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11 unmissable books by authors of colour coming in 2023

With gothic horrors, gal-dem alumni authorial debuts, and more bangers from Merky books, here’s our forecast of next year’s due-to-be bookworm favourites.

03 Jan 2023

While the future right now feels uncertain, one thing that we can bet on is that next year will be a truly delicious year for publishing. With a tonne of new voices and novels in the mix, the array of works by talented writers dropping over the next twelve months is bound to have your to-read lists looking endless.

Expect a wide variety of genre-bending projects. There are tales set in 1940s colonial Trinidad, Southern gothic horror as well as heartwarming coming-of-age stories in the YA novel arena. Here’s what to look out for.

The Situationship by Taylor-Dior Rumble 

Taylor-Dior Rumble’s romance debut, The Situationship, already promises to be one of the hottest reads of next year. From Merky Books, comes a novel that perfectly captures the messiness of modern dating. The hellscape that is navigating awkward Hinge conversations, fuckbois galore, and confusing not-quite-relationship-material romances. Even the title left me triggered, as we follow 24-year-old aspiring writer Tia and her trials of falling for nonchalant men who can never seem to tell you where you stand. 

With painfully relatable observations on career growth, friendship, and finding yourself amid the confusion of trying to find your soul mate, The Situationship will leave you laughing out loud, blushing at the smooth lines of said fuckboys, and bingeing the whole thing in one night. Taylor’s delightful debut novel is sure to leave a mark on the literary scene and is definitely one to pick up when it’s published in August 2023.  

When We Were Sisters by Fatimah Ashgar

Following her powerful and imaginative poetry collection If They Come for Us, is this lyrical debut work of fiction from Fatimah Asghar. When We Were Sisters traces the bond of three sisters, left to care for one another in the wake of their parents’ death. It was published in the US in October but will be our in the UK and internationally from June 2023.

One for readers of Ocean Vuong and Rupi Kaur, this novel is a heart-rending exploration into the nature of grief, the bonds of sisterhood, and journey of three Muslim American girls against the world. 

Rootless by Krystle Zara Appiah

Rootless traces the story of married couple Sam and Efe across London and Accra, providing an intimate look into a crumbling relationship. Spanning decades as well as countries we follow the pair through friendship, marriage, and the negotiation of their opposing dreams for the future.

Krystle Zara Appiah explores the limits of love, asking the question – can you ever be rooted in a home that’s on the brink of collapse? Rootless is an open and honest exploration of the rediscovery of love, motherhood, and the choices we make and sacrifice. This beautifully written and vulnerable novel is out in March 2023.

Chain Gang All Stars by Nana Kwami Adjei-Brenyah

From the bestselling author of Friday Black, comes an unsettling social commentary on the evil trifecta that makes up American society. Touching on systemic racism, mass incarceration and the rampant rule of capitalism, Chain-Gang All-Stars holds up a bleak mirror to U.S. society. 

The story follows Loretta Thurwar and Hamara ‘Hurricane Staxxx’ Stacker, the stars of the Criminal Action Penal Entertainment, a highly popular and profit-raising program in America’s private prison industry. The program sees prisoners compete with chain gangs in brutally violent games, which are streamed to spectators. The prize up for grabs in this dystopian game show? A chance at freedom. Out July 2023. 

The Things That We Lost by Jyoti Patel

The debut novel from 2021 Merky Books New Writers’ Prize winner Jyoti Patel is one of the best books I’ve read this year. The Things That We Lost is an achingly tender and heartfelt exploration of family, loss, and the lengths to which we go to protect the ones we love. In beautiful prose, Patel tells the journey of mother and son, Avani and Nik, as the latter reaches adulthood and raises questions about the father he lost.

The intricacies of family dynamics, grief, and intergenerational secrets are deftly and sensitively explored in this multilayered tale. Out January 2023.

