It’s October which means it’s Black History Month in the UK! There are so many great ways to celebrate Black History Month – museum trips, movie nights. But for the book nerds like me, it’s a great excuse to crack open some new books. And when it comes to classics, history or even fiction books by black authors, there are A LOT of great books to pick from. However, instead of focusing only on older classics, I’m looking to the current black literary talents that are worth reading this black history month. Here is my list of six books to read this Black History Month!
1. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
This book was so gripping, I literally couldn’t put it down once I started! Homegoing starts with the story of two sisters in an Asante village in the 18th century; One sold to a slaver as a bride and the other captured by local boys and sold as a slave. We follow their descendants through seven generations both in Africa and America and the different paths they take. I absolutely loved Homegoing and the way it wasn’t just another slavery narrative showing how horrific it was (we already know that). Instead, it goes on to explore how it impacts modern life and how family bonds can survive the worst treatment. This is definitely one book to read this black history month.
2. Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie
This one is by my Aunty (in my mind anyway) Chi! It’s a story about Ifemelu and Obinze, two teenagers in Lagos who fall in love during a tumultuous time in Nigeria’s governance. Ifemelu leaves Nigeria, as many people did at that time, for America. Here, she experiences a range of emotions, triumphs and defeats, all while being confronted with something she never thought about in Nigeria: race. Americanah for me was familiar, as a black girl moving to the UK and for the first time realizing I was black and that, somehow, was a bad thing. It’s a great story of love and an honest view of the immigrant experience, the expectation vs reality for immigrants everywhere.
3. Why I’m no longer talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
This, right here, is a brilliant book! And no, the title isn’t ‘read bait’, it’s a very provocative title and the cover is super striking. It’s written by a black millennial British woman and she did a great job researching the history of black people in the UK. She explores whitewashed feminism, experiences of mixed-race children, the link between class and race and so much more, all while sharing personal stories. It is an insightful, illuminating and amazingly timely exploration of what it is to be black in Britain today. If you only read one non-fiction book to try and understand the Black British experience today, this is it!
4. Everyday is for the Thief by Teju Cole
I read this book after my first visit back to Lagos since moving to Manchester when I was 15yrs old. It really resonated with me. This book is a story of a man who decides to visit Lagos after many years abroad. Sound simple right? However, his experience is coloured by the paradox that is Nigeria. Through vivid portraits of Lagos life, this book provides a fresh and relatable take on the experience of a returnee. One of the great books for Black History Month.
5. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
Children aren’t left out of the reading fun this month! Little Leaders is a great book that tells the story of 40 iconic, trailblazing and lesser-known female figures in black history. Such as Nurse Mary Seacole, Scientist Alice Ball, Shirley Bassey and so much more! This is a great book to educate and inspire your children (boys and girls), your own little leader with the stories of these women that broke boundaries!
6. Kumukanda by Kayo Chingonyi
I haven’t read this yet but it’s on my list! Kumukanda is the stunning debut of Kayo Chingonyi and we explore race, culture and identity through the eyes of a young black man living in Britain. This collection of poems looks at culture clashes, what it is to be British and not British at the same time and shares how he sees the world and the way it sees him. I look forward to reading it!
Penguin have a web page dedicated to black writers for Black History Month. It’s also a great place to go digging for your next favourite book by black authors!
I do hope you’ve have enjoyed this post and it’s given you some idea on books to read this Black History Month. It’s a great time to discover the exploits of people in the black race and celebrate them to the best of our ability. An appreciation of such things can lead us to a better understanding of each other.
If there are any other great books you would recommend, please drop them in the comments below!
Until Next time guys xx