We are delighted to congratulate four authors and friends of Newham Bookshop who are among 44 new Fellows of the Royal Society of Literature (RSL), announced on Tuesday 12 July. These authors all took part in events during Newham Word Festival. From left to right, they are Lemn Sissay, Salena Godden, Hannah Lowe and Monique Roffey. Salena, Hannah and Monique are all shown signing the RSL Roll Book using a pen of a former Fellow. Lemn is drinking a cup of coffee. He says: With Samuel Taylor Coleridge as an early associate and Bernardine Evaristo as president I feel a great honour in becoming a Fellow of The Royal Society of Literature. Once I was a gutter cleaner. Now I am Fellow of The Royal Society of Literature. There is poetry in how rain falls through gutters on its way from the sky to the sea.
We are proud to champion The Roles We Play and its author Sabba Khan, a visual artist, graphic novelist and architectural designer living in Newham. “This is the first time that the judges of the Jhalak Prize have selected a graphic novel,” says Corinne Pearlman, who commissioned The Roles We Play after an early excerpt was shortlisted for the Myriad First Graphic Novel Competition. “Myriad is so proud of Sabba and we could not be more pleased with the success of her brilliant book.”
Two-thirds of today’s British Pakistani diaspora trace their origins back to Mirpur in Azad Kashmir, a district that saw mass displacement and migration when it was submerged by the waters of a dam built after Partition. Sabba Khan’s debut graphic memoir explores what identity, belonging and memory mean for her and her family against the backdrop of this history.
Sabba Khan says: Newham Bookshop was my local bookshop when growing up and was where we channeled sales to for the first month of my book release. Newham Bookshop, as with a lot of small local bookshops, have worked tirelessly to keep afloat during the pandemic, they are a really vital part of Newham and do an important job in keeping the culture of reading books alive amongst a big working class migrant community. My most vivid memories of the bookstore are when my mum would treat me to buying a book every time I went for my dental braces appointment at the clinic nearby. Back then I also relied a lot on libraries. Plaistow Library and Stratford library were my favourite places to go and chill out.
Newham Bookshop has been sharing the joy of reading in one of London’s most culturally diverse and economically disadvantaged areas since 1978.
A Bookshop for All collects oral history interviews with staff, long-time users and local authors. They talk about their love of reading, the importance of the bookshop to them and the local community, where it came from and how it has changed.
Former Children’s Laureate and long-standing friend and supporter Michael Rosen says, in the book’s foreword: “Newham Bookshop is much more than a bookshop. It’s a philosophy.”
Award-winning Newham-based author Vaseem Khan says: “How egalitarian a society do we want to leave behind for future generations? Our vision should be for everyone to have easy access to books. Newham Bookshop is a part of that vision, a vision we should all seek to support.”