On My Radar: Derek Owusu’s Cultural Highlights | Culture

Born in London in 1988, Derek Owusu is a poet, writer and one of the founding members of the Black Writers’ Guild. Between 2017 and 2019, he co-hosted a literary podcast Mainly lit and edited the anthology Vault: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space. In 2019, he published his first novel, That reminds me, on Stormzy’s #Merky editorial imprint. The book won the 2020 Desmond Elliott Prize, with judges describing it as a “transcendent work of literature”. Her second novel, Lose the plotis published Thursday by Canongate.

1. Restoration

Plum Valley, London

Dishes at Plum Valley restaurant, London.

I first stumbled upon Plum Valley Chinese Restaurant while strolling through Leicester Square, hungry to the point of being uncertain. Many restaurants in Chinatown are inviting, but one host, seeing me rubbing my belly, talked to me rather than trying to sell me and reviewed the dim sum options. I chose the basics, har gow and siu mai. My stomach relaxed and my palate changed. He’s seen me every other weekend since.

2. Television

Moon Knight (Disney+)

Oscar Isaac in Moon Knight.
‘Compelling and moving’: Oscar Isaac in Moon Knight. Photography: Gabor Kotschy/Disney

I’ve watched every Marvel Cinematic Universe project since its launch in 2008. And, like many fans, I was disappointed with Phase Four. But for me, moon knight is the star, probably because of Oscar Isaac’s compelling and moving performance and F Murray Abraham’s perfect voice. I’ve rewatched the series four times and have always found something else I enjoy, from the soundtrack to the stunning cinematography to the sensitive depiction of sanity breakdown and denial.

Book jacket of The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman, showing a transparent landline phone

3. Nonfiction

Chuck Klosterman’s 90s

To me, Chuck Klosterman is one of the most interesting non-fiction writers, always informative and skillfully bringing his own unique twist to pop culture. The nineties is a book about that decade, with Klosterman picking out what he believes to be the era’s most defining moments, from the popularization of grunge to the appeal of Bill Clinton, from Biggie and Tupac to postmodern literature. He asks us what we remember and then tells us: no, you’re wrong, preparing us for a long conversation at the bar.

4. Scrapbooks

Beyonce Revival

Beyoncé singing while lying on the back of a crystal horse
“Good vibes”: Beyoncé in the Renaissance era. Photography: Carlijn Jacobs

I’m not a regular album listener, having probably only played about 20 since I started listening to music independently at the age of 14. With Beyoncé, I listened to many individual songs, until Renaissance. After seeing so many tweets about the album’s cohesion, I decided to let it go during a gym session, one during which I was in a bad mood. A perfect explanation for this is: “good vibes”. It not only lifted my spirit, but helped lift more bars than I expected. Favorite song? Alien Superstar, of course.

5. Film

Palm Springs

Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg in Palm Springs.
Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg in Palm Springs. Photography: Jessica Perez/AP

Few time travel films succeed, often because they boil down to questions of logic and theoretical physics. Palm Springscontinuing the tradition of groundhog day, travels back in time and has fun with it, never wasting time explaining beyond the obvious question of a repeating day. Although at its core I think it’s an interrogation of nihilism, it does so without heavy philosophical charges and would instead focus on love, drugs, beer and a wedding party without end.

Book jacket of The Trees by Percival Everett showing a pair of cherries

6. Fiction

The Trees of Percival Everett

Embarrassingly, I didn’t know about Percival Everett until 2018, when my friend and mentor Courttia Newland suggested I check out her catalog. Trees is his most recent book I’ve read, shortlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize, and one of the best. Tears of laughter quickly become tears of grief and anger, perfectly balanced so that the transition is human and not contrived. A fast read with perfectly observed dialogue, a fusion of genres and an unflinching look at the horrors people are capable of.