Kamila Shamsie on Trench Brothers: an ode to whitewashed war heroes

The stories of more than a million men who fought in the first world war for Britain – and against racism in their own ranks – have gone untold. A new theatre show sets the record straight

History does not record whether there was any contact during the first world war between the men of the Indian army who were being treated in hospitals in Brighton for injuries sustained on the western front and the men of the British West Indies regiment training further along the Sussex coast in Seaford. If there was, they’d have had much to discuss, both in terms of the camaraderie between soldiers and the racial discrimination that followed these men who had volunteered to fight for the empire.

Khudadad Khan of the Indian army, the first Indian to receive a Victoria Cross, might have had something to say about the scandal that erupted in 1915 ...

Kamal Ahmed: ‘We find it hard to talk about prejudice’

The BBC journalist on his new memoir, his Sudanese roots, and why he doesn’t want to leave white people feeling guilty

Kamal Ahmed, the BBC’s economics editor (soon to become editorial director of BBC news), has worked on newspapers (he was political editor of the Observer) and for the Equality and Human Rights Commission. His sparky, accessible and stimulating memoir, The Life and Times of a Very British Man, takes his life as the son of a white, Yorkshire-born mother and a Sudanese father as a starting point for a conversation about identity, racism and what it means to be British.

Your memoir reads as an undertaking to understand prejudice. Why do human beings struggle to accept otherness?
It is only by accepting we all have prejudices that we can start a conversation. The reason we find it so hard to talk about our prejudices is partly ...

Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires review – coolly ironic stories

Upper-middle-class black lives are mischievously dramatised in an American debut collection with verv

First we meet Riley, a very modern, culturally savvy black man who wears blue contacts, bleaches his hair, and is irked that his enjoyment of anime and comics conventions might mean he’s “mistaken for a self-hating Uncle Tom”. This opening story sets the tone for Nafissa Thompson-Spires’s witty, mischievous short story collection, set mostly in California. Throughout, she dramatises the flawed interactions of people whose shared skin colour has ceased to be a bridge towards understanding. Riley may be sophisticated, but his sensitivity doesn’t extend to Brother Man, an equally nerdy street seller.

Her tales focus on snobbish characters whose parents’ wealth has made them “somehow unfit for black people”. The book’s title nods to the celebratory 19th-century sketches “Heads of the Colored People, Done With a Whitewash Brush” by the physician and abolitionist James McCune Smith. ...

Carnegie medal promises immediate action over lack of diversity

The UK’s oldest prize for children’s books is to be restructured after a report into failings that left 2017’s award shortlist entirely white

The UK’s oldest prize for children’s literature, the Carnegie medal, has promised long-term change following a review of its lack of diversity, which one respondent said stemmed from the fact that “literature in the UK is an unapologetic bastion of white privilege”.

Related: All-white Carnegie medal longlist provokes anger from children's authors

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Danez Smith becomes youngest winner of Forward poetry prize

Chair of judges Bidisha pays tribute to collection Don’t Call Us Dead’s ‘passionate and very contemporary’ verse

The 29-year-old African American poet Danez Smith has beaten writers including the US poet laureate to become the youngest ever winner of the prestigious Forward prize for best poetry collection – and the first winner to identify as gender-neutral.

Smith, who prefers the pronoun “they”, confronts race, police brutality and gender in their collection, Don’t Call Us Dead, as well as their HIV-positive diagnosis. In its opening sequence, “summer, somewhere”, Smith imagines an afterlife for black men shot dead by the police. In “dear white America”, a poem that went viral on Youtube, Smith writes: “i can’t stand your ground. i’m sick of calling your recklessness the law. each night, i count my brothers. & in the morning, when some do not survive to be counted, i count the holes they leave.”

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Feast Days by Ian MacKenzie review – the privilege of Americans abroad

A banker’s wife searches for her place in Brazil in this devastatingly truthful take on class, race, marriage and politics

Ian MacKenzie writes about cities with the same verve and vigour as Salman Rushdie and Zadie Smith. Reading his books, it does not seem that he loves cities – rather, that he is compelled by them: their dirtiness, their contrasts, their hidden edges. 

Feast Days, his second novel, is set in São Paulo and narrated by Emma, an American whose husband has moved there to make his fortune in banking. She is uncertain what to do. She does not need a job but is restless, finding herself discontented with meeting wives of her husband’s colleagues for drinks or going to overblown children’s parties. She volunteers at a church that is working to help the large number of refugees who have arrived in the country and becomes caught up in the political ...

