9 Books For Black British History Month
To celebrate Black British History Month, on POSTSCRIPT’s Instagram account, we highlighted 14 women of note who have influenced national conversations in the UK and abroad on our Stories (you can catch up on the feature in the ‘spotlight’ section of our highlights). I wanted to keep the good vibes going, and even though it’s not technically Black History Month anymore, it can never too late or early to commemorate black British work and/or history. So here are a selection of some of my favourite reads (or next on my to-read-list) on the subject matter.
I first read this book as a teenager and was crazy about it. Technically targeted at young adults but the concept is so good that I still love it as an adult. A dystopian fiction based in a 21st-century parallel universe, Blackman reverses our societal understanding of race statuses. The Crosses (darker skinned or ‘black’ people) have better lifestyles and higher authority over Noughts (lighter skinned or ‘white’ people). There’s a Romeo and Juliet type love story in it that will pull at your heartstrings but more importantly get you thinking!
I haven’t actually read Butterfly Fish yet - it’s sitting in my ‘must-read-next’ pile - but I have read Speak Gigantular by the same author and loved it. I’ve also come across so much praise for this book so I feel confident vouching for it. Butterfly Fish is primarily a story about a London-based photographer whose only friend is her eccentric elderly neighbour. After the unexpected death of her mother, a chain of perplexing events unfolds, leading the protagonist to dig into her past and that of her family in Nigeria. A tale of love, hope, family secrets and political upheaval by an author with a fantastical imagination, I can’t wait to dive into this book.
Even if you haven’t read this book yet, I’m sure you’ve heard about it. It’s been quite the talk of town, especially with that attention grabbing title which attracts some stares on the tube whilst you read it, ha! I wasn’t sure what to expect when I initially bought WINLTTWPAR but I definitely got schooled on a part of British history I knew nothing about, whether the relationship between class and race or the experiences of black Brits past and present. Full of stats, stories and even a surprising conversation with Nigel Farage, this is an absolute must read!
What I found so amazing about this book was that reading it 20 years after it was first published, the story still resonated deeply with me - a young Nigerian girl sent to boarding school in England having to balance sticking out as a foreigner and blending in to make friends, as well as missing home and adopting new customs to be fully accepted. Both funny and deeply touching, I could read this novel again and again, smiling at the similarities of my UK childhood experience and that of the main character.
Another book to add to my ‘must-read-next’ pile, I first came across David Olusoga when he presented the BBC documentary of the same name as his book, exploring the relationship between Britain and those of African descent and exposing the hidden or overlooked stories of black Britain. It was shocking, captivating, moving, just as I’ve head his book is. Can’t wait to read it.
Again, I haven’t personally read to this book but it came highly recommended to me. I also happened to catch a talk with Afua Hirsch at the African Writes Festival and was intrigued by her complete honesty when discussing the times she felt displaced in her community and her quest to find belonging in a home beyond British borders.
At times hysterical, emotionally charged and surprising, this anthology brings together 21 British minority voices to explore why immigrants come to the UK, settle their families here and what it means to be ‘other’ in a country that questions your belonging - however many generations you’ve been here. My absolute favourite piece in the book was by Inua Ellums, who travels across Africa to gain further understanding around the similarities shared across nations, as well as the obvious differences.
Poetry isn’t something that I naturally gravitate towards. I appreciate it when I come across it but I don’t often seek it out. However, when I came across Yrsa Daley-Ward poems, she made me want to spend more time reading poetry. She has a wonderfully warm way of expressing her truth, which is rather addictive. So, I bought Bone the other day and though I have only just begun my poetic education, I am diving into her collection of personal reflections on the heart, life, the inner self, coming of age, faith and loss wholeheartedly.
My boyfriend is currently reading this book and sometimes highlights extracts to me. I must say, it’s powerful stuff! Looking at how race and class have shaped Akala's life and outlook, the reader is taken on a personal journey examining the social, historical and political factors that have influenced Britain today. Covering everything from the police, politics and identity to education, sexual objectification and the far right, Akala forces you to face important facts around the legacy of Britain's racialised empire.
Have you read any of the above? What did you think? And any others recommendations to add to the list? Let me know below xx