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A Quick Ting On: “Why I’m launching an empowering new book series focused on the Black British community”

A Quick Ting On is set to be behind some of the most exciting books of 2020. Here, founder Magdalene Abraha explains everything you know about the books that will be battling for space on your bookshelves.

If I remember correctly, my friend Rui was the first person I invited to be part of A Quick Ting On.

The text messages went something along the lines of this:

“Hey Rui.”

“Hey Mags.”

“I’m going to call to you to ask about something.”

I put the phone to my ear and called him. As soon as he answered, I said: “I’m going to ask you to do something, and you have no choice but to say yes”. There was a dramatic pause before I asked: “Do you want to write a book about plantain?”

He burst out laughing and the rest is history. You can now expect to see Rui’s book in a bookshop near you next year.

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A Quick Ting On is set to be behind some of the most exciting new books of 2020

Last week we announced the launch of our new book series, A Quick Ting On (AQTO), and the reaction was amazing (my email inbox has still not recovered). The series was an idea I had locked away for over a year and it’s something that I feel very proud to share.

Before I go into the whys and the hows of the series, let me explain exactly what AQTO is. In a nut shell, AQTO is a non-fiction book series that is centered around topics of cultural relevance to the Black British community (and in turn, the global black community). 

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The AQTO collective consists of award-winning theatre producer Tobi Kyeremateng, award-winning business owner Tskenya-Sarah Frazer, journalist and artist Franklyn Addo, plus-size model and advertising creative Sophia Tassew, journalist Chanté Joseph, journalist and curator Christian Adofo, writer and illustrator Rui Da Silva, model and mathematician Zainab Kwaw-Swanzy and, of course, myself. The first eight books will explore topics from Black British theatre to Afrobeats, all the way to plantain.

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When it comes to describing the collective, writer Frazer puts it best: “It feels like I’ve joined a beautiful family where our common goal is to illuminate and highlight all the things that are great about blackness.”

A question that I keep getting asked is why I created AQTO. My answer is often multi-layered but at its core, I created the series to craft a contemporary space to celebrate, pay homage to and explore our culture – in our way and our language.

The inspiration for AQTO is, in many ways, home. The term ‘home’, of course, has many interpretations, but for the context of this, home represents a space that exists for me when I am amongst my black friends, whether that be at birthday dinners, over the phone, at sleepovers, at parties, or in WhatsApp group chats (and yes, for the record, we have an AQTO Whatsapp group).

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A Quick Ting On: "I want to create a bookish space that archives our everyday conversations and passions authentically, and one that is able to develop a new generation of writers in an engaging way."

The series was, in large part, drawn from my everyday conversations with my black friends. It was drawn from the interesting opinions I would hear about culture, the inspirational stories, the intelligent hot takes about significant cultural moments, discussions about art, history, food, politics, anecdotes about existing in certain industries and so much more. Kyeremateng, a friend to whom I sent a four-minute voice note on WhatsApp in an attempt to persuade her to be part of the series, will be writing her debut book on Black British theatre. “I’m really excited to be a part of the series because if I had read something about Black British theatre growing up, my understanding of it would be so different,” she says. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity to produce this work.”

Another question I have been frequently asked is what I hope to achieve through the creation of the series. To some extent, the answer to this is the same as to ‘why’. I want to create a bookish space that archives our everyday conversations and passions authentically, and one that is able to develop a new generation of writers in an engaging way. “I think the series is really unique, not just because there are debut black authors producing work but because of the range of topics that the series will be exploring,” Kyeremateng says.

What I find particularly exciting is that all the writers are young, passionate, debut authors writing about what they care about. AQTO is a space for authentic exploration and celebration of Black Britishness. Kwaw-Swanzy, who will be penning AQTO: The Black Girl Afro, says: “It is a massive honour to take part in something that’s so groundbreaking and that I think will make history.”

The diversity deficit within publishing is no secret. This year, The Publishers Association found that only 11.6% of publishing roles were taken up by black and minority ethnic people. As both a young black writer and a publisher, I have seen how important the creation of literary spaces for underrepresented groups are. Another important facet of creating space is ensuring that the spaces are unrestrictive, and allow for free expression. That is what I wanted to create with AQTO – an unrestricted space for people within the community to archive and pay homage to topics they care about. Within the UK there are some brilliant examples of these ‘unrestricted’ spaces – some names that come to mind are Black Girl Fest, gal-dem, Merky Books, Black Girl Book Club, flipped-eye and so many others.

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A Quick Ting On: "I can only hope to proudly represent my home, especially as a young woman.”

Passion is at the core of AQTO: all of the writers are deeply connected to what they will be writing about. This was something that was hugely important to me when reaching out to people. One of the first things that I remember about Tassew was her assertion that her bamboo earrings are linked to her identity as a black girl from Peckham. When asked about her book, Tassew went on to say: “I feel like this book is not only a win for me but a win for young women who also grew up in a similar environment. I can only hope to proudly represent my home, especially as a young woman.”

When creating AQTO, it was very important to me that it would be a vehicle to demystify book writing as well as adding to the existing work in redefining what it means to be a writer. For the most part, the AQTO writers didn’t expect to be authors – Joseph recently said: “I never imagined I would write a book, and now I am.

“We’re going to produce something that is groundbreaking and will change things and inspire so many other people to take up writing.”  

AQTO is home to a group of likeminded, passionate young black people embarking on a beautiful and daunting journey of authorhood together. The books will be anecdotal, factual, at times humorous, emotional and most of all passionate.

Upon reflection, the AQTO series is untraditional in almost every sense, and in many respects, I think that’s what makes it so special. There will never be enough topics to explore in AQTO – the possibilities are truly endless. 

AQTN authors and books will include:

A Quick Ting On : Theatre Sh*t (named after Arinze Kene’s play Misty) by Tobi Kyeremateng

A Quick Ting On : Black British Businesses by Tskenya-Sarah Frazer

A Quick Ting On : Grime by Franklyn Addo

A Quick Ting On : Bamboo Earrings by Sophia Tassew

A Quick Ting On : The Black British Power Movement by Chanté Joseph

A Quick Ting On: Plaintain by Rui Da Silva

A Quick Ting On: Afrobeats by Christian Adofo

A Quick Ting On : The Black girl Afro by Zainab Kwaw-Swanzy

Main image: Alicia Canter

Other images: Unsplash

Magdalene Abraha is a writer and publisher. She is the creator and publisher of the series A Quick Ting On. The A Quick Ting On Series will be releasing in October 2020-2021.

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