Host Ellah P Wakatama chats to novelists Caleb Azumah Nelson and Brandon Taylor about their debuts in this special edition of Novel Voices for the digital leg of this year’s Manchester Literature Festival.
For this MLF Digital event, available to view from Monday 1 November to Tuesday 30 November, Ellah will be joined by Caleb Azumah Nelson and Brandon Taylor, whose novels share themes of male vulnerability, trauma, grief, love and tenderness.
Presented in partnership with Centre for New Writing and Creative Manchester, the Novel Voices series features Ellah P Wakatama, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing and Editor-at-Large at Canongate Books, in conversation with debut authors about their craft and the journey to publishing their first full body of work. Spanning genres and exploring a range of narratives that reflect the new voices shaping the literary landscape, the writers in the series have been chosen from big and indie publishing houses alike, and, for the autumn term, Ellah welcomes Heba Hayek (25 October), Micaiah Johnson (8 November), Nicola Garrard and Joan Deitch (22 November), and Femi Kayode (6 December).
For this MLF Digital event, available to view from Monday 1 November to Tuesday 30 November, Ellah will be joined by Caleb Azumah Nelson and Brandon Taylor, whose novels share themes of male vulnerability, trauma, grief, love and tenderness, and question where writing by and about black men fits in a canon of predominantly white literature. The MLF blurb says: “In Caleb Azumah Nelson’s beautifully lyrical Open Water two young Black talented Londoners – he a photographer, she a dancer – fall in love to a soundtrack of the city and some exceptional music. In Brandon Taylor’s precise and absorbing Real Life, Wallace, a Black gay biochemistry student at a Midwestern university, tries to come to terms with the death of his father in Alabama.”
Living in south east London, British-Ghanaian writer and photographer Caleb Azumah Nelson has been shortlisted for both the Palm Photo Prize and the BBC National Short Story Prize 2020, and his writing has been published in Granta, Litro and The White Review. Described by the Guardian as “an exciting, ambitious debut”, Open Water came out earlier this year and has been longlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize and the Gordon Burn Prize. He’s also delivering the keynote speech at this year’s National Creative Writing Industry Day on 5 November.
Based in the US, Brandon Taylor’s novel Real Life was a New York Times Editors’ Choice and was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, as well as The National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize and the 2021 Young Lions Fiction Award. It is being made into a film produced by and starring Kid Cudi. His work has also appeared in Guernica, American Short Fiction, Gulf Coast, Buzzfeed Reader, O: The Oprah Magazine, Gay Mag, The New Yorker online and The Literary Review. Senior editor of Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, Brandon is also the author of the short story collection Filthy Animals.