Note: there is an updated version of this post here
If like me you’re always on the hunt for new writing specifically by Black authors, the local Waterstones is not always your best bet. And as much as you can find pretty much anything on the internet, it’s not the same as browsing in a bookstore, and also you have to know pretty much what you are looking for to find it.
So I’ve come up with 5 bookstores based in the UK, who also double up as publishers, and publish and sell books written by people of colour. This is by no means a definitive list, I’m sure there are some I’ve missed, so by all means do post your recommendations in the comments if that’s the case.
New Beacon Books
The UK’s first black publisher and bookshop, New Beacon Books was founded in 1966 by John La Rose and his his partner Sarah White. Having staved off closure in 2017, New Beacon Books has remained an established part of the Black community selling a range of African and Caribbean literature as well as publishing a wide range of their own books in genres as diverse as literary and cultural theory to poetry and fiction.
Bahati Books is a digital publishing house that publishes and promotes literature written by writers of African origin. I came across them after hearing the founders, Barbara Njau and Kudakwashe Kamupira on the Melanin Millennials podcast talking about their commitment ‘to take African literature from being a ‘niche’ in the publishing world, to the mainstream’. With an array of authors already on their roster, their website also has some free short stories written by their authors to give you a simple taste of what they have to offer.
Since it was established in 1987, Tamarind has been a champion of diversity in children’s publishing, helping to ensure children of all cultures and ethnicities get the chance to see themselves in stories and books. Now part of the Puffin and Ladybird family under Penguin books, their legacy in diverse children’s books continues. One of the titles which caught my eye during a casual peruse of their website was The Life of Stephen Lawrence by Verna Allette Wilkins – a celebration and remembrance of Stephen Lawrence who was needlessly murdered in a racist attack in 1993, and incident that haunts the collective British conscience to this day.
African Books Collective
I hadn’t actually heard of African Books Collective before I started this post, but I’m glad to have found them. Based in Oxford (no shade but probably why I hadn’t heard of them!), African Books Collective (ABC) is an African owned publisher of books from Africa. From scholarly non-fiction, fiction to children’s books, ABC has a vast range of books by authors from all parts of the continent. Well worth a visit.
Ayebia Clarke Literary Agency & Publishing
More of a publisher than a bookstore – though they do sell books on their website, Ayebia is a bespoke publisher specialising in quality African and Caribbean writing. Like all the sites I’ve listed here, Ayebia aims to publish the kind of books that provide new and fresh insights into African and Caribbean culture, life and literature. If you are a budding author, it’s worth getting in touch with them as they do nurture new writers through their literary agency arm, and I can only imagine that it would be a fulfilling experience.
While this isn’t a black bookshop or publisher, I’m adding it to this list as it is a pretty good bookshop with an array of titles from diverse range of authors. I can’t remember the last time I walked into a bookstore and found titles that I’d usually find on the internet or in a specialist bookstore. Not only is their stock impressive, the store itself is something to behold as it’s specifically designed to encourage browsing and discovering new titles and encourage interdisciplinary thinking. If you ever do visit watch out for the floor to ceiling mirror which gives the illusion that the shop is bigger than it is. I damn near gave myself a heart attack when I realised the person browsing books a few feet away from me was actually me!