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  • Writer's pictureJhalak Prize

Malorie Blackman on Five Books That Helped Shape The Woman And Author She is Today

I have chosen books by Black women that I first read in my twenties which helped to shape the woman and the author I am today.

The Color Purple, Alice Walker: This was the first novel I read which featured Black protagonists and was a book which played in huge part in my decision to try to become an author myself. Celie’s story grabbed hold of me from the first chapter and never let me go. I remember reading the book over a weekend and being blown away by the narrative, the writing, the sheer excellence of the story celebrating the strength, the courage, the vulnerability, the sheer tenacity of Black women. I once met Alice Walker at a book signing and it was one of the highlights of my twenties. Scratch that! One of the highlights of my life.

The Women of Brewster Place, Gloria Naylor: Reading this book is like looking through a window into the lives of the women who live on Brewster Place and sharing their joys and their sorrows. I love the form and format of this book. Each woman tells of their life and their stories weave around each other to create a beautiful whole like a stunning tapestry.

The Joys of Motherhood, Buchi Emecheta: A beautifully written and poignant story of the sacrifices a mother makes for her children, particularly her eldest son. I took the title of the book at its word though and it was only after finishing the book that I appreciated its sardonic irony. Buchi Emecheta was such an evocative, underrated storyteller.

And Still I Rise, Maya Angelou: Poems that feed the mind and the soul. I was fortunate enough to see Maya Angelou in concert twice. She was phenomenal. Funny, poignant and breath-takingly honest about her past, her experiences, her inspirations. Just listening to her taught me so much about being true to yourself in your writing. She was one of a number of phenomenal black women who inspired me to be bold, to be brave, to take risks, to embrace my own voice.

The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison: This was the first book by Toni Morrison that I read, and I still remember how stunned I was by the story as I read the last sentence and closed the book. The searing narrative and the exquisite writing made me an instant fan. So much so that the next time I was in a bookshop, I bought every book of hers I could find. Quite simply, she was a sublime writer.

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