In June 2020, Reni Eddo-Lodge became the first black British author to top the UK book charts. 220,000 copies of her book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race were sold in June alone. The death of George Floyd on the 25th of May 2020 prompted people to turn to Eddo-Lodge’s bestseller. Indeed, Floyd’s death forced people to take notice. It spurred them to read in an attempt to educate themselves on the prevalent racism in both the US and the UK.
Of course, it is important that this desire for education is more than a moment. We must continue to read texts by black authors, covering a broad range of voices, literary styles and perspectives. October is Black History Month in the UK, and we would like to mark it by celebrating their work.
So, here are five books by black writers to add to your October reading list, alongside Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race:
1. Don’t Touch My Hair
Emma Dabiri intertwines the personal and political in her first book Don’t Touch My Hair. She grew up in Ireland, where her hair was a ‘constant source of deep, deep shame’. Through her personal experience, she explores how racialisation as black is tied to her hair as much as to her skin.
2. The Autobiography of Malcolm X
The account of the life of Malcolm X, written in collaboration with Alex Haley, is a must read. It’s shocking, heart-wrenching brilliance is fully explored in Alia Nawaz’s review.
3. Citizen: An American Lyric
Citizen is a long form poem by Claudia Rankine that confronts casual racism in a way that shocks and embarrasses a white reader. It is all at once factual, beautiful, and eye opening. The form is a refreshing way of engaging with the realities of racism in contemporary society.
4. Stay With Me
Stay With Me is the debut novel by Ayòbámi Adébáyò. The novel is set against the backdrop of 1980’s Nigeria, and it interrogates the subjects of marriage, masculinity and monogamy. Adebayo’s assured prose style is a joy to read.
5. Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire
Akala’s first book is a combination of memoir and polemic, offering a thorough analysis of racism and capitalism in modern Britain. Providing insight into a black British history which has been suppressed by the power elite in the UK, Akala’s essays are a must-read.
Let us know what you’re reading in October to celebrate Black History Month, and let’s keep the conversation going.