Black History Month books: recommended reading list as the UK celebrates people of African and Caribbean descent this October

Educate yourself with this selection of books for Black History Month reading

Friday, 2nd October 2020, 4:08 pm
(Images: Bloomsbury/Penguin/Viking)
(Images: Bloomsbury/Penguin/Viking)

October marks Black History Month in the UK,which aims to celebrate the important people and events in the history of people of African and Caribbean descent.

Tackling issues of race can be a daunting prospect, but we could always improve our education in these areas, and one great way to do that is read any of the great books published on the subject.

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Black History Month UK: why we celebrate people of African and Caribbean descent in October

To help you get started, here are eight must-read books, whether novels from black authors or academic studies into the historical significance of events from the past.

'Black and British: A Forgotten History' by David Olusoga

Historian and broadcaster David Olusoga draws on new genealogical research, original records and expert testimony to tell the rich and revealing story of the long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa and the Caribbean.

'Homecoming: Voices of the Windrush Generation' by Colin Grant

Homecoming draws on over a hundred first-hand interviews, archival recordings and memoirs by the women and men who came to Britain from the West Indies between the late 1940s and the early 1960s.

Nurses in Manchester; bus drivers in Bristol; seamstresses in Birmingham; teachers in Croydon; dockers in Cardiff - all lend their tales for this eye opening book.

'Becoming' by Michelle Obama

Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s autobiography was first published back in 2018, and since then Netflix have 'adapted' it into its own documentary (also a must watch).

Obama's memoir chronicles 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.

Throughout, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story.

'Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race' by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Reni Eddo-Lodge's powerful 2014 dissection of racism in Britain began as blog posts fuelled by the author's frustration at discussions around race were not necessarily being led by those most affected by it.

But from humble beginnings something of a phenomenon grew, and the book picked up a newfound audience in the wake of this year's Black Lives Matter protests, marking it as one of the most important reads in recent years.

'Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire' by Akala

Covering everything from the police, education and identity to politics, sexual objectification and the far right, Natives speak directly to Britain’s confronting of issues of race and class.

In this book, rapper, journalist and poet Akala 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.

'The Good Immigrant' by Nikesh Shukla

This collection of personal essays from over 20 black, Asian and minority ethnic voices explores what it is to be an immigrant to 21st century Britain.

A companion book called The Good Immigrant USA charts a similar course, but with its words supplied by voices from the other side of the Atlantic, and both are as poignant as they are challenging, as angry as they are humorous.

Both are must-reads.

'So You Want to Talk About Race' by Ijeoma Oluo

Those particularly interested in race issues in America should take up this USA-focused look at the racial landscape in a country where divides feel like they've never been greater.

Privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, microaggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement... all the questions you were too nervous to ask are answered here, as Oluo makes it her personal mission to bridge the gap between people of colour and white Americans struggling with race complexities.

'Girl, Woman, Other' by Bernardine Evaristo

Bernardine Evaristo's impactful novel saw her become the first black woman and the first black British person to win the Booker Prize in 2019.

From Newcastle to Cornwall, from the birth of the twentieth century to the teens of the twenty-first, Girl, Woman, Other follows a cast of twelve characters on their personal journeys through Britain.

They're each looking for something. A shared past, an unexpected future, a place to call home, somewhere to fit in, a lover, a missed mother, a lost father, even just a touch of hope.