October marks Black History Month in the UK – a dedicated time to recognise, appreciate and respect Black history and culture. The event was officially founded in the US and first recognised by the government in 1976. In 1987, Black History Month began to be celebrated in the UK.
Of course, our effort to learn more about Black history needs to extend beyond one month a year, and we need to do what we can to be actively anti-racist. But understanding Black experiences can tend to focus around trauma, pain and the negative parts of history. While it’s imperative we know about oppression and discrimination, it’s also important to remember they don’t encompass Black history and culture.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of some of the most talked-about podcasts and books by Black writers that are focussed around other, joyous narratives. While some may touch on experiences of racism, discrimination and pain, they’re not the main focus of the works. Instead, you’ll find themes of love, friendship, determination, fashion, pop culture and much more.
Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola
Whether it’s because of her hilarious tweets or on-point analysis of pop culture, Bolu Babalola has ruled our social media feeds many times. In 2020, her debut book Love in Colour was published. It’s a collection of short stories that retell tales of love from around the world, including Greek mythology and West African legends.
Loud Black Girls by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené
In this collection of essays, Black British women – authors, journalists, actors, artists and more – explore what it means to take up space in the modern world. The essays span over a range of topics, including what it means to be Black and British, the impact of Marvel’s Black Panther and teaching our daughters to own their voices. The book challenges the discriminating stereotype that Black women are loud and aggressive by encouraging others to actually listen to what they have to say.
Black Joy Edited by Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff and Timi Sotire
Edited by award-winning journalist Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff and freelance journalist Timi Sotire, Black Joy brings together 28 inspirational voices for an uplifting and empowering anthology that celebrates being Black and British. The book features pieces from Labour MP Diane Abbott, comedian Munya Chawawa and Little Mix star Leigh-Anne Pinnock, to name a few.
Luster by Raven Leilani
Luster is Raven Leilani’s debut novel and was longlisted for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction. It’s about a woman named Edie who is struggling in life and love. She then meets Eric, a white archivist with a suburban family who is sort of in an open marriage. He and his wife have an adopted black daughter who doesn’t have anyone in her life she can relate to and Edie soon finds herself falling into Eric’s home and family. Waterstones describes the book as ‘a painfully funny debut about what it means to be young now’.
Misfits: A Personal Manifesto by Michaela Coel
Michaela Coel’s brilliant BBC drama I May Destroy You captivated the nation – and the world – in 2020. Her personal manifesto, Misfits, immerses readers in her life, from her upbringing in East London to her love for storytelling. With the same wit and insight we saw in I May Destroy You and her Channel 4 comedy Chewing Gum, Michaela recalls her trauma and how she’s learned to champion herself, inviting us to reflect on our own journeys. By embracing our differences, she says, we can transform our lives. Waterstones says Misfits is ‘dedicated to anyone who has ever worried about fitting in’.
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré
This debut novel features a character called Adunni, who was born into a rural Nigerian village. At just 14, she’s already a wife, but she has a plan to escape. Her plan involves getting an education so that she can speak up for herself and for other girls. Adunni shows us that no matter what a situation throws your way, there’s always joy to be found.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Bernardine Evaristo sat on the judging panel for the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year, but she herself has racked up an impressive list of awards. In 2020, she won the British Book Awards Fiction Book of the Year and was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction. In 2019, she was the joint winner of the Booker Prize for Girl, Woman, Other. The book follows the lives of 12 characters – mostly women, Black and British. It’s joyful, celebratory and dynamic, without ignoring these womens’ struggles.
You Are A Champion: Unlock Your Potential, Find Your Voice and Be The BEST You Can Be by Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford MBE has gone above and beyond his footballer status, becoming an inspirational activist. This book, aimed at teenagers and children, is his practical guide to help young people reach their full potential. Marcus draws on stories from his own life to offer advice on positive thinking, navigating adversity and discovering your voice.
Black Gals Livin’
Journalist Vic Sanusi and marketer Jas Brathwaite are the hosts of this podcast, which discusses ‘mental health, pop culture and random shenanigans.’ Every week, Vic and Jas take on a range of topics, from ‘what it’s really like to be a Black creative in the UK’ to ’emotionally unavailable men’. Oh, and in-depth Love Island analysis when the show is on.
Style and City Diaries
Hosted by cousins Prinny Rae and Amber Leaux, Style & City Diaries is a fashion and lifestyle-focussed podcast ‘aimed at the everyday young woman who wants to look and feel fabulous’. For Black History Month, Prinny and Amber will touch upon anecdotes surrounding their own experiences, providing a perspective on fashion from young Black females – one that is often overlooked.
You may have seen The Receipts podcast on a billboard or on the cover of a magazine, or even on TV. In fact, they’ve also featured on BBC Radio 1 Extra and their book Keep the Receipts was number 4 on the Sunday Times Best Sellers list. Hosts Tolly, Audrey and Milena have taken the podcast world by storm with their hilarious, warm and joy-filled chat. In it, they talk openly and honestly about ‘anything and everything’. Each week, they also feature a special episode called ‘Your Receipts’, in which they act as agony aunts to their listeners’ wild dilemmas.
This BBC Sounds podcast is hosted by influencers Nella Rose, Mariam Musa and Adeola Patronne. They ‘unapologetically keep it real on everything that has them pressed, no filter in sight.’ Recent podcast episode titles include ‘Don’t invite me to your wedding’ and ‘You never deserved me, my G’.
BBC Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo is the host of This City, a podcast exploring the streets of London through the eyes of some of the city’s most recognisable names. She chats to celebrity guests about the places that made them – from the pubs and restaurants they frequent, to their favourite hidden gems. Guests have included author Reni Eddo-Lodge, Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall, Olympian Dina Asher-Smith and Louis Theroux.