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How Do You Decolonize and Diversify Your Bookshelf? Deirdre Osborne and Kadija Sesay

Festival of Ideas
Deirdre Osborne and Kadija Sesay

Waterstones  |  £8 / £6

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Deirdre Osborne and Kadija Sesay introduce their must-read list of novels that celebrate the wide and diverse experiences of people from around the world, of all backgrounds and all races.


The power of great fiction is that readers have the opportunity to discover new worlds and encounter other beliefs and opinions. But how do we find these books in the all-too-often white dominated ‘required reading’ collections that have become the accepted norm? How can powerful voices and cultural perspectives make it to the front of our bookshelves?

In This is the Canon: Decolonise Your Bookshelf in 50 Books Osborne and Sesay (along with Joan Anim-Addo, Professor Emerita of Caribbean Literature and Culture at Goldsmiths University) have chosen novels from literary giants such as Toni Morrison and Chinua Achebe to equally vital writers such as Caribbean novelist Earl Lovelace or Indigenous Australian author Alexis Wright, the novels recommended here are in turn haunting and lyrical; innovative and inspiring.

Osborne and Sesay discuss the books, the writers and how their list came to be with Madhu Krishnan.

Joan Anim-Addo, Deirdre Osborne and Kadija Sesay’s This is the Canon: Decolonise Your Bookshelf in 50 Books is published by Quercus. Buy a copy from our partners Waterstones online or at the event.

In partnership

Black and white photo of Deirdre Osborne smiling at camera

Dr Deirdre Osborne is Reader in English Literature and Drama at Goldsmiths University, London and the co-founder of the world-first Black British Literature MA. She is also associate editor of Women’s Writing.

Kadija Sesay

Kadija Sesay MBE is a writer and editor, and the founder of SABLE LitMag and SABLE LitFest. Kadija’s poetry, stories and essays have been published in the UK, USA and Africa.

Madhu Krishnan

Madhu Krishnan is Professor of African, World and Comparative Literatures in the Department of English at the University of Bristol and Director of the Centre for Black Humanities. She is author of Contemporary African Literature in English: Global Locations, Postcolonial Identifications (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), Writing Spatiality in West Africa: Colonial Legacies in the Anglophone/Francophone Novel (Boydell & Brewer, 2018) and Contingent Canons: African Literature and the Politics of Location (Cambridge University Press, 2018). She is at present working on a large scale project on literary activism in contemporary Africa, which explores the ways in which engagement with the literary functions as a mode of social production. Follow her on Twitter @ProfMadhuK

Booking Information

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Accessibility: Waterstones

One free carer ticket can be provided for each paying disabled visitor, please contact us before booking to arrange. More information about Waterstones Bristol – Galleries can be found here.

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• Guide and assistance dogs are welcome.

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