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Magazine Founder

Emeritus Professor at Queen Mary College, University of London, Susheila Nasta is a writer, presenter, literary activist, and critic. In 1984 she founded Wasafiri, the Magazine of International Contemporary Writing, one of Britain’s first literary journals to publish literary voices from Britain’s Black British, South Asian, and diasporic communities, which she led till 2019. Across three and a half decades, she published over 100 issues featuring more than 5000 internationally distinguished writers and founded the Wasafiri New Writing Prize which she chaired for several decades. Many little known at the time have now won major awards including, most recently: Anthony Joseph (TS Eliot, 2023), Abdulrazak Gurnah (Nobel Prize for Literature, 2021), Monique Roffey (Costa, 2021), Roger Robinson (TS Eliot Prize, 2020), and Bernardine Evaristo (Booker, 2019).

Her early writing focused on authors of Caribbean heritage such as Sam Selvon and VS Naipaul as well as women’s writing, especially from Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia. Home Truths (Palgrave, 2002) was one of the first books to map a tradition of South Asian fiction in Britain across the whole of the twentieth century. An anthology of interviews Writing Across Worlds: Contemporary Writers Talk (Routledge, 2004) drew on interviews published across 20 years of Wasafiri, including Salman Rushdie, VS Naipaul, Michael Ondaatje, Nadine Gordimer, and others.

Recent works include: India in Britain (Palgrave, 2012), Asian Britain: A Photographic History, a visual companion to Paul Gilroy’s Black Britain, (Westbourne Press, 2013), her co-edited 500 page volume, The Cambridge History of Black and Asian British Writing (CUP, 2019), which creates a line of work stretching back to the 18th century and, Brave New Words: The Power of Writing Now, a collection of non-fiction essays (Myriad Editions, 2019). Current projects include the completion of a memoir and a group biography, The Bloomsbury Indians (forthcoming Little Brown, Bridge Street Press).

Apart from books, she has reviewed and written for UK newspapers (The Guardian, The Irish Times, The Scotsman), contributed to BBC Radio 4 (Front Row, Start the Week, Today Programme, the World Service) and been interviewed on a variety of media platforms, including literary festivals worldwide.

Her work on South Asian Britain has been wide-ranging. From 2007-17 she directed three research projects in partnership with the University of Oxford and King’s London on the Indian presence from 1870-1950. These led her to curate three travelling exhibitions with public institutions including: the British Library, the National Archives of India, the V&A, the British Council, Leeds Art Gallery, Edinburgh National Art Gallery, and the Nehru Centre. Frequently a judge of literary prizes, her most recent roles have been on the jury of the 2022 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic fiction in Translation and as judge of the bi-annual 2021 David Cohen award for a life-time’s work.

In 2011 she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s honours for services to literature. In 2019, she received the Royal Society of Literature’s distinguished Benson Medal, as a mark of a lifetime’s achievement and in 2020, she was made Honorary Fellow by the English Association for her lifelong contribution to English Studies. She is a Fellow of the RSA, sits as a member of the Council at the RSL, is Trustee of the Royal Literary Fund and a member of the Advisory Council of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. She continues to act as representative and consultant for the Sam Selvon literary estate.

In Conversation with Susheila Nasta:

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Twitter: @susheila_nasta

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