Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Seven top London novels by writers of color

J.R. Ramakrishnan is a writer and editor. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Electric Literature, Harper's Bazaar, Harper's, amongst other publications. Her fiction has appeared in [PANK] and Mixed Company.

At Electric Lit Ramakrishnan tagged seven novels that celebrates the 40% of Londoners who aren't white, including:
The Emperor’s Babe by Bernardine Evaristo

The lead character of Bernardine Evaristo’s The Emperor’s Babe is Zuleika, the daughter of Sudanese immigrants who’ve made good in London, A.D. 211. After the ingestion of traditional English Literature at school, reading a novel of olden days London not centered on whiteness thrilled me when it was first published in 2001. Yes, there were black people in Roman London—the novel emerged from Evaristo’s residency and research at the Museum of London. This city is an outpost of another empire. The brilliant realignment of historical perception aside, Evaristo tells a gripping and hilarious story of Zuleika’s boredom, which is soon alleviated when Emperor Septimius Severus arrives in town and the two begin an affair—all in verse. I adore how Evaristo imagines the then-and-now topographies of London. She writes of “the humid jungle at Bayswater,” “mud huts by the Serpentine,” and “grasslands” of Mayfair. The contemporary also creeps in with “Wild@Heart, the trendy ‘flower boutique’ / on Cannon Street.” Zuleika and her crew’s partying ways will be familiar to anyone who’s been out on the town in London. Evaristo—whose debut, Lara, also in verse and based on her own British Nigerian family—should have won all the prizes back then. Her latest Girl, Woman, Other shared the 2019 Booker Prize.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue