From Firebrand Fiction to Personal Memoirs
By Eleanor Bowskill, Victoria Bromley, Daisy Ward and Sarah Lydon
A diverse bookshelf gives a reader access to a lesser-known but extraordinarily important perspective – and one that is often overlooked. It enables the reading of stories told by people from different cultural backgrounds to your own who have had vastly different life experiences. This process is key to understanding and celebrating difference among every person. With themes of internalised racism, wrongful convictions of Black men, and racial marginalisation, these books serve as not only their author’s truth but also works that have transcended into recognition of Black heritage, culture, and achievements.
Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid
Kiley Reid’s debut novel navigates the complicated nuances of race and privilege through her razor-sharp and authentic prose. When Emira is confronted for “kidnapping” the white child she is actually babysitting, she and her employer Alix find themselves grappling with everything they think they know – about each other, racial biases, transactional relationships and performative activism. Reid’s beautifully observed study of human relationships dives deeply into the uneasy performances of “wokeness” and the complicated nature of human relationships.
White Teeth, Zadie Smith
Winner of multiple honours, including the 2000 James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Zadie Smith’s novel creates an unforgettable portrait of multicultural London across three generations. Smith is unafraid of tackling heavy themes and explores them with both lightness and wit. This novel follows two unlikely friends and their families as they explore England’s unalterable transformation. Smith expertly explores Britain’s evolving relationship with immigrants whilst also dealing with friendship, love, war, and above all else, the past.
Assembly, Natasha Brown
Driven by the power of its writing, this slim yet impactful novel narrates a Black woman’s struggle day-to-day, navigating a world which is systematically sexist and racist. Building up to her attendance at a garden party in the country with her boyfriend, her mind is filled with thoughts of who is in control of her life. The heavy weight of mental health clouds her judgement and exacerbates her hardship. This book is perfect to read on the go, since the prose is snipped up into digestible scenes and vignettes, where you can’t help but pick it up whenever you have the chance.
An American Marriage, Tayari Jones
Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019, this book explores the wrongful conviction of an innocent Black man and the subsequent strain this puts on his marriage. Through an exchange of letters, the couple try to salvage their relationship while he serves time in jail. Through stunning language, this book doesn’t shy away from raw honesty and strong emotion, challenging these prejudiced ideologies.
Me and White Supremacy, Layla F. Saad
Given its emphasis on self-examination, complete with difficult reflective exercises for those prepared to deconstruct their internalised racism, this book should not be regarded as a primer on white supremacy but a workbook crucial to the emotional development of all white people. Saad understands that antiracism must transcend intellectual discourse; change is brought about through action alone. She is not just an author but an educator. What began as an Instagram challenge that encouraged participants to own up to their racist behaviours, the chronicled version expands upon the historical and cultural context around racial injustice.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge
Motivated by an enormous response to her blog post with the same title, Eddo-Lodge’s searing polemic reframes the debate about race so that those with the greatest experience of its resonances can take the lead. Her words have galvanised racial discussions across a nation that was once in denial about the pervasive racial marginalisation of Black people. This book is a personal one; it does explore socio-political context, yet from her perspective. Such an intimate exploration of white dominance, intersectional feminism and class structures makes this work indispensable.