Contemporary Black and Asian British writing is changing how we see and read literature in English today

Writers such as Aminatta Forna and Andrea Levy, Daljit Nagra and Kamila Shamsie, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Caryl Phillips, have created work that fundamentally challenges prevailing ideas of British literature.

They show us that British writing is not something produced only by white English authors, but has a diverse range of backgrounds and many different histories.

This website offers ways into exploring this exciting work.

Writers

Read more about the great writing featured in this project, see profiles of the writers, and access other teaching and learning resources.

Featured works

Find background information, videos, short essays, annotatable extracts and other material on the particular literary works we have featured in our project.

Videos

Watch videos of the writers reading and discussing their work.

Archive

Browse and search our entire archive of text, images, audio and video.

Reading Black and Asian British writing shapes our sense of the world and our place in it

Black and Asian writing in English also raises interesting questions about reading. How do readers relate and respond to work of this kind? How do we enter the different worlds it opens to us, or find our own worlds transformed?

On reading

What happens when we read? Are we passive consumers or active participants in creating the worlds of books? Learn more about different ways of thinking about reading.

Approaches to reading
How much of your experience of reading a book is shaped by the words on the page or by what surrounds these words? Find out about different approaches to reading.
Reading and reception
What happens in our minds when we read? See how different thinkers explain the processes of reading, reception and cognition.
Identifying with literature Identifying with literature
How do we engage with literature about contexts that are familiar or different from our own? Explore how reading can help us to think differently about ourselves, others and the world.
Performance and reading
How does the performance of a work of literature affect our experience of it? Read about literature in performance and watch two poets perform their work.

Featured writers

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Selma Dabbagh

Selma Dabbagh (1970– ) is a British Palestinian writer currently based in London, but whose fiction is mainly – though not always – set in the contemporary Middle East. Profile and resources
By : admin | Jul 22, 2017
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Bernardine Evaristo

Born in London, Bernardine Evaristo (1959– ) studied at Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama and went on to co-found the Theatre of Black Women in 1982. Profile and resources
By : admin | Jul 21, 2017
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Aminatta Forna

Born in Scotland in 1964, the acclaimed novelist Aminatta Forna moved to Sierra Leone with her Scottish mother and Sierra Leonean father when she was six months old. Profile and resources
By : admin | Jul 20, 2017
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Xiaolu Guo

Xiaolu Guo (1973– ) is a British-Chinese novelist, filmmaker and essayist. Guo’s first English language novel, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, was published in 2007. Profile and resources
By : admin | Jul 19, 2017
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Abdulrazak Gurnah

Born in Zanzibar, Tanzania in 1948, Abdulrazak Gurnah is a novelist and academic. He moved to the UK in 1968, in part to escape violence against Zanzibari Arabs... Profile and resources
By : admin | Jul 19, 2017
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Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro left Nagasaki at age five when his family moved to Surrey. Born in 1954, he first visited Japan again over three decades later, and currently lives in London. Profile and resources
By : admin | Jul 19, 2017
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Linton Kwesi Johnson

Linton Kwesi Johnson was born in 1952 in Chapelton, a small rural town in Jamaica. He moved to London at the age of 11 to join his mother who had immigrated two years earlier. Profile and resources
By : admin | Jul 18, 2017
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Andrea Levy

Andrea Levy was born in London in 1956, and describes herself as ‘a Londoner.’ Her parents were from Jamaica: her father came to England on the Empire Windrush in 1948. Profile and resources
By : admin | Jul 18, 2017
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Nadifa Mohamed

Nadifa Mohamed was born in Hargeisa, Somaliland, in 1981 and moved to London in 1986 – a move that was initially intended as temporary but became permanent... Profile and resources
By : admin | Jul 17, 2017
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Daljit Nagra

Born in London to Sikh Punjabi immigrants, the poet Daljit Nagra (1966– ) draws influence from both his British and Punjabi identities in his award-winning work. Profile and resources
By : admin | Jul 16, 2017
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Courttia Newland

Courttia Newland (1975– ) is a novelist and playwright, born in 1973 in London to parents of West Indian heritage. Newland published his first novel, The Scholar, in 1997. Profile and resources
By : admin | Jul 15, 2017
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Ben Okri

Ben Okri (1958– ) is a Nigerian-born British novelist and poet. Ben Okri has published eight novels, including the Booker-winner The Famished Road (1991) and Starbook... Profile and resources
By : admin | Jul 14, 2017
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Helen Oyeyemi

Born in Nigeria in 1984, Helen Olajumoke Oyeyemi moved with her family at the age of four to London. At 18, she began work her first novel, The Icarus Girl (2005)... Profile and resources
By : admin | Jul 13, 2017
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Caryl Phillips

Caryl Phillips is one of the major British writers of his generation. He is, however, known to be resistant to pigeonholing and to all the labels that have tried to circumscribe his art. Profile and resources
By : admin | Jul 13, 2017
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Kamila Shamsie

Kamila Shamsie was born in 1973 in Pakistan. She grew up in Karachi, studied in the US, and now lives in London. Her first novel In the City by the Sea was published in 1998. Profile and resources
By : admin | Jul 12, 2017
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Warsan Shire

Warsan Shire is a poet born to Somali parents in Kenya in 1988. When she was only a year old her family migrated to England. She has been described as a ‘refugee poet’... Profile and resources
By : admin | Jul 11, 2017
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Zadie Smith

Born in London to a Jamaican immigrant mother and English father, Smith (1975– ) has written multi-award winning novels as well as many essays and short stories. Profile and resources
By : admin | Jul 11, 2017