2022 was a record-breaking year for the UK publishing industry, with a total income of £6.9bn – and literature is becoming more and more popularised, and accessible, to people of all generations, demographics, and identities.
That has been exemplified not only in increasing diversification in the voices that are being platformed but also in the cultural spaces being created concomitantly.
TheBooksDem, a creative agency focused on showcasing the culture of the Black diaspora through education and the arts, is a clear example of this phenomenon. The collective has held events in Soho House’s Shoreditch studio, On.Road and the Orange Room, as well as having delivered classroom workshops in schools across London.
For their latest offering, they’re taking over the GUAP office for a one-of-a-kind book club, sponsored by Picador Books.
On October 25th 7-11 pm, TheBooksDem will cover a story from Jordan Peele’s upcoming book release ‘Out There Screaming‘, an anthology of short horror stories written exclusively by Black writers. Alongside the event, they’re curating a magazine commissioning some written pieces about “memory, horror, and the diaspora”.
GUAP: How did TheBooksDem come to be?
DeJuan: While researching for my EPQ in college exploring The Vietnam War, I made an Instagram page as a personal notebook to organise my notes. The engagement on my page built a community of people passionate about history, heritage, and literature and after lockdown, I decided to bring everyone together!
GUAP: How was your passion for reading originally ignited?
DeJuan: My grandparents have had their house since the 70s, so their library is filled with classics. When I used to live there and the TV was occupied, I would sneak off to read books that I was definitely too young for [laughs] – like White Teeth and Flowers in the Attic.
Nadia: Primary school book fairs was really where the excitement for reading came to me. I was super captivated by what I described as a six years old as “telly in your head”. I loved reimagining the words written in my head: it felt like a superpower.
Gabriel: From a young age, my parents told me I had to excel at everything. So reading voraciously was just something I did to show off. But, I started reading Malorie Blackman’s novels when I was eight and that transformed my perception of what reading was.
GUAP: What’s a must-read book for our readers?
NADIA: Anything by Toni Morrison. Start at Sula and work your way down her phenomenal catalog!
Gabriel: Probably Just Another Nigger by Don Cox. He was an organiser within the Black Panther party, and this is his memoir. Through it, you get to learn loads about the arts scene in the ’60s, what worked well in the Black Panther party, and what failed within it.
Honorable mention to Capitalist Realism by Mark Fisher though!
GUAP: What’s next for TheBooksDem?
DeJuan: In November we are hosting a panel-discussion event for the lovely Nubia Assata, a political commentator and pan-Africanist author from Birmingham, and will be celebrating the one-year anniversary of her book, What is Next For Us? This book is a discussion of the history of political activism in the black diaspora and an exploration of what its future holds.
Book tickets to TheBooksDem event here.
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