Susheila Nasta MBE is the former Editor-in-Chief of Wasafiri, the magazine of international contemporary writing she founded in 1984. A literary activist, writer and presenter, she is Professor of Contemporary and Modern Literatures at Queen Mary, University of London and Professor Emeritus at the Open University. She has published widely on postcolonial and contemporary writing, especially on the Caribbean, the South Asian diaspora and black Britain. Her books include Home Truths: Fictions of the South Asian Diaspora in Britain (2002); Writing Across Worlds: Contemporary Writers Talk (2004); India in Britain (2012); and Asian Britain: A Photographic History (2013). She is co-editor of the first Cambridge History of Black and Asian British Writing (forthcoming 2019) and writing a biography entitled The Bloomsbury Indians. She has judged several literary prizes and curated and advised exhibitions including the outdoor touring exhibition, At the Heart of the Nation: Indians in Britain, and Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land for the British Library in 2018. She is literary executor for the estate of Sam Selvon. She received an MBE in 2011 for her services to black and Asian literature, and in 2019 was elected Honorary Fellow by the Royal Society of Literature. She also received the prestigious Benson Medal for exceptional contributions to the advancement of literature.
Interviews and Features
How does migration affect a child's development? Eva Hoffman, Brave New Words
‘Poland was a country ravaged by war, impoverished and stifled by an oppressive regime. Among my most vivid childhood memories are images of ruined cities, of whole streets lying in rubble and gaping windowless buildings with the epidermis of exterior walls torn off and exposed interiors filled with broken stones. (Images of Aleppo in ruins today, which I have watched with a sense of terrible poignancy and rage, have now been superimposed on those early sights of Warsaw.)
Cracow itself had not been destroyed during the Second World War, for reasons which are not entirely clear, and remained a beautiful city, with layers of medieval, renaissance and baroque architecture. But the human losses were everywhere evident: in the history of my parents, whose entire families were killed during the Holocaust; in the presence in the streets of the war-wounded and the orphaned children, whose faces emanated a great sadness.’
How does migration affect a child’s development? Writer Eva Hoffman looks back on her childhood transition from Poland to Canada in her Brave New Words essay, featured in full on The Jewish Chronicle. Read now.
The Readers Resistance Book Club
Brave New Words, edited by Susheila Nasta is The Readers Resistance Book Club’s current read. The collection of essays on the power of literature features the writing of Blake Morrison, Shivanee Ramlochan, Romesh Gunesekera, Eva Hoffman, Kei Miller, Bernardine Evaristo, Raja Shehadeh, Bina Shah, Mukoma Wa Ngugi, Githa Hariharan, Hsiao-Hung Pai, James Kelman, Olumide Popoola, Tabish Khair and Marina Warner. Buy your copy HERE.
Bernardine Evaristo on Brave New Words and the power of campaigning
‘If those of us who are considered marginal (in some contexts this includes all women) stop campaigning, we experience social regression.’
Brave New Words on Indian Cultural Forum
Excerpts from Bina Shah’s essay ‘The Life and Death of Pakistan’s Sabeen Mahmud’ and Tabish Khair’s ‘The Bravado of Books’ from Brave New Words: The Power of Writing Now both feature on the Indian Cultural Forum. Read in full now.
Susheila Nasta at Time for Unity Conference, Brighton
Susheila Nasta, editor of Brave New Words, was invited by Brighton Women’s Centre to take part in their first Time for Unity conference. Susheila featured on the Time for Gender Equality panel discussion alongside Helen Pankhurst, Baroness Helena Kennedy, Natasha Walter and Cash Carraway.
Brave New Words and Blake Morrison in New Internationalist
‘‘Call yourself English?’ Yes and no. It’s the country to which I’m most attached, but at some point I dropped ‘English’ for the more inclusive ‘British’. Now it too is tainted, through adoption by the Far Right. I’d not go so far as to call myself Irish, though I do now have an Irish passport. I’m tempted to call myself ‘European’ but that only invites the response ‘Where in Europe?’ It’s natural to wonder where people come from but to ask is a loaded question. There are people living in the UK who fear they’ll be discriminated against if they admit to having begun life elsewhere, just as there are countries where – because of Empire, or complicity with the US, or bombs that have been dropped – it pays not to say you’re British.’
