Written by Rachel Robinson, 22, London
Now, I’m not sure how often you get asked this question but it’s something you should be asking yourself every month. Take a minute and look back over all the books you’ve read over the past two months. Would you say you’ve read widely? You’ve read authors from different countries, religions and cultures? If you haven’t, why not? What’s stopping you?
My name’s Rachel and I run The Black Book Blog, which is a platform designed to encourage you all to diversify your bookshelves. You’ve probably seen my videos on The Rio Ferdinand Foundation Instagram page where I gave me top 5 recommendations for both fiction and nonfiction reads this Black History month. In this blog post, I’ll be giving a round-up of both videos!
Now before I begin I just want to dispel the belief that you can’t learn much from fiction books and how they’re not reminiscent of the real world because the characters aren’t real. You learn SO much from fiction novels. They teach you about empathy and are more often than not laced with metaphors or messages about the real world. Noughts and Crosses was my first introduction to how racism intersects with classism and I read it at the age of 11.
If you’re only reading non-fiction books, how can you call yourself well-read?
Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman:
A young adult love story about two teenagers, a young black girl and a white boy. Their relationship is frowned upon in a society that is divided by race and class. Through their blossoming friendship we experience empathy and pain as we are forced to evaluate the very society we live in today.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas:
This young adult novel is about a young Black girl called Starr, growing up in a poor Black neighbourhood even though she attends an upper class white high school. She’s adapted to each environment by creating different versions of herself. All that is called into question when she witnesses her best friend, Khalil shot and killed by a police officer. Starr is determined to seek justice for her friend and discover the voice that she needs to do so.
This novel will teach you about police brutality, the judicial system and the devastating unfairness of it on Black American citizens. However, something to keep in mind is that the judicial system over here has many faults that cause large injustice for Black British citizens.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo:
This novel is split into twelve different narratives that explores womxn from all over Britain and their journey’s across time. Bernardine explores themes of racism, sexism, sexuality, identity, immigration and much more. From the streets of London to the seaside port city of Plymouth, we see how each character deals with their own struggles and how that’s formed the person we meet in the final chapter. These characters are beautifully connected in the smallest of ways that are sometimes revealed in their stories or become obvious at the end of the book. To name a few characters: there’s Amma, the lesbian playwright, non-binary Morgan and even Winsome, who’s arrived from Barbados to an unhappy marriage. There’s so much history to learn from this novel and how it’s created the Britain we know and love today.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
This is a heart-breaking novel about one family and how the consequences of your actions can span generations. It follows two sisters who both have very different lives: one is sold into slavery and the other becomes a slave trader’s wife. We witness just how their lives affect their descendants from the Gold Coast of Africa to plantations in Mississippi and much more.
Whilst, this novel is not a light-hearted read it is not often that we get to witness both sides of slavery. We see how slavery impacted and affected those who were brought over to America but we also get to witness the impact slavery had on those who weren’t subjected to the Transatlantic Slave Trade. This historical fiction is a beautiful but harrowing read that you won’t be able to forget.
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Emira and Alix are as different as two people can be. Emira is Alix’s black babysitter whilst Alix is a white successful married feminist blogger. One-night whilst at a supermarket Emira is accused of ‘kidnapping’ Alix’s daughter, which sets off a chain of events. Alix is determined to make things right. A surprising connection between the two women soon upsets the balance, which causes both women to rethink everything they know about themselves and each other.
This is perfect for those wanting to learn about allyship and just how important it is to listen to those who have experienced injustice. Don’t react first then think later. Don’t do it to placate some kind of guilt. Listen to what they want you to do.
Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala
Akala talks about how race and class intersect and the affects this has on society. He dispels myths and beliefs about both. Akala covers everything from police, education, history, politics, sexual objectification, music and so much more. By exploring both racism and classism in regards to British society, he shuns the statement that “Britain can’t be racist’. Instead, he addresses the squeamishness and denial the British public have when it comes to confronting issues of race and class that are at the heart of the British empire.
Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
Through different essays on issues such as gun violence, hunger, poverty, education, housing and much more, Mikki Kendall reiterates in each essay how the experiences of the marginalised are often ignored in regards to these basic needs. She conveys how it is time the feminist movement stopped focusing on the “issues of a few” and more on “larger issues” because that is how equality is secured for the entire feminist movement.
Whilst the context behind this novel is American and so, there are phrases that won’t be relatable to the British society. There’s a lot of messages that can be directly linked to Britain and the world. Intersectional Feminism shouldn’t only be sought after by Americans. The entire world needs to seek it.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Reni Eddo-Lodge created this novel to address racism within British society. She explores Black British history, classism, privilege, feminism and so much more throughout this book. She scrapes back the layers Britain has built around itself to hide the structural racism underneath. Reni Eddo-Lodge identifies how racism has been the backbone of this country and simply unveils the hidden truths. You’re left puzzled as to how you left education without learning a single thing about anything she mentions – especially because a lot of it frames how society is today.
It’s also such a quick read! The writing is easy to follow and the paragraphs/chapters are very clear and structured well! If you’re looking to read about Black British History but aren’t sure where to start – this is the perfect choice!
Black and British: A Short, Essential History by David Olusoga
There’s actually two versions of this book out:
Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga (Adult version)
Black and British: A Short, Essential History by David Olusoga (Children’s version)
I bought the children’s version and I love how easy it is to read. You learn so much and there’s just so much history incorporated into these pages. David Olusoga dismisses the narrative that Britain’s history with Black people started with slavery. There were Roman Africans and Black Tudors living in Britain, two time periods that happened before slavery started. This beautiful copy is illustrated with maps, portraits and so much more. It’s perfect for visual readers.
Also, Macmillan Children’s books are donating 50p from every copy sold to The Black Curriculum UK, which is a platform designed to teach British children about all aspects of Black British history.
Black Tudors by Miranda Kaufmann
Miranda Kaufmann brings to life the untold stories of the Black Tudors living in Britain. I know so many of us spent ages learning about the Tudor period in school but this book will completely reimagine and transform how you look at this period of history. She talks about a Black porter, a Moroccan woman and even a Mauritian diver. There are so many different stories that are overlooked during this time and Miranda Kaufmann brings them to the forefront. It’s the history that they miss out in schools.
That brings us to the end of my top 10 books to read for Black History Month. If you haven’t already, please do check out my videos on these books! You can find them on The Rio Ferdinand Foundation Instagram page, where I gush about why each and every single one of these books deserve to be read.
Additionally, if you haven’t seen a book that interests you then please do check out my blog page! You can find me at theblackbookblog1 on Instagram or www.theblackbookblog1.wordpress.com!
So have you answered my question at the start of the blog post? Are you someone that needs to broaden your reading? As I always say, reading books by authors of colour shouldn’t just be confined to Black History month. Neither should it be to tick off a personal checklist. You should be reading diversely every single month, 365 days a year. However, Black History Month is always a good place to start! There’s so many different kinds of books out there but you’ll never know unless you try! Thank you all so much for reading this post and I wish you all an amazing rest of the year!