Reni Eddo-Lodge shares how she feels about becoming the first black woman to top non-fiction chart

Responding to the news that her book Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race had topped the paperback non-fiction chart this week, Reni Eddo-Lodge said she couldn’t help but be “dismayed” about the circumstances which had led to her achievement.

Reni Eddo-Lodge has shared an important message about the UK publishing industry as she became the first British black woman to top the paperback non-fiction chart yesterday (10 June).

Her book Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race topped the charts in the wake of the anti-racism protests which have been held across the UK.

Taking to Twitter to mark the achievement, Eddo-Lodge said she couldn’t help but feel “dismayed” about the “tragic” circumstances which had triggered the surge in the number of people reading and buying her book.

“Well, the numbers are in,” she wrote. “I’m the first and only black woman to top Britain’s non-fiction book bestseller chart.

“Can’t help but be dismayed by this – the tragic circumstances in which this achievement came about. 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 rise in sales of the 2017 title came after protests broke out across the world in response to George Floyd’s death at the hands of a white police officer on 25 May, as lists of resources were shared for white people to educate themselves about the systemic racism which is still present both in the US and here, in the UK.

Eddo-Lodge’s bestselling book explores what it means to be a black person in the UK today, tackling important issues including the eradication of black British history and the links between class and race across the UK. 

Bernardine Evaristo also broke records yesterday as she became the first female writer of colour to top the UK’s paperback fiction chart with her book Girl, Woman, Other. Evaristo, who also became the first black author to win the Man Booker prize with her shared win in December 2019, also took to Twitter to mark the occasion, calling her and Eddo-Lodge’s success “personal and community-history making”.

“I’ve just heard that I’m the FIRST female writer of colour to top the UK fiction paperback chart,” she tweeted. “The only other writer of colour was my fellow Bookeree @MarlonJames in 2015. Astonishing.”  

Statistics from the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society reveal a shocking disparity between the number of white people and people of colour published in the UK; according to their most recent census, only 6% of authors published in the UK are people of colour.

A crowdfunding project launched last month to provide support for inclusive publishers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic has now raised over £160,000 in an attempt to broaden the number of voices published in the UK.

Eddo-Lodge previously asked readers who had bought her book in the wake of George Floyd’s death to match the price they paid with a donation to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which has been providing bail for protestors arrested during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the US. 

“Because of the past week’s horrible and tragic events, I’ve noticed a marked uptick in people recommending my book,” she wrote on Twitter. “I’m asking everyone who buys a copy to please match however much you bought it with a donation to the Minnesota Freedom Fund.

“Better yet, borrow a copy from a friend/your local library and donate what you would have spent to the Minnesota Freedom Fund. 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.”

Image: Getty

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