Raper, poet and activist Akala has today (April 26) released his debut novel, The Dark Lady.
His first literary release since Natives: Race And Class In The Ruins Of Empire, the novel is aimed at teenagers and young adults. Set in 16th century London, the novel has been inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘Dark Lady’ sonnets.
Opening up about the project on Instagram, Akala said:”My new novel [The Dark Lady] is inspired by Shakespeare’s series of Dark Lady sonnets.
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“Most period stories tend to focus on elites and so I wanted to write something from the perspective of poor people from the streets back then and was pleasantly surprised by how much research was available into life in the slums of sixteenth century London and also on the presence of Black people and other ‘foreign’ immigrants at the time.”
He continued: “The backstory for Shakespeare’s Dark Lady, I imagined a migration from the kingdom of Benin, across Mali and through Timbuktu, into the Mediterranean into Venice and finally to London. The Dark Lady’s fathers story becomes inspiration for Shakespeare’s Othello.”
A description of the novel via Waterstones added: “The first in a magical realist series set in Shakespearean London and written with the kind of lyrical dexterity and power that one would expect from Akala, The Dark Lady references the Bard’s sonnets as well as crafting an uncompromising picture of street life in Renaissance England.”
In 2009, Akala set up the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company to explore connections between rappers and Shakespeare.