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Pan Macmillan

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“A flamboyant, moving, and nuanced debut novel” – The Financial Times reviews Olumide Popoola’s When We Speak of Nothing

When We Speak of Nothing‘This smart novel with electric prose tells us what it means to be young, black and queer in London.’ Elle Magazine

‘Refreshingly original, energetic and ambitious storytelling. Popoola joins the ranks of the best of the powerful new voices invigorating both British and African fiction.’ Bernardine Evaristo, author of Mr Loverman

Best mates Karl and Abu are both 17 and live near King’s Cross. It’s 2011 and racial tensions are set to explode across London. Abu is infatuated with gorgeous classmate Nalini but dares not speak to her. Meanwhile, Karl is the target of the local “wannabe” thugs just for being different.

When Karl finds out his father lives in Nigeria, he decides that Port Harcourt is the best place to escape the sound and fury of London, and connect with a Dad he’s never known.

Rejected on arrival, Karl befriends Nakale, an activist who wants to expose the ecocide in the Niger Delta to the world, and falls headlong for his feisty cousin Janoma.

Meanwhile, the murder of Mark Duggan triggers a full-scale riot in London. Abu finds himself in its midst, leading to a near-tragedy that forces Karl to race back home.

The narratorial spirit of this multi-layered novel is Esu, the Yoruba trickster figure, who haunts the crossroads of communication and misunderstanding.

When We Speak of Nothing launches a powerful new voice onto the literary stage. The fluid prose, peppered with contemporary slang, captures what it means to be young, black and queer in London. If grime music were a novel, it would be this.

London-based Nigerian-German Olumide Popoola is a writer, speaker and performer. Her publications include essays, poetry, the novella this is not about sadness (Unrast, 2010), the play Also by Mail (edition assemblage, 2013), the short collection breach, which she co-authored with Annie Holmes (Peirene Press, 2016). In 2004 she won the May Ayim Award (Poetry), the first Black German Literary Award. Olumide holds a PhD in Creative Writing

Read the Financial Times’ recent interview of Olumide’s remarkable book here.

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