July 23, 2024

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Reni Eddo-Lodge: Book chart record ‘horrible indictment’ of industry

Reni Eddo-LodgeImage copyright
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Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book was originally published in 2017

Reni Eddo-Lodge has criticised the UK publishing industry after she became the first ever black British author to top the paperback non-fiction chart.

Her book, Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, went to number one on the chart this week.

Eddo-Lodge said she was “dismayed” that the achievement only came about under “tragic circumstances” – referring to the death of George Floyd.

The author said it was a “horrible indictment of the publishing industry”.

Renewed interest in the 2017 title was sparked following protests around the death of Mr Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

This week, Bernardine Evaristo also became the first female writer of colour to top the mass market fiction chart with Girl, Woman, Other, The Bookseller said.

Evaristo’s novel jointly won the Booker Prize last year, together with Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments.

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Bernardine Evaristo jointly won the Booker Prize last year

After her book topped the non-fiction chart, Eddo-Lodge said: “Can’t help but be dismayed by this, the tragic circumstances in which this achievement came about.

  • Calls for racial justice at George Floyd’s funeral

“The fact that it’s 2020 and I’m the first. Let’s be honest. Reader demand aside, that it took this long is a horrible indictment of the publishing industry.”

The book rose 155 places in the official Bookseller Chart, landing as the third most popular book overall.

Only one other black author, former US first lady Michelle Obama, has ever scored the overall bestselling book in the UK, with her 2018 memoir Becoming.

‘Transformed my life’

Eddo-Lodge’s best-seller explores the links between gender, class and race in the UK and around the world.

Last month, after the death of Mr Floyd while in police custody, the writer posted online that she had noticed an upsurge in sales, which she found unsettling.

“This book financially transformed my life and I really don’t like the idea of personally profiting every time a video of a black person’s death goes viral,” she wrote, urging readers to offer a donation to the Minnesota Freedom Fund.

Last week, she made herself unavailable to the press for further comment, noting on her social media: “What I have to say has not changed for the best part of a decade.”

Fellow author Dorothy Koomson this week posted an open letter to the publishing industry, in which she called it an “extremely damaging” environment for black authors.

“Black writers do not want special consideration, we do not want special treatment,” she wrote.

“We want a level playing field, an equality of opportunity, and the chance to write books and explore as many subjects and genres as our white counterparts.”

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