When I started reading and learning more about racial inequalities and the issues that need to be addressed across society, I purposely started reading more novels and non-fiction books by Black authors. I committed to a Summer of authors of colour. That soon extended to a year because I’m getting so much out of it. Maybe I’ll never stop!
My first degree was in English Language and Literature. I’ve been a book worm for as long as I can remember. I’ve attended book clubs for years I’ve read and read and read and read. But I have to admit, I haven’t read many Black British authors. Of course I adore the American literature of Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison – some of my favourite studies at university. I read Of Mice and Men at school. I adored Othello in Drama lessons. But how many Black British authors can I name even now? It’s embarrassing to admit, and also a sign of the white centrism of British culture, literature and academia in many many ways. And even harder to admit, my own white centrism and lack of acknowledgement. We’ve ALL got so much to learn.
Inspired to discuss the energising and interesting things I was finding out about, I set up my book club, ‘Are You Read-y for This’ with some dear friends and colleagues. It’s all about reading and discussing books from a non-mainstream point of view. It’s so much fun! And also, we all agree, very important in today’s society. So far we’ve read Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams and Dominicana by Angie Cruz. I’d love to hear what you think, if you’ve read any of these. Have a look at my reviews and let me know your thoughts.
It is just so refreshing to not have the characters of colour pointed out to you, because they’re not the ‘others’ in these books.
It’s enriching to read about the everyday experiences of people of colour – the micro aggressions they experience, the foods they love, the assumptions people make about them, the way they speak.
Simple things like references to hair routines some of us perform every day, that are normal to us, but completely alien to some, just make you feel represented. And that’s a great feeling.
And the most important element for me I think, is that the cultures and experiences of Black people and other under represented groups are implicit in every page of these books. Sometimes they’re no big deal. Often they’re important educational pieces. Either way, they’re always there. They’re embraced. They’re not shied away from. It makes inclusion and representation real.
I’ve got books and books lining my shelves, but, please, any recommendations would be greatly received! You can never have too many!
4 thoughts on “My Summer project just got extended….”
Please can you put your summer reading list up here Claire. I get so little time for reading these days I tend to be a bit lazy in grabbing the first thing on the table in Waterstones. I studied American Literature as part of my degree, but would definitely say my shelves are probably dominated by white authors.
Thanks Jennie – this is great feedback and I’ll make this my next post! Xx
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Dear Claire – May I recommend to you and visitors to this blog, Isabel Wilkerson’s recent book ‘Caste’, in which she compares and contrasts the caste systems of the India, the USA and the Third Reich; she argues that adherence to Caste structures enables Racism to thrive. THAT interview coming so soon after I had finished the book certainly helped explain how Ms Markle felt rejected and unable to remain trapped in the House of Windsor’s rigid caste system…..
Thank you for your blog and the book recommendations you offer; I can’t wait for Five Leaves and Waterstones to open and for the browsing to begin again. I liked your piece in Left Lion on The Colour of Love; my wife and I were at the book’s launch at Bromley House Library a couple of years ago.
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Thank you so much Michael, I’ll add this to my list, I have heard it’s a fascinating read so I really appreciate the recommendation. Lovely to hear from you!