A Change Is Gonna Come is an anthology of short stories and poetry by eight established BAME writers and four new voices in the UK publishing scene. I absolutely loved the book – all the stories were amazing, powerful and beautifully written. The four new voices in the anthology – Aisha Bushby, Phoebe Roy, Mary Bello and Yasmin Rahman – are all incredibly talented and I can’t wait to read what they write next.
There are positives and negatives to content warnings on books but I felt that in an anthology where topics can differ widely, the page at the end mentioning the topics and resources was a welcome addition to the book.
Do drop by all the stops in the blog tour (see below) to read more about each story and poem!
Today I’m here to talk about Tanya Byrne’s story Hackney Moon. Tanya shot to fame in 2012 with the release of her fantastic debut Heart-Shaped Bruise. Her books have elements of thriller and suspense in them and I’ve always loved her characters and her writing style. Tanya doesn’t simply describe a scene, she takes you there entirely and you feel as much as the characters do. If you haven’t read her books yet, you need to rectify this immediately!
Tanya is incredibly creative and I always love browsing on her Insta or Tumblr. Tanya writes in many publications about a variety of subjects. She wrote in the Guardian about black characters in children’s books and also wrote in The Pool last year about the tragedy at Pulse in Orlando and how it led her to come out to her brother.
UKYA doesn’t have many as many LGBTQIA stories as US publishing and there is a real dearth of LGBTQIA stories featuring girls of colour. Tanya’s story isn’t just exciting for its own-voices lens – it is also exquisitely written, full of wonderful characters.
Part of Hackney Moon’s success is the choice of narrator. The story is narrated by the Moon, watching over Hackney. The Moon takes a special interest in Esther, nudging her this way or that to make sure she is okay. I loved this all-knowing narrator, sharing secrets with the reader, explaining why sometimes mistakes need to happen.
I loved all the characters in the story. Esther is a half-Guyanese half-English young girl going through her first heartbreak with her girlfriend. She is headstrong and doesn’t mind (much) the homophobic comments she hears at school. She is trying to move on from her break-up and as we join her, she’s braving her anxiety to attend a DIY Culture event in Shoreditch. I loved Esther; she’s real, curious and a joy to get to know.
At the event, she meets Alesha, who introduces Esther to her friends. Esther starts to fall for Alesha but she’s also finally enjoying hanging out with people like her – people who get her. Tanya explores this feeling superbly and writes that Esther “knew then what a remarkable thing it is to find pieces of yourself in other people”. I think this is such a perfect description of how it feels to finally find your people.
When Esther spends time with her new group of friends, her eyes are opened to different ways of thinking, expanding her horizons. Part of growing up and meeting new people is that your personal truths and opinions are challenged and you start to see things through a slightly different lens. Education doesn’t just happen at school but is a lifelong process.
The intimacy between Esther and Sam, her first girlfriend, and between Esther and Alesha is heart-warming to read. There’s a gorgeous sentence where Esther wonders, “Letting someone touch you where it scared you – is that love?” I also enjoyed that we get to see the all-encompassing effect of first love and first heartbreak. There are so many stories about first love that sometimes we forget it’s usually, often quickly, followed by first heartbreak.
I could go on and on about this brilliant story, and about the whole anthology. Do yourself a favour and grab a copy at your nearest bookshop.