Researched, compiled and written by Ayesha Rana
After Grenfell: Violence, Resistance and Response edited by Dan Bulley, Jenny Edkins, Nadine El-Enany
On the 14th June 2017, a fire engulfed a tower block in West London, seventy-two people lost their lives and hundreds of others were left displaced and traumatised. The Grenfell Tower fire is the epicentre of a long history of violence enacted by government and corporations. On its second anniversary activists, artists and academics come together to respond, remember and recover the disaster.
The Grenfell Tower fire illustrates Britain’s symbolic order; the continued logic of colonialism, the disposability of working class lives, the marketisation of social provision and global austerity politics, and the negligence and malfeasance of multinational contractors. Exploring these topics and more, the contributors construct critical analysis from legal, cultural, media, community and government responses to the fire, asking whether, without remedy for multifaceted power and violence, we will ever really be ‘after’ Grenfell?
“When I was a child, I imbibed enough of the background racial tensions…to feel profoundly unwelcome in Britain. My right, not just to regard myself as a British citizen, but even to be in Britain seemed contested.”
In this vital re-examination of a shared history, award-winning historian and broadcaster David Olusoga tells the rich and revealing story of the long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa and the Caribbean. Drawing on new genealogical research, original records, and expert testimony, Black and British reaches back to Roman Britain, the medieval imagination, Elizabethan ‘blackamoors’ and the global slave-trading empire. It shows that the great industrial boom of the nineteenth century was built on American slavery, and that black Britons fought at Trafalgar and in the trenches of both World Wars. Black British history is woven into the cultural and economic histories of the nation. It is not a singular history, but one that belongs to us all. Unflinching, confronting taboos and revealing hitherto unknown scandals, Olusoga describes how the lives of black and white Britons have been entwined for centuries.
I’m no longer engaging with white people on the topic of race. Not all white people, just the vast majority who refuse to accept the legitimacy of structural racism and its symptoms… You can see their eyes shut down and harden. It’s like treacle is poured into their ears, blocking up their ear canals. It’s like they can no longer hear us.
In 2014, award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote about her frustration with the way that discussions of race and racism in Britain were being led by those who weren’t affected by it. She posted a piece on her blog, entitled: ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’. Her words hit a nerve. The post went viral and comments flooded in from others desperate to speak up about their own experiences. Galvanised by this clear hunger for open discussion, she decided to dig into the source of these feelings. Exploring issues from eradicated black history to the political purpose of white dominance, whitewashed feminism to the inextricable link between class and race, Reni Eddo-Lodge offers a timely and essential new framework for how to see, acknowledge and counter racism. It is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today.
The Sunday Times bestseller that reveals the uncomfortable truth about race and identity in Britain today. You’re British. Your parents are British. Your partner, your children and most of your friends are British. So why do people keep asking where you’re from? We are a nation in denial about our imperial past and the racism that plagues our present. Brit(ish) is Afua Hirsch’s personal and provocative exploration of how this came to be – and an urgent call for change.
A searing modern polemic and Sunday Times bestseller 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 will speak 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.
(B)ordering Britain argues that Britain is the spoils of empire, its immigration law is colonial violence and irregular immigration is anti-colonial resistance. In announcing itself as postcolonial through immigration and nationality laws passed in the 60s, 70s and 80s, Britain cut itself off symbolically and physically from its colonies and the Commonwealth, taking with it what it had plundered. This imperial vanishing act cast Britain’s colonial history into the shadows. The British Empire, about which Britons know little, can be remembered fondly as a moment of past glory, as a gift once given to the world. Meanwhile immigration laws are justified on the basis that they keep the undeserving hordes out. In fact, immigration laws are acts of colonial seizure and violence. They obstruct the vast majority of racialised people from accessing colonial wealth amassed in the course of colonial conquest. Regardless of what the law, media and political discourse dictate, people with personal, ancestral or geographical links to colonialism, or those existing under the weight of its legacy of race and racism, have every right to come to Britain and take back what is theirs.
Not being racist is not enough. We have to be antiracist. In this rousing and deeply empathetic book, Ibram X. Kendi, founding director of the Antiracism Research and Policy Center, shows that when it comes to racism, neutrality is not an option: until we become part of the solution, we can only be part of the problem. Using his extraordinary gifts as a teacher and story-teller, Kendi helps us recognise that everyone is, at times, complicit in racism whether they realise it or not, and by describing with moving humility his own journey from racism to antiracism, he shows us how instead to be a force for good. Along the way, Kendi punctures all the myths and taboos that so often cloud our understanding, from arguments about what race is and whether racial differences exist to the complications that arise when race intersects with ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality. In the process he demolishes the myth of the post-racial society and builds from the ground up a vital new understanding of racism – what it is, where it is hidden, how to identify it and what to do about it.