Back to Black: Retelling Black Radicalism for the 21st Century by Kehinde Andrews – review

A new survey of western black radical thought is lucid, fluent and compelling

Black radicalism, Kehinde Andrews argues, is the most misunderstood ideology of the 20th century. And he’s right. It has become a vague term, lazily employed to encompass everything from the black nationalism of WEB Du Bois or Martin Delany, the Pan-Africanism of Kwame Ture (AKA Stokely Carmichael) and the black Marxism of Amilcar Cabral to the self-sufficiency of Marcus Garvey and the cultural nationalism of the Nation of Islam.

The reasons for misunderstanding black radicalism are intertwined with the reasons it exists in the first place – black thought has been minimised, dismissed and treated with contempt.

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How to Love a Jamaican and Heads of the Colored People – reviews

Impressive debuts by Alexia Arthurs and Nafissa Thompson-Spires bring grit and wit to issues around racial identity

The stories in the debut collection from Alexia Arthurs shuttle between Jamaica, her birthplace, and the US, where she lives. Among the varied scenarios you find depictions of island life, in which a betrayed wife turns up at the home of her husband’s lover brandishing a (blunt) machete; a student party in Brooklyn brought to a halt by a quarrel about Lena Dunham’s Girls (“I fucking hate that show... I really can’t imagine Hannah or any of her friends having POC friends... it glorifies gentrification”); and the life story of a pop star resembling Rihanna, portrayed as a depressive self-Googler whose mother, despite her misgivings (“I don’t see why yuh can’t sell music wid yuh clothes on”), tenderly looks after her after the sudden death of a co-star in a never-to-be-released promo.

Several ...

How free should novelists be to imagine radically different lives?

For me – a middle-aged British man writing in the voice of a teenage Egyptian girl signing up with Isis – this is a tough question. Here is how I answer it

My new novel may need justifying. Half of it is narrated by Sofia, a 17-year-old girl born in Cairo; I’m a 47-year-old man who has never lived outside the UK. More to the point, the story opens with Sofia arriving in Syria to join Islamic State – a long way from any experience of my own. Privately, I have been asked what gives me the right to tell this story. With the book newly out, I expect to have to answer this publicly. It’s a good question.

And a vexed one, debated with understandable heat over the last few years. One side sees an act of presumption or, worse, exploitation: those who are used to having an audience ...

Backlash after the Nation apologises for publishing controversial poem

Anders Carlson-Wee’s How-To has been accused of racism and ableism, but some writers say the magazine should not be scared to offend

A fierce debate has broken out in US literary circles after the progressive magazine the Nation apologised for publishing a poem in which a white poet assumes a black vernacular.

The young American poet Anders Carlson-Wee’s poem How-To was published in the Nation in July. Assuming the voice of a homeless person, it opens: “If you got hiv, say aids. If you a girl, / say you’re pregnant – nobody gonna lower / themselves to listen for the kick. People / passing fast.”

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Backlash after the Nation apologises for publishing controversial poem

Anders Carlson-Wee’s How-To has been accused of racism and ableism, but some writers say the magazine should not be scared to offend

A fierce debate has broken out in US literary circles after the progressive magazine the Nation apologised for publishing a poem in which a white poet assumes a black vernacular.

The young American poet Anders Carlson-Wee’s poem How-To was published in the Nation in July. Assuming the voice of a homeless person, it opens: “If you got hiv, say aids. If you a girl, / say you’re pregnant – nobody gonna lower / themselves to listen for the kick. People / passing fast.”

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BAME short story prize shortlist ranges across modern life

The six finalists for the Guardian/Fourth Estate award offer compelling pictures of the contemporary world

From the Yangtze river to Ladbroke Grove, the six stories shortlisted for the Guardian and Fourth Estate BAME short story prize offer a whistlestop tour of the contemporary world, taking in environmental disaster and the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower blaze.

Three hundred stories were submitted for the prize for work by black and minority ethnic writers, which is now in its third year. Former shortlistees include Guy Gunaratne, whose debut novel In Our Mad and Furious City was last week longlisted for the Man Booker prize.

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‘Dire statistics’ show YA fiction is becoming less diverse, warns report

Study finds that fewer books for young adults by black and minority ethnic authors have been published in the UK since 2010, despite rise in diversity initiatives

Despite a raft of diversity initiatives, the percentage of young adult books written by black and minority ethnic (BME) authors has declined steadily since 2010, according to a new study warning that the UK’s “outdated” publishing culture must take rapid action to address a systemic problem in its ranks.

