The Publishing Post
The Best 2022 Debuts by Black Authors
By Zoe Doyle, Rowan Jackson, Amy Wright and Lauren Jones
For this issue, we have put together a list of the best debuts released by Black authors in 2022. Read on to discover our top picks.
The Witchery by S. Isabelle
For those of you wanting to embrace the spooky season, The Witchery is a great young adult debut filled with magic, witchcraft and curses. New to Haelsford, Florida, Logan struggles to control her powers as she attends the magical school, Mesmortes Coven Academy. Here she meets three other witches known as the infamous “Red Three.” During the Haunting Season, the wolves rise from the depths of the swamp, eager to kill, and the humans and witches must work together to survive. The book follows the four witches and two local boys as they attempt to break the curse on the town.
Juggling six main characters takes some getting used to, but the characters all have complex histories and relationships to magic that gives them unique and distinct voices. With strong female characters and a diverse and queer normative cast, The Witchery is a modern and edgy take on the magical school genre.
The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi
El-Arifi holds nothing back in the first of an epic, fantasy trilogy. Rooted in the mythology and storytelling traditions of Africa and Arabia, The Final Strife sees three women join together to bring down an empire. Sylah is one of the few survivors of a failed revolution that has sent her into a spiral of drug addiction; Anoor is the abused daughter of a powerful ruler who conspires with Sylah to win the trials that will determine the next set of rulers; and Hassa is a trans woman who joins forces with Sylah and Anoor to reignite a revolution.
The world building in this novel is intricate and complex. The attitudes towards sexuality and gender are similar to that of many cultures prior to colonisation. Interestingly, the social conflict is caste-based and is tied not to skin colour, but to the colour of blood. Red is the colour of the ruling class, blue of the poor, working class, and clear, the blood of slaves. Fast-paced and gripping, this book explores hard-hitting themes of oppression, control and class violence and features morally grey and complex characters. El-Arifi is a debut author who exhibits passion and confidence in her writing and shows great promise.
You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen
You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen is a thought-provoking and heartwarming debut. It tells the story of three Black Muslim young women who all have very different lives and experiences but come together after a terrorist attack leads to increased islamophobia when assumptions are made that the attacker is Muslim. Sabriya uses her blog You Truly Assumed to fight back and is soon joined by Zakat and Farah who help run the popular blog. Whilst they receive a lot of support, they also receive hate and online harassment, and the friends face a difficult decision on what the future holds for the blog. You Truly Assumed switches point of view between the three characters, in which we learn about their individual experiences. It is an inspirational story about friendship, community and the power of standing up and speaking out.
Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley
Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2022, Nightcrawling is a chilling, moving and beautifully written depiction of poverty, corruption, injustice and police brutality. It is clear that Mottley began as a poet, her prose is evocative, compassionate, angry and unique, and gives the protagonist an intimate and distinctive voice. The novel follows seventeen-year-old Kiara as she struggles with loss, financial difficulties and abuse. Following the death of her father and the subsequent shattering of her family life, Kiara turns to “nightcrawling” (or streetwalking as it is often referred to) to avoid eviction and care for her disillusioned brother, Marcus, and young neighbour, Trevor, whose mother is struggling with addiction. One night, she finds herself embroiled in a sinister police deal which causes her to become the centre of a media storm.
This is by no means a light book, the subject matter is heavy, painful and impactful, and yet deeply important. Mottley began writing this when she was only seventeen – she is now nineteen – and was inspired by the true story of a police scandal in Oakland, 2015. She does not shy away from the darkness and grit of the subject matter and provides us with a story of a resilient and caring young woman navigating her way through a world which refuses to protect her. Despite the heaviness of the plot, Mottley’s writing flows well and I read it fairly quickly. However, please do check the trigger warnings before reading Nightcrawling.