Book Love has done extensive work to promote BAME literature and increase access to these books for more communities.

‘Book Love’ tackling lack of representation in mainstream literature

A London-based organisation has made its mission to increase the representation of literature from BAME authors and spotlight stories with BAME characters.

Book Love was founded by Samantha Williams in 2016, with an aim of curating, showcasing and bringing together the multicultural content the world of literature and arts has to offer.

Williams began the company following various personal experiences.

Firstly, her mother from Barbados passed away, and she wanted to make sure that her children could read books about their roots and heritage. 

Moreover, at a summer school club her children attended, Williams was shocked as a child made fun of her afro. 

She said: “I couldn’t believe a child so young was so unaware and already making racist comments.” 

This event made Williams realise there was a lack of education, specifically for young children, about cultural diversity in the UK. 

Williams cited a statistic that in 2017, 32% of UK school students were from BAME backgrounds.

However, only 4% of children’s books published that year featured a BAME character

This lack of representation was emblematic of the wider problem according to Williams, and she has since committed herself to creating change not only within the education system, but also wider society. 

She launched her business with no external funding and no business plan, but was determined to increase exposure to books that were more representative of the Black community.

Book Love has now collaborated with several organisations to provide more access and awareness to stories which are more culturally representative.

She said: “Going from picking up books for free on street corners to selling hundreds of different books, it’s been a crazy journey.”

The organisation has also started a GoFundMe to raise funds to give free multicultural books to schools and nurseries, as well as different communities who are unable to access these books.

Since the page began, more than £30,000 has been raised to contribute to a more inclusive and wide-reaching access to this literature across less privileged communities in London and the UK.

As part of the initiative, Book Love also donates 20p from every book sold to their GoFundMe.

Williams said: “I want to empower people in the community and our future generations.”

EDUCATE AND APPRECIATE: Book Love aims for people to not only be educated about certain topics, but also to enjoy uplifting stories

Whilst there has been improvement, Williams still feels there is a long way to go. 

For example, Williams mentioned that in 2021, only two novels on the main GCSE exam board in the UK were written by non-white authors.

She thinks more measures are needed to change the education system and mainstream literature.

Williams suggested creating quotas to enforce a minimum amount of books taught in schools including BAME characters, and called for more spotlight by the mainstream media for books written by non-white authors. 

She said: “If we’re serious about change, we can’t just rely on the goodwill of people, there needs to be pressure put on the industry.” 

There is an online book shop, where people can find a variety ranging from activism and historical books, to comics and graphic novels.

Book Love also has their ‘Travelling Multicultural Book Carnival’, where they travel across the country to places like schools and festivals showcasing hundreds of books.

Authors of these books are regularly invited to speak to people at these events to raise awareness about certain topics impacting different communities.

Williams now says Book Love has an international dimension to it, as she has sourced books written by Black authors from all over the world.

There have also been customers from across the globe, with orders from countries as far as Hong Kong and Australia. 

The work done by Book Love is particularly pertinent at the moment with Black History Month, and Book Love will be attending several events including the Black Book Festival’ on October 21st.

Williams said she hopes the increased spotlight from Black History Month will create a more long-lasting commitment to removing the barriers and deep-rooted issues surrounding the lack of representation in education and literature.

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