Are black bookshops really making a difference?

carolynn bain Blog New Authors

This month we wanted to take the opportunity of sharing with you a letter we received from author Karla Neblett. Karla has just published her debut novel King of Rabbits.

As a book seller I have the privilege of seeing books before they are published and to be honest just the synopsis of this book intrigued me. When the team talked about it and a couple had read it, we knew we needed to make it our book of the month. But that's not why I am sharing this letter with you.

This month has been very difficult for me personally. As a mixed race woman seeing the treatment of Meghan Duchess of Sussex by the print and social media has been very painful. It is a reminder that when we stand up for ourselves and speak the truth of our experiences, people of influence will go to great lengths to trash what we say and they usually do that by character assassination.

You may be surprised at how much hate we receive from those who do not want black authors to have a platform. These people don't just have these opinions. They consider it their duty to tell us in detail what their opinions are and what we need to do to fall inline with their way of thinking. Whilst we will not give up or lay down,we still find this wearing and so, we welcome encouraging words that tell us we are making a difference. Karla's email came to the office on exactly the right day, reduced me to tears and reminded me that I love what I do, because what I do is change the world.

I hope Karla's words are as encouraging for you as they were for us.

"I wanted to thank Afrori for making King of Rabbits March Book of the Month. In the video I had made a little thank you bit but it sounded so bad, so I thought it best to stick to my natural form: writing. Anyway, perhaps you or a team read the book and chose it, so please send this on to any people who made the decision. :) 

How do I explain how grateful I am? It's hard, so I thought I'd tell you how I reacted when I found out... 

I was sat at my laptop, read Najma's email, and immediately said out loud, "Dad!" (My dad passed last year.) Being that Afrori is a bookseller for books of black origin, it fills me with such a huge sense of pride that you have chosen my work as your book of the month. Especially on its first month of being released. I so desperately wanted to tell my dad. He made my brothers and I so proud of our heritage. Leading up to his death, and as I mentioned, being light-skinned mixed-race, I was so worried that I might feel as though a part of my black identity would dissolve along with him. What I've learned, though, is that heritage and culture and all the beautiful things that come from being mixed race and having black heritage don't just disappear. It seems obvious now. But this was a thing that really terrified me the last few years.

 What I'm trying to say is that by you making King of Rabbits book of the month, I feel SEEN for my black heritage too and the natural influence that this has on my writing. There aren't words to express quite how much that means to me. Especially knowing how my dad would have reacted if he had been here to know. 

My siblings, they're very happy too. And so that really means the world. 

Kai is very special boy. He is representative of so many special people I have known and still know. I'm so grateful that you think his story is worth shedding light on. The real tragedy is that so much of this book was drawn from things I've seen and from good people and ultimately, real life doesn't always have happy endings. This is another reason I appreciate you choosing it.  

Writing this book felt like a way of honouring young people who could see no other way but to make that decision. 

I feel the book isn't entirely mine anymore. I feel like it was a message I had to write and you're helping to spread that message, which means so much. Perhaps I sound mad. Perhaps I am bit!  

I am still feeling shocked, and if I'm honest, I keep saying to my housemate , "Well, I've got Afrori book of the month!" I mean, come on, WHO can say that? I'm so lucky!!! 🥳 

Thank you again SOOOOOOOO much."



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