In So You Want to Talk About Race, editor-at-large of The Establishment Ijeoma Oluo offers a contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing head-on such issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the “N” word. Perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between people of color and white Americans struggling with race complexities, Oluo answers the questions readers don’t dare ask, and explains the concepts that continue to elude everyday Americans.
The full story of Amelia Gentleman’s crusading investigation into the shocking Windrush scandal makes for compelling and disturbing reading. Highlighting the individual stories at the heart of the political catastrophe, The Windrush Betrayal brings home the dramatic impact of governmental decisions to ordinary people’s lives.
In The Windrush Betrayal, Gentleman tells the full story of her investigation for the first time. Her writing shines a light on the people directly affected by the scandal and illustrates the devastating effect of politicians becoming so disconnected from the world outside Westminster that they become oblivious to the impact of their policy decisions. This is a vitally important account that exposes deeply disturbing truths about modern Britain.
Much has been written on the how colonial subjects took up British and European ideas and turned them against empire when making claims to freedom and self-determination. The possibility of reverse influence has been largely overlooked. Insurgent Empire shows how Britain’s enslaved and colonial subjects were not merely victims of empire and subsequent beneficiaries of its crises of conscience but also agents whose resistance both contributed to their own liberation and shaped British ideas about freedom and who could be free. This book examines dissent over the question of empire in Britain and shows how it was influenced by rebellions and resistance in the colonies from the West Indies and East Africa to Egypt and India. It also shows how a pivotal role in fomenting dissent was played by anti-colonial campaigners based in London at the heart of the empire.
Where did the idea of race come from, and what does it mean? In an age of identity politics, DNA ancestry testing and the rise of the far-right, a belief in biological differences between populations is experiencing a resurgence. The truth is: race is a social construct. Our problem is we find this hard to believe.
In Superior, award-winning author Angela Saini investigates the concept of race, from its origins to the present day. Engaging with geneticists, anthropologists, historians and social scientists from across the globe, Superior is a rigorous, much needed examination of the insidious and destructive nature of the belief that race is real, and that some groups of people are superior to others.
Me and White Supremacy teaches readers how to dismantle the privilege within themselves so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on people of colour, and in turn, help other white people do better, too.
When Layla Saad began an Instagram challenge called #MeAndWhiteSupremacy, she never predicted it would spread as widely as it did. She encouraged people to own up and share their racist behaviors, big and small. She was looking for truth, and she got it. Thousands of people participated in the challenge, and over 90,000 people downloaded the Me and White Supremacy Workbook.
The updated and expanded Me and White Supremacy takes the work deeper by adding more historical and cultural contexts, sharing moving stories and anecdotes, and including expanded definitions, examples, and further resources.
Once in a great while a book comes along that radically changes our understanding of a crucial political issue and helps to fuel a social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Lawyer and activist Michelle Alexander offers a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status, denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights movement.
Challenging the notion that the election of Barack Obama signalled a new era of colourblindness in the United States, The New Jim Crow reveals how racial discrimination was not ended but merely redesigned. By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of colour, the American criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, relegating millions to a permanent second-class status even as it formally adheres to the principle of colourblindness.
A searing call to action for everyone concerned with social justice, The New Jim Crow is one of the most important books about race in the 21st century.
The night Effia Otcha was born into the musky heat of Fanteland, a fire raged through her father’s compound. It moved quickly, tearing a path for days. It lived off the air; it slept in caves and hid in trees; it burned, up and through, unconcerned with what wreckage it left behind, until it reached an Asante village. There, it disappeared, becoming one with the night.
Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader’s wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. As each chapter offers up a new descendant, alternating between Effia’s and Esi’s bloodline right up to the present day, a chasm of experience and the differing legacies of chance are brought starkly to light. Taking us from the Gold Coast of Africa to the cotton-picking plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem, spanning three continents and seven generations, Yaa Gyasi has written a miraculous novel – the intimate, gripping story of a brilliantly vivid cast of characters and through their lives the very story of America itself. Epic in its canvas and intimate in its portraits, Homegoing is a searing and profound debut from a masterly new writer.
Fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world is circumscribed by the high walls and frangipani trees of her family compound. Her wealthy Catholic father, under whose shadow Kambili lives, while generous and politically active in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home. When Nigeria begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili’s father sends her and her brother away to stay with their aunt, a University professor, whose house is noisy and full of laughter. There, Kambili and her brother discover a life and love beyond the confines of their father’s authority. The visit will lift the silence from their world and, in time, give rise to devotion and defiance that reveal themselves in profound and unexpected ways. This is a book about the promise of freedom; about the blurred lines between childhood and adulthood; between love and hatred; between the old gods and the new.
Umuahia, Nigeria. Chinonso, a young poultry farmer, sees a woman attempting to jump to her death from a highway bridge. Horrified by her recklessness, Chinonso joins her on the roadside and hurls two of his most prized chickens into the water below to demonstrate the severity of the fall. The woman, Ndali, is moved by his sacrifice. Bonded by this strange night on the bridge, Chinonso and Ndali fall in love. But Ndali is from a wealthy family, and when they officially object to the union because he is uneducated, Chinonso sells most of his possessions to attend a small college in Cyprus. Once in Cyprus, he discovers that all is not what it seems. Furious at a world which continues to relegate him to the sidelines, Chinonso gets further and further away from his dream, from Ndali and the place he called home.
Spanning continents, traversing the earth and cosmic spaces, and told by a narrator who has lived for hundreds of years, the novel is a contemporary twist of Homer’s Odyssey. Written in the mythic style of the Igbo literary tradition, Chigozie Obioma weaves a heart-wrenching epic about destiny and determination.
Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.
Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of the American Dream. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. Until one day they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit.
Devastated and unmoored, Celestial finds herself struggling to hold on to the love that has been her centre, taking comfort in Andre, their closest friend. When Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, he returns home ready to resume their life together.
A masterpiece of storytelling, An American Marriage offers a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three unforgettable characters who are at once bound together and separated by forces beyond their control.
A masterful, humane account of the experience of the Windrush generation, and a vivid portrait of post-war London, its inhabitants and their conflicts. An important, thought-provoking book written by an author whose knack for characterisation was unparalleled.
Okonkwo is the greatest wrestler and warrior alive, and his fame spreads throughout West Africa like a bush-fire. But when he accidentally kills a clansman, things begin to fall apart.
Then Okonkwo returns from exile to find missionaries and colonial governors have arrived in the village. With his world thrown radically off-balance, he can only hurtle towards tragedy.
First published in 1958, Chinua Achebe’s stark, coolly ironic novel reshaped both African and world literature, and has sold over ten million copies in forty-five languages. This arresting parable of a proud but powerless man witnessing the ruin of his people begins Achebe’s landmark trilogy of works chronicling the fate of one African community, continued in Arrow of God and No Longer at Ease.
As teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America. There she suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Thirteen years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a blogger. But after so long apart and so many changes, will they find the courage to meet again, face to face?
Fearless, gripping, spanning three continents and numerous lives, the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Americanah is a richly told story of love and expectation set in today’s globalized world.
Hashi Mohamed powerfully exposes the alienating and segregating effect of social immobility in this country. Raised on benefits and having attended some of the lowest-performing schools in the country, barrister Hashi Mohamed knows something about social mobility. In People Like Us, he shares what he has learned: from the stark statistics that reveal the depth of the problem to the failures of imagination, education and confidence that compound it.
We live in a society where the single greatest indicator of what your job will be is the job of your parents. Where power and privilege are concentrated among the 7% of the population who were privately educated. Where, if your name sounds black or Asian, you’ll need to send out twice as many job applications as your white neighbour.
Wherever you are on the social spectrum, this is an essential investigation into our society’s most intractable problem. We have more power than we realise to change things for the better.
I write about being a Black American woman, however, I am always talking about what it’s like to be a human being. This is how we are, what makes us laugh, and this is how we fall and how we somehow, amazingly, stand up again
The first and best-known of Maya Angelou‘s extraordinary seven volumes of autobiography is a testament to the talents and resilience of this extraordinary writer.
Loving the world, she also knows its cruelty. As a Black woman she has known discrimination and extreme poverty, but also hope, joy, achievement and celebration.
Hunger by Roxane Gay
New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and bodies, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she casts an insightful and critical eye on her childhood, teens, and twenties-including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life-and brings readers into the present and the realities, pains, and joys of her daily life.
With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and authority that have made her one of the most admired voices of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to be overweight in a time when the bigger you are, the less you are seen. Hunger is a deeply personal memoir from one of our finest writers, and tells a story that hasn’t yet been told but needs to be.
In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her-from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address.
