I love October, the leaves are starting to change colour on the trees and the days are getting shorter and colder so time to switch up from my Spring/Summer wardrobe to my favourite fashion season Autumn/Winter. And of course, October also hails the start of Black History Month here in the UK.
It seems more important than ever to continue our education of Black History this year, we have a long way to go before we can claim to be a truly equal society, but we only have to go as far as our local bookshop or library to try and be better.
Thankfully we are blessed to have so many Great British Black Writers, Bernadine Evaristo, winner of the 2019 Booker Prize, Reni Eddo-Lodge, award winning journalist and author of ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking About Race to White People’ Aminatta Forna, Malorie Blackman, Akala, Lemn Sissy, Benjamin Zephaniah, Nadifa Mohamed, Zadie Smith to name but a few. There are so many amazing fiction and non-fiction books to pick from I feel like a child in a candy shop, only this ones doesn’t damage your teeth, it sharpens your intellect.
Below I’ve picked a selection of books, from authors around the world, which I hope will whet your appetite to read more black authors. This is Black excellence, a celebration of some of the best writing, the most moving poetry and critical thinking and opinions. Each title below has affected me profoundly and I hope you can find similar joy from reading them. I’ve also selected two audiobooks I borrowed recently from the library via BorrowBox, a fiction and nonfiction. Lets get started.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo.
This is a story told in twelve unique voices across generations and spanning over a century of British history as it’s never been told before. The novel explores womanhood through the lens of the Black British experience whilst also exploring themes of class and gender. It’s funny, moving and beautifully written.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
This is the story of Celestial and Roy, newly weds who are torn apart when Roy is wrongfully charged for a crime they both know he didn’t commit. The story is told in three parts and three voices and my sympathy kept jumping from one to another. It’s a remarkable piece of fiction and a really interesting look at relationships and what we owe each other inside them.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This is one of my favourite books of the year. It’s a letter from a loving father preparing his teenage son for the reality of being a black body in America. Coates has been touted as our generations James Baldwin, and he doesn’t disappoint. His writing is beautiful, its powerful and its delivered unapologetically through his own personal narrative. We learn about his awakening to the truth through a series of revelatory experiences. This book is a must read in my opinion.
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
I’ve just finished reading this book myself and I’m still in awe of its genius. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read, in fact its so brilliant I think it needs a genre unto itself. The best way I can describe it is an immersive art experience. I felt like I was sitting in a theatre which transformed into a subway station reading an essay whilst also being in an art gallery (the book is illustrated with photos and paintings) What’s amazing about Rankine’s book is how she holds up a mirror to the reader and challenges us to look deeper. She raises questions about racism, especially to those who don’t bare its consequences, and asks us to take notice of how we might be the cause of it in our casualness.
The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste (audio book via BorrowBox)
I borrowed this book when I heard it was longlisted for the Booker and I’m so pleased I got a chance to listen to this inspiring story of the Ethiopian women who went to war. Set during the Italian invasion of 1935 this novel follows the lives of a number of characters but the main thread of the story is about Hirut, a young servant woman in the house of a man named Kidane and his wife Aster.
We follow the horrors, the bravery and the eventual conclusion of the war with Hirut and along the journey we see her growth and her suffering. Alongside the Ethiopians we also learn about a young Venetian soldier, Ettore, who makes some startling discoveries about himself while serving as a photographer for the Italian commander
Mouth Full of Blood by Toni Morrison (audiobook via Borrowbox)
I’m embarrassed to reveal that this was actually my first book by Toni Morrison, however as introductions go this one was amazing. Not only does she share some of her genius with us by recollecting how and why she wrote some of her most famous novels, she also shares her insights into other literature, art and her thoughts and arguments on politics. The book is divided into three sections, ‘The foreigner’s home’, ‘Black Matter(s)’ and ‘Gods language’ politics, race and literature. Mouth full of Blood is a collection of work spanning over 40 years of the Nobel Prize winning authors life and it doesn’t disappoint for even a moment.
So there you have it, those are my first six recommendations for Black History Month. I’ve tried to pick books that are accessible but also current and available from your local library. If you’d like any more information on any of these books then please check out my full reviews on my Instagram page @this_hybrid_life I’d also love to hear what you thought of these books and any recommendations you have.
If you would like join Redbridge Libraries you can sign up here, you will then gain free access to a vast range of eBooks via RBDigital and eAudiobooks via BorrowBox. Or if you are a traditional reader and prefer to read hardbacks you can pick up your latest read from one of the Redbridge Libraries that are now open.
We now have five of our libraries open all with new safety measures in place, please read our COVID-19 Guidance for Libraries before visiting.
Guest Author: Mina Rehman