Clockwise from top left: Mary Bello, Aisha Bushby, Phoebe Roy and Yasmin Rahman.
Winner of the YA Book Prize Special Achievement Award in 2018, A Change is Gonna Come collects stories and poetry from BAME writers on the theme of change. As well as featuring top Young Adult authors, it introduces four fresh new voices in YA fiction: Mary Bello, Aisha Bushby, Yasmin Rahman and Phoebe Roy.
Sometimes it’s very easy to feel down: our imminent demise post-Brexit; insidious racism rearing up again; misogynists for political leaders, make you wonder what hope there is for the future. Hooray then for A Change Is Gonna Come (Little Tiger Press, £7.99), an anthology which fills me with joy and optimism.
A Change is Gonna Come celebrates issues of identity in a way rarely found in mainstream YA publishing. Aisha Bushby’s eloquent Marionette Girl details without fanfare the security provided by routines for Amani, a girl who suffers with anxiety. Placed in Amani’s shoes we are on her side immediately. The first person narrative is sensitive without being overly sentimental, and the tale’s simplicity made me cry.
What makes me love this collection is that the story or experience comes first, not that it happens to be about someone who is, for example, mixed heritage or gay. Whether it is the rawness of a parent’s death (Dear Asha), scenes imagined from the life of Pablo Fanque (Astounding Talent! Unequalled Performances!) or a teenage friendship derailed by racism (We, Who?), these are stories from the heart.
In Fortune Favours The Bold, Yasmin Rahman‘s skill in creating and exaggerating a believable self consciousness makes us feel the effects of Islamophobia on one teenage girl’s life. The sad optimism with which she encounters the ignorance and racism too readily spouted by a world focused on difference is fabulous.
The collection’s title says it all. We do need to change attitudes at large, and we need to change that only writing from a largely white, educated, metropolitan elite seems to get commissioned and published. It shouldn’t be a novelty to read a book by and about so many different backgrounds of people. It really shouldn’t.