Black Voices in Fiction & Poetry: 10 Essential Reads from 2023

October marks an important time in our calendars. It might mean the start of soup season, the looming threat of publishing’s “super Thursday” in the middle, and the spooky fun of Halloween to book-end the month. But what is actually important to keep in mind every October is, of course, Black History Month.

Last week, we shared some of our publishers’ best non-fiction titles from some incredible Black authors. Today we’re continuing our celebration of this very important month with a wrap up of this year’s unmissable fiction and poetry from Black authors around the world.

As always, you can reach out to your Turnaround sales rep to get stock of each title, and don’t forget to check out our extensive non-fiction list as well. Keep reading, sharing and stocking Black voices in fiction all year round, fellow readers!

The Survivalists

By Kashana Cauley
9781593767273 | Soft Skull Press | Hardback | £22.99 | Published 12th Jan 2023

In the wake of her parents’ death, Aretha, a habitually single Black lawyer, has had only one obsession in life — success — until she falls for Aaron, a coffee entrepreneur. Moving into his Brooklyn brownstone to live along with his Hurricane Sandy — traumatised, illegal-gun-stockpiling, optimised-soy-protein-eating, bunker-building roommates, Aretha finds that her dreams of making partner are slipping away, replaced by an underground world, one of selling guns and training for a doomsday that’s maybe just around the corner.

What Napoleon Could Not Do

By DK Nnuro
9780593420348 | Riverhead | Hardback | £24.99 | Published 7th Feb 2023

When siblings Jacob and Belinda Nti were growing up in Ghana, their goal was simple: to move to America. For them, the United States was both an opportunity and a struggle, a goal and an obstacle.

Jacob, an awkward computer programmer who still lives with his father, wants a visa so he can move to Virginia to live with his wife—a request that the U.S. government has repeatedly denied. He envies his sister, Belinda, who achieved, as their father put it, ‘what Napoleon could not do’: She went to college and law school in the United States and even managed to marry Wilder, a wealthy Black businessman from Texas. Wilder’s views of America differ markedly from his wife’s, as he’s spent his life railing against the racism and marginalisation that are part of life for every African-American living here.

For these three, their desires and ambitions highlight the promise and the disappointment that life in a new country offers. How each character comes to understand this and how each learns from both their dashed hopes and their fulfilled dreams lie at the heart of what makes What Napoleon Could Not Do such a compelling, insightful read.

In the Belly of the Congo

By Blaise Ndala & translated by Amy B. Reid
9781635422580 | Other Press | Paperback | £17.99 | Published 9th Feb 2023

April 1958. When the Brussels World’s Fair opens, Robert Dumont, one of the people responsible for the biggest international event since the end of the Second World War, ends up laying down his arms in the face of pressure from the royal palace: there will be a “Congolese village” in one of the seven pavilions devoted to the settlements. Among the eleven recruits mobilised at the foot of the Atomium to put on a show is the young Tshala, daughter of the intractable king of the Bakuba. The journey of this princess is revealed to us, from her native Kasai to Brussels via Leopoldville, to her forced exhibition at Expo 58, where we lose track of it.

Summer 2004. Freshly arrived in Belgium, a niece of the missing princess crosses paths with a man haunted by the ghost of his father. This is Francis Dumont, professor of law at the Free University of Brussels. A succession of events ends up revealing to them the secret carried by the former deputy commissioner of Expo 58 to his tomb. From one century to the next, the novel embraces History with a capital “H,” to pose the central question of the colonial equation: can the past pass?

The Gospel According to the New World

By Maryse Condé & translated by Richard Philcox
9781912987368 | World Editions | Paperback | £13.99 | Published 9th March 2023

One Easter Sunday, Madame Ballandra puts her hands together and exclaims: ‘A miracle!’ Baby Pascal is strikingly beautiful, brown in complexion, with grey-green eyes like the sea. But where does he come from? Is he really the child of God? So goes the rumour, and many signs throughout his life will cause this theory to gain ground. From journey to journey and from one community to another, Pascal sets off in search of his origins, trying to understand the meaning of his mission. Will he be able to change the fate of humanity? And what will the New World Gospel reveal? For all its beauty, vivacity, humour, and power, Maryse Condé’s latest novel is above all a work of combat. Lucid and full of conviction, Condé attests that solidarity and love remain our most extraordinary and lifesaving forces. Read more about this pwerful book and the author here.

