To celebrate 70 years since the arrival of the Windrush, which has come to symbolise a generation of Caribbean immigrants to the UK, we have chosen a selection of books that engages with what it means to be black and British, and of Caribbean heritage. This is by no means an exhaustive list and we've been somewhat limited by what is currently in print or available, but all these books are highly recommended and available in the shop.
If you'd like to hear more about the cultural legacy of the Windrush, please join us on June 20th for a special event with Margaret Busby OBE, Sharmaine Lovegrove, and Jacob Ross.
Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands by Stuart Hall
Stuart Hall was born in Kingston, Jamaica and educated at Oxford University. A pioneering cultural theorist, campaigner, and founding editor of New Left Review, Hall was one of the most influential and adventurous thinkers of the last half century. This posthumous memoir describes growing up in a middle-class family in 1930s Jamaica, then still a British colony. In 1951, a scholarship took him to England where he built a home and a life in a country where the social landscape was transforming, and urgent new questions of race, class and identity coming to light. Told with passion and wisdom, this is a story of how the forces of history shape who we are.
Published by Penguin on 5th April 2018
Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Consistently in our top ten since it came out last year and winning almost every prize going, this book has almost single handedly changed the conversation about race in England. Exploring everything from eradicated black history to the inextricable link between class and race, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race is the essential handbook for anyone who wants to understand race relations in Britain today.
Published by Bloomsbury on 8th March 2018
Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala
A searing modern polemic from the BAFTA- and MOBO-award-winning musician and political commentator, Akala. From the first time he was stopped and searched as a child, to the day he realised his mum was white, to his first encounters with racist teachers - race and class have shaped Akala's life and outlook. In this unique book he takes his own experiences and widens them out to look at the social, historical and political factors that have left us where we are today. Covering everything from the police, education and identity to politics, sexual objectification and the far right, Natives speaks directly to British denial and squeamishness when it comes to confronting issues of race and class that are at the heart of the legacy of Britain's racialised empire.
Published by Two Roads on 17th May 2018
Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging by Afua Hirsch
Where are you really from? You're British. Your parents are British. You were raised in Britain. Your partner, your children and most of your friends are British. So why do people keep asking you where you are from? Brit(ish) is about a search for identity. It is about the everyday racism that plagues British society. It is about our awkward, troubled relationship with our history. It is about why liberal attempts to be 'colour-blind' have caused more problems than they have solved. It is about why we continue to avoid talking about race. In this personal and provocative investigation, Afua Hirsch explores a very British crisis of identity.
Published by Jonathan Cape on 1st February 2018
Closure: Contemporary Black, British Short Stories (ed. Jacob Ross)
Humans have always valued the short story as a way to make sense of the world, and their place in it. This anthology by leading black and Asian British writers if filled a rich variety of stories, which, like life, rarely end in the way we might expect.
Published by Peepal Tree Press on 28th September 2015
Small Island by Andrea Levy
Andrea Levy was born in England to Jamaican parents who came to Britain in 1948. After attending writing workshops when she was in her mid-thirties, Levy began to write the novels that she, as a young woman, had always wanted to read - entertaining novels that reflect the experiences of black Britons. It is 1948, and England is recovering from a war. But at 21 Nevern Street, London, the conflict has only just begun. Queenie Bligh's neighbours do not approve when she agrees to take in Jamaican lodgers, but Queenie doesn't know when her husband will return, or if he will come back at all. What else can she do?
Published by Tinder Press on 7th September 2017
The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon
Both devastating and funny, The Lonely Londoners is an unforgettable account of immigrant experience - and one of the great twentieth-century London novels. At Waterloo Station, hopeful new arrivals from the West Indies step off the boat train, ready to start afresh in 1950s London. There, homesick Moses Aloetta, who has already lived in the city for years, meets Henry 'Sir Galahad' Oliver and shows him the ropes. This is a strange, cold and foggy city where the natives can be less than friendly at the sight of a black face.