took me to different worlds. I still remember it vividly. The story of a jazz musician whose short life and sudden death affects all around him, it encompasses music, race, sexuality and power. Riven by the complexities of sexual ambiguity and racial conflict, this is one of the most intense and beautiful depictions of the passion and the cruelty of love.
– Paul Baggaley, Picador Publisher
Ours Are The Streets
Deeply moving and profoundly affecting, Sunjeev Sahota’s debut novel Ours Are The Streets tells the story of a lost and lonely young man finding solace in a world he doesn’t fully understand, and then can’t pull away from. It is a beautifully and thoughtfully written novel about identity and the places we call home and is one of the novels I find myself recommending to other people most often – it is so very thought-provoking.
– Sophie Jonathan, Editor
In The Light of What We Know
I love Zia Haider Rahman’s exhilarating novel In The Light Of What We Know. (I know it’s a Picador book, but it’s genuinely one of my favourite novels.) It tells a classic story, the betrayal of one man by another, but along the way it touches on a number of important questions and ideas. I was astonished by the novel’s ambition when I first read it; I’ve since read it a further three times and I’m still in awe. This is a book of dazzling reach and scope: it spans decades, ranges from Kabul to London, New York and Islamabad, and tackles philosophy, finance, mathematics, cognitive science, literature and war. But most of all, it tells a very human story about people carrying unshakeable legacies of class and culture. It’s a wise, passionate and, at times, justifiably angry book about the limits of human knowledge and the prejudice that often leads to.
– Kris Doyle, Senior Editor
Among the books I’ve read and loved recently, Akhil Sharma’s Family Life stands out. It’s the story of two brothers, Ajay and Birju, whose parents uproot them from Delhi to America, but a terrible accident tears apart both the security of their family and the promised glory of their new life. Told with grace, wry humour and devastating emotional power, it’s a remarkable novel and one I’ve been unable to forget.
I also can’t resist recommending a debut novel to look out for next year: My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal. This, too, is a story of brotherly love, told by nine-year-old Leon, who is separated from his beloved half-brother Jake when a couple come to their foster home and take the baby away, because Jake is white and Leon is not. It’s an eye-opening, moving and life-affirming novel, written with a light touch and a big heart.
– Francesca Main, Editorial Director
The Way Things Were
I loved Aatish Taseer’s The Way Things Were. The novel manages to be an intense portrait of a marriage – sparing none of the grisly details of how two people who were in love can be forced to extricate themselves from a once happy marriage, learning what pieces they can take with them and what must be left behind – but also a snapshot of modern India and its relationship with its past. The description of the Sanskrit language in the novel, with all its beauty and complexity, felt like the perfect way of capturing of how meaning can drip down through centuries, how it evolves and how it can be lost.
– Ansa Khan Khattak, Editorial Assistant
This is How You Lose Her
This is How You Lose Her, the collection of short stories by the inimitable Junot Diaz, is a book that I go on and on about to anyone who will listen. These addictive stories about love and infidelity are more than a snapshot of a Dominican-American life; they’re tales about relationships, gender, identity, race and culture. The final story in the collection – The Cheater’s Guide to Love – is an achingly poignant depiction of heartbreak and human failure, that somehow manages to be incredibly perceptive and ultimately uplifting as well. I get the urge to reread it often, and every time I do, I rediscover how moving and powerful it is.
– Nuzha Nuseibeh, Editorial Assistant
If you’re on Twitter, we highly recommend taking a look at the the account (@diversedecember) – you’ll soon see your reading pile increase.