Brave New Words featured in The Irish Times
‘Today, the role of writers and of literature in asking questions and creating dialogues across often impassable barriers of prejudice and thought is not only vital but perhaps more urgent than ever. As wordsmiths, whose craft uses the very same instruments through which political power is most commonly exercised, writers and politicians may well as Salman Rushdie once put it be, “natural rivals”. Not only do they “create fictions” but also they make the world as they want to see it. As their words frequently complicate, challenge or deny “official” versions of truth, giving the lie to “official facts”, they are often, as Rushdie himself knew well, on dangerous ground.’
Read in full HERE.
BBC Radio 4 Open Book with Susheila Nasta
‘There’s an element of transience with the world wide web… Marina Warner [in her Brave New Words essay] calls the web a ‘loom’, connecting cultures, but I think the material object is really important. Even the ads you might have in your pages, who’s reviewing who… when you see the whole thing rather than one bit you download, then you see a whole community and a collective of people who are reading, writing and speaking together.’
Bernardine Evaristo: 'These are unprecedented times for black female writers'
An extract of Bernardine Evaristo‘s essay from Brave New Words featured in The Guardian Review this weekend, claiming main spot. The essay queries what it means to be a black writer in this current period of ‘woke’ness, mentioning The Slumflour, Black Girl Festival, Gal-Dem, Jackie Kay, Chidera Eggerue and Otegha Uwagba, amongst many others.
‘The ripple effects of 2013’s #BlackLivesMatter moment, and the movement that followed, saw renewed interest in writings about race in the US, which spilled over into the UK. We are used to the spotlight on racism being beamed across the Atlantic while little attention is paid to the perniciousness of systemic racism in Britain, about which there is much denial.’ Read the full essay in Brave New Words, available now.
Bernardine is joint-winner of the Booker Prize for her novel Girl, Woman, Other. She also features in Margaret Busby’s anthology of Black women writers, New Daughters of Africa.
Jackie Kay selects Britain's 10 best BAME writers
The future is complex; the future is hybrid. These 10 voices make me feel hopeful about our future and give me back some of my past.’ Jackie Kay selects Britain’s 10 best BAME writers for The Guardian. The 10th spot goes to Olumide Popoola, contributor to both New Daughters of Africa and Brave New Words.
‘Olumide Popoola’s elegant and lyrical prose is instantly engaging. Her complex work captures the atmosphere and the tempo of the racial tension in King’s Cross. She is fascinated with the spaces in between culture and form, and she is adept at moving between Nigeria, Germany and the UK.’
Read the list in full HERE.
Brave New Words: The Bookseller Previews
Brave New Words, edited by Susheila Nasta, features in The Bookseller previews for August 2019. ‘The impressive roster of contributors, including Bernardine Evaristo, James Kelman and Romesh Gunesekera, explore the role of “brave new words” in the battle against limitations in the fundamental rights of citizens, the closure of borders, fake news, and an increasing reluctance to engage with critical democratic debate. Bravo.’
Royal Society of Literature Award for Susheila Nasta
Professor Susheila Nasta from Queen Mary University of London and editor of Brave New Words has been awarded the Benson Medal from the Royal Society of Literature (RSL) for her services to literature. She received the medal from President, Marina Warner, at a special award ceremony held in London.
The Benson Medal was founded in 1916 by A.C. Benson, scholar, author and RSL Fellow, ‘in respect of meritorious works in poetry, fiction, history and belles lettres’. The medal honours a whole career rather than a single work, has been awarded several times to writers in other languages, and is often awarded those who are not writers, but who have done conspicuous service to literature.
In addition to being the sole recipient of the 2019 Benson Medal, Professor Nasta was also elected as an Honorary Fellow at the Royal Society of Literature (RSL).
“I am so proud to have been selected as the recipient of the Medal and as an Honorary Fellow. Both are huge honours, especially as this recognition comes from my peers,” said Professor Nasta.
“I am delighted too that over the past 35 years Wasafiri has been able to build an international community and nourish the work of so many distinguished writers from around the world,” she added.