It’s Black History Month in the UK and I decided this year I should finally get round to reading some of those incredible stories that I haven’t quite made time for yet. As someone who primarily leans towards fiction titles, this year I’m going to push myself to read more non-fiction and have set myself a list of 5 books – a mix of fiction and non-fiction from black author’s and exploring black history – to try and get through before the end of the month. Here they are:
1) The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings by Olaudah Equiano
As the forerunner of the so-dubbed ‘slave narratives,’ it felt like this one had to be on the list. The book recounts Equiano’s kidnapping from Africa at the age of 10, his service as a slave to a British Navy officer for ten years and his life after he bought his freedom in 1766.
2) The Emperor’s Babe by Bernadine Evaristo
I just read Girl, Woman, Other and was way more taken with it than I expected to be. I loved her unusual formatting and writing style and thought her characterisation was exceptional, so when I saw The Emperor’s Babe was the story of a Nubian teen married off to a ‘fat old Roman’, I couldn’t say no.
3) Black and British by David Olusoga
Longlisted for the Orwell Prize, award-winning historian ad broadcaster David Olusoga gives us his heavyweight title, exploring Britain’s history with the people of Africa and the Caribbean from the Roman era to the modern day.
4) Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglas
This is the autobiography of Frederick Douglas (1818-1895), a man who was born into slavery in Maryland and escaped to Massachusetts in 1838 where he was an abolitionist and campaigner for women’s rights. This book describes his life as a slave and how he fought to educate himself.
5) Manchester Happened by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is a Ugandan novelist and the author of one of my absolute favorite books, Kintu, I’ve been meaning to read her short story collection Manchester Happened for a long time now and with her next novel The Last Woman new out, it’s about time I got around to it! Manchester Happened re-imagines the stories of Ugandans who chose to make England their home and explores the immigrant experience.
This wonderful novel spans generations and combines the power of 12 startling voices to share the experiences of British women of color. Mainly set in London we hear the story of a proud black lesbian playwright, her sassy super-feminist daughter and a sexually fluid millennial, just to name a couple.
I can definitely see why this books is a bit love it or hate it. The story of Dexter and Em is given to us in snapshots, Starting from their meeting at uni up to their late 30s, the book oozes sexual tension, but with an increasingly dark edge which reminded me of Sally Rooney’s novels.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn has a wonderful fairy-tale feel, combining Persian mythology with elements of Sleeping Beauty, to give us the story of a girl who is poisonous to the touch as she is determined to find her place in the magical world around her.