Novelist Alex Wheatle has written an article I consider to be really quite brave. And timely. It appeared in yesterday’s Independentwith the subhead: "Britain’s premier book prize is presented tonight. It’s a shame it continues to ignore talented black writers, argues author Alex Wheatle"
Alex says the Booker and other major literary prizes exclude (black) authors like him.
Many (the majority, even) of the Indy readers commenting on Alex's piece disagreed with him. One comment read "Unfortunately, this article reads as the spoilt sayings of a cry-baby author - black, urban, or otherwise."
Is Alex right?
Haven't Zadie Smith, Andrea Levy, Helen Oyeyemi, Aminatta Forna and Diana Evans all won major prizes? Didn’t Ben Okri win the Booker back in 1991?
But Alex is talking here about black authors who specifically write about the lives of"the black underclass" - authors like Stephen Thompson and Courttia Newland. And Alex would like to know why the response seems to be so much more positive when a white author - such as Stephen Kelman - writes about that very same subject.
The last black author to win the Booker was Ben Okri, in 1991.
Black Booker Prize nominees include Esi Edyugan (Half Blood Blues) this year, Andrea Levy (The Long Song) last year and Zadie Smith (On Beauty) in 2005.