The research is “evidence of what many people already suspected: people of colour are terribly under-represented in books and bookish jobs”, according to its author Dr Melanie Ramdarshan Bold at University College London. It follows hot on the heels of the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education’s report into character diversity in children’s books, which showed only 1% of books published in the UK last year had a BME main protagonist.

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‘Lost chapters’ of Malcolm X’s autobiography sold at auction

Portions of the civil rights activist’s landmark book, reportedly too controversial to publish at the time, have been acquired by New York Public Library

“Lost” material from The Autobiography of Malcolm X, reportedly seen as too controversial to publish in the 1960s, has emerged this week at an auction in New York.

Along with the original typed manuscript, which reveals the back and forth between the black activist and his collaborator Alex Haley, to whom he told his story, the unpublished writing was put up for sale on Thursday by New York auctioneer Guernsey’s. The papers, including an unpublished chapter and a series of unpublished pages, were acquired by the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

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Days of Awe by AM Homes review – disorienting stories

Usually Homes is merciless at skewering the comedy of disappointment and dread, but her new collection swings between send-ups and soul-searching quests for meaning

Reading AM Homes’s new collection of stories, I’m brought up against that dull old chestnut: do we need to like characters in fiction in order to enjoy reading about them? Well no, of course not, again and again of course not. It’s pretty near impossible, for instance, to like Homes’s collapsed, incompetent, self-pitying couple Elaine and Paul in her 1999 novel Music for Torching – and yet the funny awfulness of their dialogue and their doomed attempts at self-improvement are compelling and page-turning; when their child is taken hostage in a shoot-out, they are sublimely craven. It’s not only Elaine and Paul; it’s their whole set. “Saturday afternoon at the cookout, regardless of the fact that they were all together the night before, they act glad ...

BAME books: let children see themselves in stories | Letters

From protagonists in wheelchairs to mixed-race newborns, it’s time for books and greetings cards to reflect real life

Alison Flood’s article on the lack of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) main characters in children’s books raises an important issue, but it was a shame that the books listed were about BAME children outside the UK (Only 1% of UK children’s books have BAME main characters, study finds, 17 July). We have some excellent UK-based authors who write stories reflecting the lives of BAME children in the UK – it is hard to imagine how the brilliant British former children’s laureate Malorie Blackman could have been omitted. Could the Guardian remedy this with a feature listing some of the great books already in print featuring strong BAME characters? It would be a useful resource for all parents who would like children to see the world from more than ...

There There by Tommy Orange review – Native American stories

A sorrowful, beautiful debut novel follows a group of young “Urban Indians” struggling to make sense of their identity

How do you rewrite the story of a people? This question shapes Tommy Orange’s sorrowful, beautiful debut novel. Orange is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma. There There is simultaneously the story of a small group of “Urban Indians” living in Oakland and the story of “Indians and Native Americans, American Indians and Native American Indians, North American Indians, Natives, NDNDs and Ind’ins, Status Indians and Non-Status Indians, First Nations Indians and Indians so Indian we either think about the fact of it every single day or we never think about it at all”. And to tell the story of his small cast of characters Orange gives his readers a sense of the great sweep of history that was initiated when a group of settlers showed ...

Only 1% of children’s books have BAME main characters – UK study

Research finds that of 9,115 titles published last year, only 4% featured BAME characters

Only 1% of British children’s books feature a main character who is black or minority ethnic, a investigation into representations of people of colour has found, with the director calling the findings “stark and shocking”.

In a research project that is the first of its kind, and funded by Arts Council England, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) asked UK publishers to submit books featuring BAME characters in 2017. Of the 9,115 children’s books published last year, researchers found that only 391 – 4% - featured BAME characters. Just 1% had a BAME main character, and a quarter of the books submitted only featured diversity in their background casts.

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American librarians defend renaming Laura Ingalls Wilder award

Professional body the ALA says the Little House on the Prairie author’s ‘complex legacy’ of racist attitudes was not consistent with its values

The American Library Association (ALA) has stressed that its decision to drop Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from its children’s literature award due to racist sentiments in her books is not “an attempt to censor, limit, or deter access” to the Little House on the Prairie author’s books.

The organisation announced on Sunday that the board of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) had voted 12 to zero in favour of changing the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder award to the Children’s literature legacy award. The prize was first awarded in 1954 to Wilder herself, and has been won by some of America’s best-loved children’s authors, from EB White to Beverly Cleary.

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