Black and British: A Forgotten History- David Olusoga
“The denial and avowal of black British history, even in the face of mounting documentary and archaeological evidence, is not just a consequence of racism but a feature of racism.”
David Olusoga is an award-winning historian and broadcaster. In this book, he explores the long relationship between the British Isles and Africa and its people. He draws on new genetic and genealogical research, original records and more. The book itself starts in the Roman times ranging from the lives of black Tudors, Georgians, Victorians and soldiers within both World Wars. The book ends in the present day. However, there are large chronological gaps simply because black voices were not recorded throughout some periods in history.
My Name Is Leon- Kit De Waal
“I look like my dad. Mum says he’s coloured but Dad says he’s black but they’re both wrong because he’s dark brown and I’m light brown.”
The book itself is set in the early 1980’s and is based on the life of a little boy. This boy is Leon who is also the narrator of the book. Kit De Waal starts the story at the birth of Leon’s brother Jake. Leon thinks the world of Jake and from the get go it is established there is something wrong with the mother, Carol, when she leaves the room for a cigarette instead of holding her baby. Both brothers have different absent fathers and Leon is mixed race whereas Jake and Carol are both white. In a spiral of downhill events the boys end up in foster care but Leon is left behind because everybody wants a white baby. The events that unfold show Leon facing the harsh reality of his life and how he deals with them.
Beloved- Toni Morrison
“She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.”
The book begins with Sethe in her late thirties living with her 18-year-old daughter called Denver. This is in the early 1870s right after the first dislocations of the civil war and its aftermath. The house they both live in is thought to be haunted and one of Sethe’s fellow slaves from her former plantation exorcises the house for them. After this, a mysterious female turns up and she shows no signs of hardship on her skin or clothes. She calls herself “Beloved” and the mother and daughter take her in. The events that occur in the story are heart-wrenching right up until the moment Sethe recognises who “Beloved” really is.
White Teeth- Zadie Smith
“Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.”
Zadie Smith starts her novel with Archibald Smith trying to kill himself in his car in Cricklewood but he then thinks it isn’t an appropriate place. He isn’t alone as Mo Hussein-Ishmael also thinks it’s inappropriate as its blocking delivery access to his Halal butchers. Archie then U-turns his plans of suicide and ends up marrying his second wife, a Jamaican lady called Clare Bowden. She’s running away from multiple people. In another part of town, there is Samad and Alsana Iqbal. Their neighbours believe they aren’t those kind of Indians but they aren’t even Indian at all- they’re Bangladeshi. A change leads to both couples living only a few doors from each other and rekindles and old friendship and births a new one. Then we meet the Chalfen family. The head is a Jewish academic called Marcus, his insipid wife and their picture-perfect children. These families are then mixed with a fear of and attraction to terrorism
Homegoing- Yaa Gyasi
“You cannot stick a knife in a goat and then say, “now I will remove my knife slowly – so let things be easy and clean; let there be no mess.” There will always be blood.”
The story begins in an Asante village, part of the Gold Coast which eventually became Ghana, in the 18th century. Effia Otcher is a young girl sold by her own father to a British slave trader called James to be his wife. 15-year-old Esi Asare is Effia’s half sister. She was seized during a raid on her own village and brought to the castle by ‘bomboys’, local boys who transported cargo for the British. The book itself follows these two characters and their interconnected stories through 7 generations of their bloodline covering the related histories of the US and Ghana right up until the 21st Century.