October brings us black history month, and I wanted to celebrate that by sharing some of my favourite books with characters of colour and/or books with a focused topic of black culture. I hope you find some reads that interest you here!
The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon
Trinidadian writer Sam Selvon is nothing short of a literary genius, and The Lonely Londoners is pure poetry. This story can help anyone who’s seeking understanding of the immigrant experience, while experimenting linguistically with the idea of ‘home’. The Lonely Londoners is set in the wake of the Second World War, when thousands of people from the West Indies arrived in London. A group of newly arrived friends try to make London their home, but feel rejected by it. The language in this book may potentially be difficult to follow, as it’s written in a Trinidadian dialect, but this is easy to overcome with a quick glance at a Trinidad dialect glossary.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Warning: this book will make you cry
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is hands-down, the best young adult fiction novel I have ever read. And I’ve read a lot of them. Strangely, despite loving books and them being a big part of my job, I’m actually a very slow reader. And yet, I finished ‘THUG’ in a morning. The story follows Starr, a 16 year old black girl in America, opening with her attending a party with her friend. Starr is enjoying herself and reunites with her childhood friend Khalil, until gunshots suddenly shatter the music and the party guests must flee. Khalil drives Starr away to apparent safety, but shortly after they are pulled over by the police. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the desire to raise awareness of police brutality and racism, Angie Thomas portrays the heart-breaking scene of un-armed Khalil being murdered – shot at point blank range by an officer referred to as ‘Officer One-fifteen’ throughout the novel. Starr has to face the death of her friend, and bare the outrage of her race and community afterward. This book is heart-breaking and unsettling in a way that’s damn important and absolutely necessary, so I’d recommend shelving it to get round to this month.
Kumukanda by Kayo Chingonyi
Chingonyi is a beautiful performance poet, and so I had high expectations for this debut poetry collection. It did not disappoint. In fact, it was even better than I had prepared for. The collection is an exploration of race, society, culture, and identity, all seen through the perspective of a black man living in today’s Britain.
Bone by Ysra Daley-Ward
Ysra’s storytelling is very emotional, immediately delving into a simultaneously brutal and delicate free-verse with no hesitation. Ysra’s words are beautifully crafted, and she leads us on a path through modern Britain by following different narrative strands and using varied characters.
Homegoing by Ysa Gyasi
This one is another emotional one (sorry, there’s been a few!) with Yaa Gyasi telling the story of two sisters from Ghana becoming separated against their will and abused by colonial white men. We, the readers, follow the two sisters and their ancestors from Africa and the American Civil War, all the way through to the present day.
These are my favourite picks if you’re looking for something to read for Black History Month. If you have other suggestions I missed, please leave them down below in the comments!