Yellowface by Rebecca F. Kuang

This darkly funny literary thriller from the writer of Babel and The Poppy Wardelves into the seedy underbelly of the publishing industry. Literary darling Athena Liu and her less impressive author friend June Hayward are set to take over the writing scene. But when Athena dies in a freak accident, June does what any good friend would do: she steals her manuscript.

Throwing us into the entirely unreliable narrative of plagiarizer June, Yellowface is a satirical look into diversity and racism in the publishing industry, the disturbing erasure of Asian-American voices in Western society, and the doors racial ambiguity will open. With razor-sharp wit and timely observations, Kuang’s next novel is sure to be one you can’t put down. Out May 2023.

Rosewater by Liv Little

This delicious debut comes from gal-dem’s very own Liv Little. Both an ode to South London and a queer coming-of-age story, Rosewater is all about “discovering love where it has always been”. It’s Full of messy love, deep friendships, and the tricky healing of your twenties.

At the novel’s heart is Elsie, a tender poet by day and bartender by night, who charts the struggle of finding her place in the world. Weighed down by the constant job rejections, family estrangement and fear of never making money doing what she loves, Elsie veers close to crumbling under the pressure. 

When a precarious living situation leaves her with no option but to move in with former friend Juliet, Elsie struggles to stop herself from falling through the cracks. As Elsie tries to reconnect with Juliet, she learns that love and desire can often be found in the places you were least expecting. Featuring the incredible poetry of Kai-Isaiah Jamal, Rosewater serves as a sweet romance for all the lover girls out there and is sure to become a Black British literary classic. Out April 2023. 

Mad World: The Politics of Mental Health by Micha Frazer-Carroll

As well as having bylines for The Guardian, Vogue, and Huck, Micha Frazer-Caroll also used to be gal-dem’s first person editor. In June, another of our beloved album will launch an authorial debut, this one driven by Micha’s passion for mental health. Mad World focuses on joining the dots between society and our minds asking: “Does getting a diagnosis help or hinder? How is mental wellbeing, which is often incredibly personal, driven by widespread societal suffering? Can it be a social construct and real at the same time?” 

The book is an inquisitive and nuanced look at a topic that we talk so much about and yet still don’t really have much of a holistic grasp on. 

All These Sunken Souls edited by Circe Moskowitz    

Perfect for fans of Jordan Peele and Lovecraft Country, All These Sunken Souls is a short story collection that blends horror with other genres, transporting the reader further and further from reality.

Tackling a genre that has historically tokenized and exploited Black characters, Moskowitz has created an anthology that opens discussion on how horror relates to our present-day experiences. Featuring stories from ten amazingly talented Black horror authors, the anthology spans everything from haunted Victorian mansions and ravaging zombie apocalypses to southern gothic hoodoo practitioners. Out August 2023.

Hungry Ghosts by Kevin Jared Hosein

Kevin Jared Hosein’s upcoming book Hungry Ghosts is a gripping novel about violence, religion and class rooted in the landscape of 1940s Trinidad. Set against the backdrop of colonial rule, the book tells the story of two families divided by wealth and position, yet whose lives are thrown together in the wake of a mysterious disappearance. 

Hungry Ghosts is a searing novel about the roots and ripple effects of generational trauma and interlinked histories. Hosein’s deft storytelling is sure to cement his place in the Caribbean literary canon. Out February 2023.

Sugar, Baby by Celine Saintclare 

Sugar, Baby follows Agnes, a young woman stuck in a dead-end cleaning job whose life changes when she’s introduced to a new profession: sugaring. Escaping into the world of high-paid sex work, Agnes embraces a lavish lifestyle of private jets, decadent food, and a revolving door of endless admirers. But her new life rattles her strictly religious Vincentian mother, who is left struggling to reconcile this new version of her daughter with the one she left her homeland Saint Vincent for, all those years ago.

Shining a light on the world of high-paid sex work, Saintclare’s debut explores the taboo topic with vulnerability and interrogates the intersections of beauty, race, and sexuality in an industry where the fine lines of consent and control are often blurred. Out Summer 2023.