Blackbird Books is Brittle Paper’s Publishing House of the Year for their commitment to supporting authors and celebrating a diverse range of African narratives.
Blackbird Books was founded in August 2015 by publisher Thabiso Mahlape, the first black woman with her own publishing imprint. The launch of Blackbird Books transformed the South African literary landscape and since 2015, Blackbird has put an immense amount of effort in pioneering and establishing a home for new African narratives and stories that reflect the African experience. We are greatly appreciative of their efforts to ensure that the nuances and range of African experiences do not get left untold.
Blackbird Books is also a pioneer for young black voices and focuses on amplifying brilliant young authors and their writing in order to give them the opportunity to tell stories that showcase the wealth of their African experiences. Blackbird Books is especially proud of this goal and their success in publishing young black authors so far. As stated in their website: “We pride ourselves in being a launchpad for black narratives that would otherwise not get the attention they deserve.”
They are also making a huge impact in South Africa’s publishing market which continues to be centered on white-owned presses. Mahlape herself faced many challenges when initially starting out in the white-dominated publishing industry:
As the first black woman to have my own imprint I have been undermined by all men, black or white. I have even been undermined by black women. I was walking with one of my author’s one day and my white male colleague told him, “if you’re looking for a real publisher, come speak to her” pointing at a white woman. I’ve had all kind of backlash, but that’s not to say that I have not been embraced by those that love Blackbird.
We are thankful that she persevered. Precisely due to the efforts of publishing presses like Blackbird Books, this trend is changing and black authors are getting more exposure. This past year, Blackbird published the memoir Broken Porcelain by Relebone Rirhandzu eAfrika and Things My Mother Left Me by Pulane Mlilo Mpondo, among others. The press has also focused on publishing aboriginal narratives, keeping the authenticity of the stories intact. We are proud of Blackbird Books’ efforts to highlight marginalized narratives and attract a wide variety of readers.
A big thank you to Blackbird Books for all that they do to amplify African authors and their stories!