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Comment from the book world in March 2018

March 2018

'Is this for real?'

26 March 2018

‘For the past 10 months I've spent a lot of time thinking, is this for real? I had a lot of different reasons for writing the book but at its core was the desire to write for black teenage girls growing up reading books they were absent from. That was my experience as a child. Children of Blood and Bone is a chance to address this. To say you are seen...

In my perfect world, we'd have one black girl fantasy book every month. We need them, and we need fantasy stories about black boys as well...

That's why the success of (the recent Marvel movie) Black Panther has been so significant - black and marginalised audiences have the chance to see themselves as heroes depicted in a beautiful and empowering way, and white audiences get to see new stories told, and it becomes easier for them to picture a black superhero. Imagination is a funny thing - we sometimes need to see something before we can truly picture it.

Our books aren't there to magically fix publishing but maybe they'll start the changes moving so that in six months we'll have even more great stories, where we see ourselves and are heard.'

Tomi Adeyemi, author of debut YA novel Children of Blood and Bone in the Observer


Becoming Children's Laureate

19 March 2018

'Becoming children's laureate has given me a voice. I'm determined to change the snobby attitude around picture books. Children's illustration is viewed as the poor relation to fine-art painting, yet it's children's first introduction to art and can have a profound effect on how they view the world. John Burningham's Granpa, which deals with the loss of a loved one, explains grief to a child far better than anything else...

I experienced failure until my thirties. I always knew I wanted to do something art-related, but I had no idea what. After art school I did everything from mixing colours for Damien Hirst to starting a chandelier company, all the while writing and inventing characters for books, films, TV, but getting rejections. It took five years before Clarice Bean was published, and that was the turning-point. It took a long time to support myself solely on illustration.'

Lauren Child, UK Children's Laureate and author of the Charlie and Lola picture books and the Clarice Bean and Ruby Redfort novels in the Sunday Times magazine

'A new counter-culture'

12 March 2018

‘Books begin to feel more and more like a new counter-culture. There seems a new power animating books that was absent for many years, and that has to do with the form. It's said that reality has outstripped fiction but I don't think that's true. We need fiction more than ever to define reality afresh.

Politics has collapsed as a place where questions can be asked. The media has largely collapsed and in that space, books remain to ask the questions. Even if they do it badly, they still do it.'

Richard Flanagan, author of The Narrow Road to the Deep South, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2014, First Person and four other novels, in the Bookseller


‘A mouthpiece for race, gender and culture’?

5 March 2018

‘I never conceived of myself as a mouthpiece. Nor do I think of myself as telling "my stories", exactly. I think of myself as thinking about all sorts of things, on the page, in public. I try to point out the idiosyncratic way I think and the commonality I'm seeking. Something like: "I'm thinking this - are you, reader?" But I don't mind if the answer turns out to be no. I'm less interested in convincing people of an argument than in modelling a style of thinking. That's what's important to me in the literary world: ways of seeing and thinking...

I like to hear a variety of voices, but they don't have to be personal stories. What I'm really interested in is other conceptions. People have radically different minds, in my view, and I want to be exposed to as many of them as possible. I think there can be almost as much difference, experientially speaking, between you and the person next to you on the bus as there is between me and my pug. And if, as too often happens, publishing houses choose only writers they recognise, from their own milieu, their own backgrounds, class, perceived community etc, well, then you get far less variety in this pool of minds and we all miss out. Writers principally - but readers too.'

Zadie Smith, author of the book of essays Feel Free and the novels White Teeth and Saving Time in the Observer