A Sun to Be Sewn

By Jean D’Amerique & Thierry Kehou
9781635422825 | Other Press | Paperback | £15.99 | Published 23rd March 2023

‘You will be alone in the great night.’ That’s what Papa has always prophesied to her. Papa, who isn’t her real father—he disappeared when she was born. Since then, her mother has been forced to walk the streets to provide for herself and her daughter, while Papa robs and murders for the local gang leader, to ensure his access to ganja and alcohol, but also for the sheer pleasure of it.

Often finding herself alone within the four walls of a hovel in a Haitian slum with corrugated iron for a roof, the young girl tirelessly tries to compose a letter that will capture what is in her heart and soul. She is consumed with love for a classmate, the daughter of her teacher, and struggles to find words to faithfully express her feelings and her dreams.

In a poetic language that encompasses poverty and idealism, she quietly observes the violence, the shortcomings, and the addictions of the adults around her. Her love and passion make her resilient, nurturing her character and helping her to invent a destiny that enables her to escape the fate to which she seemed doomed.

Dreaming in Color

By Uvile Ximba
9781623717964 | Interlink Books | Paperback | £15.99 | Published 30th March 2023

In her debut novel, Dreaming in Color, Uvile Ximba explores with subtlety, humour, and probing insight the connections between the joyful reclaiming of pleasure and the healing of buried traumas.

As students at university of Makhanda, South Africa during the #RUReferenceList campaign, Langa and her lover Khwezi have a passionate and complex relationship. Puzzling gaps in her memory haunt Langa, yet her dreams are vivid with colors and symbols that hint at a nightmare of forgotten violations and losses. So many secrets—and Langa has had enough of secrets and silences. Who can she turn to? Her mother? Her grandmother? Khwezi? Or herself?

Dreaming in Color is Langa’s story of coming out to herself, of discerning the history behind the closed door of conscious memory.

In the Midst of Shame

By Petulia Blake
9789766570804 | LMH Publishing | Paperback | £11.99 | Published 4th June 2023

Society is seen through the lenses of Hope Livingston, a woman whose birth is shrouded in secrecy. While in exile, she talks about her life as a white Creole woman born on the island of St. James in the West Indies. Against the wishes of Angela, her personal slave, Hope fantasizes about becoming a sugar cane plantation owner. The indignity of slavery is placed in the background as she aspires to find a prominent place in society at all costs. In an industry dominated by men like Master Livingston, who scorns the idea of women governing in the lucrative sugar industry, Hope joins forces with Gloria Hanover, the most influential plantation owner on the island. Hope becomes immersed in a lifestyle where sexual deviance, desire for status and cruelty, are guided by her idol. The unleashing of fear upon Black people manifests with beatings as a powerful means to dominate. Little did they know that the subservience was a facade. Amid the frequent Maroon rebellions and resistance to slavery, social uncertainty begins to seep into the lives of the privileged and prideful class. When the reliance on free labour begins to collapse, secrets find their way out of the closet. And Hope’s life begins to turn upside down when dry bones refuse to remain hidden behind great house walls.

Edo’s Souls

By Stella Gaitano & translated by Sawad Hussain
9781915568137 | Dedalus | Paperback | £9.99 | Published 28th April 2023

When a young Lucy Eghino, who is coming of age in a 1970s village in southern Sudan, is alarmed by rumours of approaching violence, she has no choice but to flee—first to Juba, then northwards to Khartoum. Marco, a gentle young father, wages a daily battle to keep his family together while avoiding friction with any northerners. Peter, a soldier unsure of where his loyalties lie, is forced to carry out night raids searching for bands of rebels.


By Ayodele Olofintuade
9781739220709 | Cipher Press | Paperback | £10.99 | Published 29th June 2023

A twisty thriller about the fate of a sprawling family in Lagos, Lákíríboto is a queer, feminist revenge thriller like no other, in which murder, betrayal, and witchcraft collide—with explosive results. Mixing family saga, mobster pulp, and queer coming-of age, Lákíríboto is a staggeringly original and surprising novel about Nigeria’s queer and feminist communities, the struggles they face, and the lengths they will go to to overcome them.

Plantains and Our Becoming

By Melania Luisa Marte
9780593471340 | Tiny Reparations Books | Paperback | £15.99 | Published 22nd August 2023

Plantains And Our Becoming is an imaginative, blistering, beautifully written poetry collection about identity and history on the island of the Dominican Republic and Haiti to celebrate and center the Black Diasporic experience. Through the exploration of the themes of self-love, nationalism, displacement, generational traumas, and ancestral knowledge, this collection uproots Black stereotypes while creating a new joyous vision for Black identity and personhood, one that is deeply grounded in the heirlooms and teachings of Black celebration as well as preservation.

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