With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it-in her own words and on her own terms.
Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations-and whose story inspires us to do the same.
Books for Teens
‘The Hate U Give is an outstanding debut novel and says more about the contemporary black experience in America than any book I have read for years, whether fiction or non-fiction.’ – The Guardian
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful, gripping and piercingly relevant YA novel about inequality, police violence, 21st century prejudice and one girl’s struggle for justice. Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.
It all starts when six kids have to meet for a weekly chat—by themselves, with no adults to listen in. There, in the room they soon dub the ARTT Room (short for “A Room to Talk”), they discover it’s safe to talk about what’s bothering them—everything from Esteban’s father’s deportation and Haley’s father’s incarceration to Amari’s fears of racial profiling and Ashton’s adjustment to his changing family fortunes. When the six are together, they can express the feelings and fears they have to hide from the rest of the world. And together, they can grow braver and more ready for the rest of their lives.
This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 lessons on how to wake up, take action, and do the work by Tiffany Jewell and Aurelia Durand
The Quarto Group will be donating 100% of their profits from the This Book Is Anti-Racist eBook to Black Lives Matter and Colour of Change throughout the month of June. These organisations are dedicated to combating racism and seeking justice for people of colour. Who are you? What is racism? Where does it come from? Why does it exist? What can you do to disrupt it? Learn about social identities, the history of racism and resistance against it, and how you can use your anti-racist lens and voice to move the world toward equity and liberation.
The two have been friends since early childhood. But that’s as far as it can go. Until the first steps are taken towards more social equality and a limited number of Noughts are allowed into Cross schools… Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity by Noughts, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum – a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger…
The Mothers is a surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community – and the things that ultimately haunt us most. It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, 17-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance – and the subsequent cover-up – will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth.
Books for little ones
Featuring 40 trailblazing black women in the world’s history, this book educates and inspires as it relates true stories of women who broke boundaries and exceeded all expectations. Debut author/illustrator Vashti Harrison pairs captivating text with stunning illustrations as she tells the stories of both iconic and lesser-known female figures of black history – from nurse Mary Seacole, to politician Diane Abbott, mathematician Katherine Johnson and singer Shirley Bassey. Among these biographies, readers will find heroes, role models and everyday women who did extraordinary things.
Did you know that the father of African cinema was originally a bricklayer?
Or that Vogue’s editor-at-large read his first Vogue magazine in his local library?
Learn all about the exceptional black men who broke barriers and fought injustice to realise their dreams and make the world a better place. With Vashti Harrison’s beautiful illustrations and illuminating writing, discover the stories of black men from all walks of life.
Seven-year-old Lena is going to paint a picture of herself. She wants to use brown paint for her skin. But when she and her mother take a walk through the neighborhood, Lena learns that brown comes in many different shades. Through the eyes of a little girl who begins to see her familiar world in a new way, this book celebrates the differences and similarities that connect all people. Karen Katz created this book for her daughter, Lena, whom she and her husband adopted from Guatemala six years ago.
Racial discrimination is cruel–and especially so to younger children. This title encourages kids to accept and be comfortable with differences of skin color and other racial characteristics among their friends and in themselves. A First Look At… is an easy-to-understand series of books for younger children. Each title explores emotional issues and discusses the questions such difficulties invariably raise among kids of preschool through early school age. Written by a psychotherapist and child counselor, each title promotes positive interaction among children, parents, and teachers. The books are written in simple, direct language that makes sense to younger kids. Each title also features a guide for parents on how to use the book, a glossary, suggested additional reading, and a list of resources. There are attractive full-color illustrations on every page.
Discover this poignant, timely, and emotionally stirring picture book, an ode to black and brown children everywhere that is full of hope, assurance, and love.Tami Charles pens a poetic, lyrical text that is part love letter, part anthem, assuring readers that they always have, and always will, matter.
This gorgeous, lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another comes from Empire actor and activist Grace Byers and talented newcomer artist Keturah A. Bobo.
Sulwe is a children’s fiction picture book by actress Lupita Nyong’o. It follows the story of a young girl who wishes for her dark skin to be lighter. The story is ultimately about colorism and learning to love oneself, no matter one’s skin tone.
M Is for Melanin is an empowering alphabet book that teaches kids their ABCs and celebrates Black children.
Each letter of the alphabet contains affirming, Black-positive messages, from A is for Afro, to F is for Fresh, to W is for Worthy. This book teaches children their ABCs while encouraging them to love the skin that they’re in.
Be bold. Be fearless. BE YOU.