The best books that pay homage to south London

Lizzie Damilola Blackburn Author Of Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband?
By Lizzie Damilola Blackburn

Who am I?

Having grown up and gone to school in south London, it will always have a special place in my heart. Call me biased, but I think it’s the best place in the capital. Hands down. I love that it’s home to many Afro-Caribbean families and how its cultural presence can be felt by just walking down any street. From the bustling markets selling plantain, yams, and hard dough bread to the throng of aunties wearing brightly-coloured, patterned lace as they make their way to church. With south London being so atmospheric, I knew I had to include it as a setting in my novel. It will always be my first home.  


I wrote...

Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband?

By Lizzie Damilola Blackburn,

Book cover of Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband?

What is my book about?

Yinka wants to find love. Her mum wants to find it for her. But how can she find a huzband when she is surrounded by her many aunties who frequently (and loudly) pray for her delivery from singledom, has a preference for chicken and chips over traditional Nigerian food, and a bum she's sure is far too small as a result? Oh, and the fact that she's a thirty-one-year-old South Londoner who doesn't believe in sex before marriage is a bit of an obstacle too...

When her cousin gets engaged, Yinka commences 'Operation Find A Date For Rachel's Wedding.' Armed with a totally flawless (and incredibly specific) plan, will Yinka find herself a huzband? What if the thing she really needs to find... is herself?

The books I picked & why

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Queenie

By Candice Carty-Williams,

Book cover of Queenie

Why this book?

For so long, Black women have been portrayed as the strong archetype, and so, it was refreshing to dive into the world of Queenie Jenkins – a young, British Jamaican woman who doesn’t quite have her career and love life together. This book is a strong reminder that sometimes it’s okay not to be okay, while also emphasising the importance of reaching out for help, and is told with such heart and realness. Thanks to Carty-William’s sharp, acerbic humour and insanely vivid descriptions of Brixton, Queenie is one of those books that will stay with me for decades.


Open Water

By Caleb Azumah Nelson,

Book cover of Open Water

Why this book?

What I personally loved about Open Water was just how original it was. From the second-person narration to the poetic prose and the beautiful portrayal of a Black man, not only being on the receiving end of love but also, the giver – a depiction we don’t see enough in publishing. I also enjoyed following how two artists fell in love, organically. And yet, I didn’t feel like a fly on the wall. A key takeaway I got from the story was how freeing vulnerability can be, but also, how difficult it can be to express emotions in words. Although triggering in places, overall, I found Open Water a comforting read; there were lots of cultural references that made me smile and nod my head, such as Peckhamplex cinema and Morley’s chicken shop. 


Hope and Glory

By Jendella Benson,

Book cover of Hope and Glory

Why this book?

Hope and Glory has to be one of the most relatable books I’ve ever read, and not just because it’s set in my old stomping ground, Peckham. It follows Hope, a twenty-something British Nigerian who, after returning to London for her dad’s funeral, discovers a life-shattering family secret. What I loved about this book was that I felt as though the author was writing a love letter to those individuals who didn’t have it easy growing up and whose stories are not often told in mainstream fiction. I feel as though Hope and Glory will provide a sigh of relief for so many readers; I, for one, certainly felt seen. Beautifully observed, heartfelt and authentic, I felt a xylophone of emotions while reading this exquisite novel, but in the end, very hopeful.


Girl, Woman, Other

By Bernardine Evaristo,

Book cover of Girl, Woman, Other

Why this book?

There’s so much to adore about Girl, Women, Other. I’m absolutely obsessed with the razor-sharp prose. I love the polylith-take of modern-day Britain. And I became heavily invested in the interconnected lives of the narrators: twelve very different and predominantly women of colour. Evaristo proves that it’s possible to write about complex, sensitive issues with both zing and wit, and love and care. Peckham and Elephant and Castle also get a mention too! Girl, Women, Other is such a special book. It’s one that I return to time and time again. A timeless, contemporary classic.


Wahala

By Nikki May,

Book cover of Wahala

Why this book?

I flew through Wahala. Pacy, suspenseful, and binge-able, this novel did not disappoint; it delivered in all areas. Zany, memorable characters – tick. Messy, complicated entanglements – tick. Tantalising, mouth-watering descriptions of Nigerian food served in south London restaurants – tick, tick. (The author kindly included a few recipes at the back of the book!) Wahala reminded me of how enjoyable reading can be when you find a widely-entertaining book that you can kick back and sink your teeth into. An engrossing, riveting read that explores the complexity of adult female friendships, I highly recommend it. 


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