‘It pierced my heart in the opening paragraphs.’

A New Foreword to Sugar and Slate

From Planet 247

by Hazel V. Carby

We are delighted to announce that Parthian Books and Planet are re-publishing Charlotte Williams’ ground-breaking title Sugar and Slate as a co-publication as part of the Library of Wales series. We are very grateful to Hazel V. Carby for the opportunity to publish her Foreword to this ‘insurgent text’ here.

What does it mean for a book to be recognised as a ‘classic’ and incorporated into the Library of Wales series of classics commissioned and funded by the Welsh Government? Why do I pose this question instead of taking for granted the common-sense definitions of ‘classic’ such as: ‘of acknowledged excellence or importance;’ ‘A work of literature, music, or art of … enduring significance;’ ‘an outstanding example of its kind;’?1 Sugar and Slate is a work of excellence but its enduring significance exceeds conventional judgments of worth in ways that make the work uniquely compelling, fascinating, and important. ‘Classic’ is an evaluation and mark of recognition granted from the perspective of a status quo, in this case an institution representing the national values and interests of Wales; works endorsed as outstanding are regarded as exceptional in their power to epitomise, sustain and perpetuate the values of this status quo. Sugar and Slate, however, is an insurgent text, it does not seek to embody or affirm common sense or convention but passionately, powerfully and profoundly reveals and transcends the limitations of our measures of Wales and Welshness. Charlotte Williams expands the imaginative possibilities of what it means to be a Welsh ‘classic’.

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About the author

Hazel V. Carby is the author of Imperial Intimacies, A Tale of Two Islands (Verso, 2019).  She is the Charles C. and Dorothea S. Dilley Professor Emeritus of African American Studies and Professor Emeritus of American Studies Yale University, a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts and Honorary Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.