ILX10: Derek Owusu

Meet Derek Owusu, a rising star of UK writing.

Derek Owusu is an award-winning writer and poet from North London. He has written for the BBC, ITV, Granta, Esquire, GQ and Tate Britain. Owusu collated, edited and contributed to SAFE: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space, an anthology exploring the experiences of Black men in Britain. His first novel, That Reminds Me, won the Desmond Elliott Prize for best debut novel published in the UK and Ireland. His second novel, Losing the Plot, was longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and Jhalak Prize. In 2023 he was selected as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists

Twitter/X @DerekVsOwusu

ILX 10: Rising Stars of UK Writing

The ILX10 is NCW’s selection of ten exciting, dynamic, and thought-provoking early-career writers based in the UK whose work has the powerful potential to speak to and engage with global literary audiences. It forms part of a three-year programme called the International Literature Exchange.

Find out more

Reviews

‘Derek Owusu’s That Reminds Me is not quite poetry. It defies categorisation: neither, strictly speaking, a memoir nor, as advance publicity would have it, a novel in verse – although it includes casual rhymes. Without forcing a label on it, this is a moving, semi-autobiographical story about a vulnerable young black man – a one-off.’ Guardian

A dreamy, impressionistic offering of reassembled fragments of memories emerging through the misty beauty of a deliciously individualistic poetic sensibility with flashes of Twi and UK London ebonics to further remind us of what has been missing from British poetry… I can’t tell you how impressed I was and how much I enjoyed reading this stunning book.’ Bernadine Evaristo on That Reminds Me

‘A piercingly beautiful tale of mother-son love’ Michael Donkor, inews 

‘Cuts exquisite shape from the most harrowing of fabrics: diaspora, history and self are stitched seamlessly yet worn so lightly. Losing the Plot will forever linger in your mind for Owusu is also the finest perfumer.’ The Arts Desk

Losing the Plot is a masterclass in distilled writing and a stirring ode to motherhood.’ Irish Times 

Writers I admire

Claudia Rankine, Jennifer Clement , Yrsa Daley-Ward

What are the communities you write from and to?

The ‘I’ leaps through a pane of glass, both bodies shatter, surrounded by fragments, different sizes, dimensions, and some more likely to cut, depending on whoever tries to take hold of a piece, my own palms susceptible. Once explored and examined, put back together, its defences no more, we feel an identity never looks the same again; a person never looks the same again — as much as we creatively try to fill in the thin crevices with that artistic and transcendent idea of shared humanity. Me, I am from a working-class background – named after the quintessential working-class hero: Derek Trotter from Only Fools and Horses. I am of Ghanaian immigrant background, never identified as a West African in our hometown of Kumasi, but a British queer care leaver who suffers from multiple mental health disorders. There’s a lot going on, but that’s okay, my stories are richer for it, my characters reflective without the trope of a clear surface. Each of these shards, ‘communities’, parts of me, deserve to be represented in my writing, and that’s what I strive to do, using that incorporeal filler of human truth that touches and coheres every piece, remaining unseen. And though difference is always noted, enough will feel familiar.

The International Literature Exchange is a programme from National Centre for Writing, supported by the British Council and Arts Council England.

 

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