Emma Dabiri: ‘I love ghost stories’

This week Vick Hope takes a tour around the bookshelves of writer, academic and broadcaster Emma Dabiri. Emma’s first book, an essay collection called Don’t Touch My Hair, explores the way that colonisation, oppression and, ultimately, liberation are all expressed in Black women’s hair – and it gained critical acclaim from *just about everyone*. She followed this up with the bestselling longform essay What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition.

But how has fiction shaped the ideas at the heart of Emma’s writing? Here Emma shares her love of ghost stories and folklore, and recalls the different ways she experienced representation in books as a child growing up between Ireland and Atlanta. Keep on scrolling to find out Emma Dabiri’s 5 Bookshelfie choices, and listen to the conversation in full here.

Woman on the Edge of Time

Often compared to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Naomi Alderman’s The Power – Woman on the Edge of Time has been hailed as a classic…

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‘Taking from the past to create more radical futures is an idea that’s very pronounced in this book … The future that [the protagonist] travels to is one that is based on these pre-colonial types of communal living, but it’s also really technologically advanced … That vision was influential to me at a young age.’


Nella Larsen’s first novel tells the story of Helga Crane, a fictional character loosely based on Larsen’s own early life….

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‘It’s such a sublimely written book. And it’s such an important modernist text. It’s also uncanny that it was written 100 years ago … It taps into so many themes and conversations that are still so deeply pertinent today.’ 


Four young women are brutally attacked in a convent near an all-black town in America in the mid-1970s. The inevitability…

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‘There’s that mix of mythology and history, the past and the future and time; these are all themes I’ve been drawn to as a reader, and also really reflect the way I write as well.’

The Birds

How long he fought with them in the darkness he could not tell, but at last the beating of the…

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‘Growing up in Ireland, this idea of the division between the seen and the unseen, the magical and the ordinary, it’s not as clear, it’s like they coexist … [Daphne du Maurier] is a master creator of these eerie, uncanny, odd worlds.’

Their Eyes Were Watching God

She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the…

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‘I don’t read a lot of romance novels … but I was bawling crying at the end of it … This writing about love is so powerful and so poetic and expansive and beautiful.’

Hear more about Emma’s brilliant Bookshelfie choices by tuning into the conversation in full here. And while you’re there, why not subscribe and scroll through our archives to find more episodes from guests including Malorie Blackman, Scarlett Curtis and Gina Miller.

The Women's Prize Podcast

Tune into host Vick Hope and a line-up of incredible guests on our weekly podcast full of unmissable book recommendations.