Warsan Shire is a Somali-British writer and poet, born in Nairobi and raised in London. Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head is her first full collection, following two chapbooks, Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth and Her Blue Body, published by Flipped Eye. The first Young Poet Laureate for London, Shire has collaborated with Beyoncé, writing the poetry for the Peabody Award-winning visual album Lemonade and Disney film Black Is King. She also wrote the short film Brave Girl Rising highlighting the voices and faces of Somali girls in Africa's largest refugee camp.
Here she shares ten novels, poetry and short story collections that have inspired and influenced her work.
When Haitians tell a story, they say "Krik?" and the eager listeners answer "Krak!" In Krik? Krak!, her second novel, Edwidge Danticat establishes herself as the latest heir to that narrative tradition with nine stories that encompass both the cruelties and the high ideals of Haitian life. They tell of women who continue loving behind prison walls and in the face of unfathomable loss; of a people who resist the brutality of their rulers through the powers of imagination. The result is a collection that outrages, saddens, and transports the reader with its sheer beauty.
Miranda July£9.99 £9.49
In her remarkable stories of seemingly ordinary people living extraordinary lives, Miranda July reveals how a single moment can change everything. Whether writing about a middle-aged woman's obsession with Prince William or an aging bachelor who has never been in love, the result is startling, tender and sexy by turns. One of the most acclaimed and successful short-story collections, No One Belongs Here More Than You confirms Miranda July as a spectacularly original, iconic and important voice today.
ZZ Packer£9.99 £9.49
A black, motherless loner tries to come to terms with her radically unfamiliar surroundings as a Yale freshman; 14-year-old church girl Tia runs away to the big city; a bright young man makes a last-ditch attempt to understand his loser father on the Million Man March in Washington DC; at summer camp, an all-black Brownie troop decide to teach a troop of white Brownies a lesson for a racial insult they think they overheard. Teeming with life, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is a collection that explores what it is to be human. Never neatly resolved, these provocative and unforgettable stories resonate with honesty and wry humour and introduce us to a major new talent.
Terrance Hayes£10.99 £10.44
American Sonnets builds a living picture of the whole self, and the whole human, even as it opens to the view the dividing lines of race, gender and political oppression which define the early 21st Century. It is compassionate, hilarious, melancholy, bewildered - and unstoppably, rhythmically compelling, as few books can hope to be.
Malika Booker£8.99 £8.54
Drawing on dramatic monologue, historical narratives, poetry of witness, and an integral intimate-domestic voice, this compilation portrays a visceral emotive patchwork of everyday dramas in the fabric of ordinary life. Written by a poet whose sense of rootedness shapes the dimensions of her work, it delves into a multiplicity of places, characters, locations, landscapes, and languages. From Grenada to the Heathrow airport, these poems are interconnected in a larger diasporic story.
Kayo Chingonyi£12.00 £11.40
Translating as 'initiation', kumukanda is the name given to the rites a young boy from the Luvale tribe must pass through before he is considered a man. The poems of Kayo Chingonyi's remarkable debut explore this passage: between two worlds, ancestral and contemporary; between the living and the dead; between the gulf of who he is and how he is perceived. Underpinned by a love of music, language and literature, here is a powerful exploration of race, identity and masculinity, celebrating what it means to be British and not British, all at once.
Pascale Petit£9.99 £9.49
At the dark heart of this unique collection is a daughter's fraught relationship with her dying father, a man whose legacy to her was violence and abandonment. Rich in the imagery of the Amazonian jungle (fire ants, shaman masks, hummingbirds, shrunken heads,jaguars) these poems at once ward off and redeem the father through myriad transformations. These intense, vibrant and fiercely felt poems are sure to evoke strong responses in readers. Refusing oblique irony, quotidian props, cant or any pretensions to urban hipness, Pascale Petit takes considerable risks. With fierce courage, she not only survives the brutal facts of her past, but transmutes them, through vivid imagination, into art.
Alice Walker£10.99 £10.44
This collection of essays is a celebration of the legacy of creativity - especially the rich vein of women's stories and spirituality through the ages and how they nourish the present. Alice Walker traces the umbilical thread linking writers through history - from her discovery of Zora Neale Hurston and her collections of black folklore, to the work of Jean Toomer, Buchi Emecheta and Flannery O'Connor. She also looks back at the highs and lows of the civil rights movement, her early political development, and the place of women's traditions in art. Coining the expression 'womanist prose', these are essays that value women's culture and strength, and the handing on of the creative spark from one generation to another.
Toni Morrison£9.99 £9.49
WITH A NEW INTRODUCTION BY CANDICE CARTY-WILLIAMS, AUTHOR OF QUEENIE Pecola Breedlove longs for blond hair and blue eyes, so that she will be as beautiful and beloved as all the blond, blue-eyed children in America. In the autumn of 1941, the marigolds in her garden will not bloom, and her wish will not come true. Pecola's life is about to change in other painful and devastating ways. A powerful interrogation of what it means to conform to an idea of beauty, The Bluest Eye asks vital questions about race, class and gender and remains one of Toni Morrison's most unforgettable works.
Jacob Sam-La Rose£10.99 £10.44
Jacob Sam-La Rose has been described as 'a one-man literary industry'. This was Patrick Neate's comment on the BBC Poetry Season website: 'Passionate about poetry and its power to change people's lives, he's a lesson to us all. He's also a damn fine writer.' Already well-known on the UK performance circuit, Sam-La Rose has also spent many years working with young people in schools and communities, especially around London. So it will come as a surprise to many that Breaking Silence is his first book-length collection of poetry. It is a collection that sits on the threshold between the personal and the profound, with eyes on race and dual heritage; masculinity and manhood; definitions and senses of self. Above all, it's a collection that's invested in the power of the voice, in the work of giving a voice to issues and entities that would otherwise remain silent. It speaks on divides, from the spaces in between. Jacob Sam-La Rose's work is grounded in a belief that poetry can be a powerful force within a community, and that it's possible to combine the immediacy of poetry in performance with formal rigour and innovation on the page. Shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize
Warsan Shire£12.99 £12.34
Poems of migration, womanhood, trauma and resilience from the award-winning Somali British poet Warsan Shire, celebrated collaborator on Beyonce's Lemonade and Black Is King . With her first full-length poetry collection, Warsan Shire introduces us to a girl who, in the absence of a nurturing guide, makes her own stumbling way toward womanhood. Drawing from her own life and the lives of loved ones, as well as pop culture and news headlines, Shire finds vivid, unique details in the experiences of refugees and immigrants, mothers and daughters, Black women and teenage girls. These are noisy lives, full of music and weeping and surahs. These are fragrant lives, full of blood and perfume and jasmine. These are polychrome lives, full of moonlight and turmeric and kohl. The long-awaited collection from one of our most exciting contemporary poets is a blessing, an incantatory celebration of survival. Each reader will come away changed.