Book Recommendations to Celebrate Diversity Month
By Lauren Jones, Zoe Doyle and Amy Wright
April 2023 is Diversity Month, and this issue the Topical team are bringing you our top picks which we feel truly embody the spirit of Diversity Month. We live in such a rich, diverse society and it’s important to celebrate that and remember that it’s a good thing, especially when it’s so easy to stumble across hateful and narrow-minded views. Books are a powerful way for diverse members of society to amplify their voices and they allow us to experience the world from someone else’s perspective. Also, picking out some top recommendations to celebrate Diversity Month allows us to showcase some excellent talent that you might have otherwise missed! Keep reading to discover our top choices…
Home Is Not A Place by Johny Pitts and Roger Robinson
Home Is Not A Place is an absolutely perfect pick to celebrate Diversity Month. With glossy pages and gorgeous spreads, it’s the perfect coffee table book because you simply have to show it off!
The book is the result of a collaboration between photographer Johny Pitts and poet and writer Roger Robinson, and consists of striking images accompanied by poems, thoughts and musings. Pitts explains that upon relocating to his childhood home during the lockdown of 2020 and looking at photographs he’d taken throughout his life, he realised that they documented Black life in Britain “outside of any news cycle or on-trend hashtag.” When approached later that year by Robinson to collaborate on a project, the duo decided to rent a Mini Cooper and drive around the United Kingdom’s coastline, documenting Black Britain and everything that it means.
Both the images and the words in this compendium are absolutely beautiful. Home Is Not A Place is the kind of book that you pick up because it looks interesting and unusual, but it’s the kind that you don’t put down because it’s so impactful and touches your emotions in a way that’s difficult to articulate. Although everything about this book is absolutely exquisite, a personal highlight is the section titled ‘Leaving London with a B-Side Aesthetic’ – keep an eye out for it if you do give this book a chance!
Maame by Jessica George
The immigrant experience is complex and multifaceted, often a push and pull between a family's cultural values and the desire to 'fit in' and belong in a new country. Maame explores these dynamics in a genuine, tender and realistic way. The word 'Maame' has many meanings in Twi – 'sweetheart,' 'darling, and 'woman.' For Maddie, this word is used as an excuse to be treated as a woman without having the opportunity to enjoy her girlhood. As the primary caretaker for her father, who suffers from Parkinsons, Maddie is buckling under the weight of the responsibility, particularly as her absent mother spends most of her time in Ghana. And so, she decides to put herself first for once and makes a list of ‘firsts’ she wants to experience. From saying yes to social events and internet dating, Maddie begins to navigate this new life whilst coming to terms with her unconventional family.
This novel deals with several hard-hitting themes including grief, microaggressions at work, racism and dysfunctional families. And yet, it manages to handle these with grace and humour. Maddie is an endearing character with an over-reliance on Google which makes for several humorous situations. Those who love Chewing Gum and Queenie will see parallels in this story that handles the complexity of being torn between two homes and finding the place where you belong.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Winner of the Booker Prize in 2019, Girl, Woman, Other is an important and entertaining must-read. Featuring stories from the perspectives of twelve characters, the book puts a spotlight on the lives of Black British women whilst also being queer-inclusive. Each of the twelve characters in the novel has a chapter of their own which explores their different realities, all of which intersect in some way. Evaristo takes us on a journey through multiple decades, giving insights into the personal lives of the characters and transporting us from the very north of the country to the very south.
The structure of Girl, Woman, Other puts emphasis on the diversity of Black British female experiences. Whilst the twelve stories are intertwined, the individual experience and background of each character is unique. There are stories of identity, sexuality, struggle and hope, and the interwoven chapters will have you gripped and invested in the incredible characters and how they are all connected. This engaging novel will not disappoint; the overlap of the character’s lives provides an unpredictable twist and surprising ending. Girl, Woman, Other is a beautiful book and it will truly leave you wanting to recommend it as essential reading to everyone you know.