October top ten books
Celebrate Black History Month
This autumn Surrey libraries is bringing to you a fantastic top ten books all about Black History and heritage. Read about the true stories of black people from all over the world recounting their experiences, the untold history of West African communities trying to forge new lives in Europe to scintillating fictional reads from Black authors.
1. Author Matt Taibbi's I can't breathe; the killing that started a movement, gives readers the incredible story of the death of Eric Garner, the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement. On July 17, 2014, a 43-year-old black man named Eric Garner died in New York after a police officer put him in a 'chokehold' during an arrest for selling bootleg cigarettes. The final moments of his life were captured on video and seen by millions - his agonised last words, 'I can't breathe', becoming a rallying cry for the nascent Black Lives Matter protest movement.
2. The next thought provoking read is Brit(ish): on race, identity and belonging by Afua Hirsch. You're British. Your parents are British. You were raised in Britain. So why do people keep asking where you are from? This novel is about a search for identity and the everyday racism that plagues British society. Afua Hirsch explores a very British crisis of identity. Discover the story of how and why this came to be, and why this is an urgent call for change.
3. Hair is synonymous with black culture and heritage and author Emma Dabiri explores why it stands for black oppression and liberation in Don't touch my hair. Over a series of chapters, read about pre-colonial Africa, through to the Harlem Renaissance, Black Power and on to today's Natural Hair Movement, the Cultural Appropriation Wars and beyond. Discover everything from hair capitalists like Madam C.J. Walker in the early 1900s to forgotten African scholars and the dubious provenance of Kim Kardashian's braids.
4. Afropean: notes from Black Europe by Johnny Pitts is an on-the-ground documentary of areas where Europeans of African descent are juggling their multiple allegiances and forging new identities. Here is an alternative map of the Europe, taking you to places like Cova Da Moura, the Cape Verdean shantytown on the outskirts of Lisbon with its own underground economy, and Rinkeby, the area of Stockholm that is eighty per cent Muslim. Visit the former Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, where West African students are still making the most of Cold War ties with the USSR.
5. Madam C.J. Walker was the first free-born child in her family, growing up in poverty in post-Civil War America. Discover her life story in On her ground: the life and times of Madam C.J. Walker by A'Lelia Perry Bumbles. From humble beginnings, she overcame societal prejudice, family betrayals and epic business rivalries to pioneer cosmetics that revolutionised black hair care, build a beauty empire, and become one of the wealthiest self-made women in America. Not only an astute businesswoman, but a passionate activist and philanthropist, she provided jobs and training for thousands of African American women across the country and used her wealth to fight for equality.
6. Now onto something more lighthearted. Soul tourists by Bernardine Evaristo follows Stanley Williams, an angst-ridden banker and boffin, who wonders whether there's more to life than his daily nine-to-five grind. One night he's dragged to a disco at Piccadilly Circus and there he meets Jessie, an artiste, motormouth, ducker and diver. She swoops Stanley out of his soulless life and off on a rollercoaster road trip across Europe. It's a funny and fabulous tale of two 20th century misfits and their adventure into European history.
7. Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham follows twin sisters; Bibike and Ariyike. They are enjoying a relatively comfortable life in Lagos until 1996. Thir mother loses her job due to political strife and their father gambles away their home. As their parents' marriage collapses in the aftermath, the twins and their two younger siblings, Andrew and Peter, are thrust into the reluctant care of their traditional Yoruba grandmother. Inseparable while they had their parents to care for them, the twins' paths diverge once the household shatters.
8. The awkward teenage years are a rollercoaster of emotions for many, and in Sag Harbour by Colson Whitehead; you'll discover it's even more awkward for Black teenagers. Benji spends most of the year as one of the only black kids at an elite prep school in Manhattan, going to roller disco bar mitzvahs, desperately trying to find his place in the social hierarchy. Then he spends his summers in the African-American community of Sag Harbor on Long Island and is just as confused. It's the summer of 1985 and Benji is determined that this is the summer when things will change and he'll fit in.
9. Looking to sink your teeth in a bit of drama? Look no further than Here comes the sun by Nicole Dennis –Benn. At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. Taught as a girl to trade her sexuality for survival, Margot is ruthlessly determined to shield Thandi from the same fate. When plans for a new hotel threaten their village, Margot sees not only an opportunity for her own financial independence but also perhaps a chance to admit a shocking secret: her forbidden love for another woman.
10. Kamila Shamsie's Salt and Saffron is set in a world, different from ours, you'll not want to put this book down until the end. The Dard-e-Dils are characterised by their prominent clavicles and love of stories. Aliya may not have inherited her family's patrician looks, but she is prey to their legends that stretch back to the days of Timur Lang. There is a sting to most of these tales, for the Dard-e-Dils consider themselves cursed by their 'not-quite' twins. Aliya begins to believe that she is another 'not-quite' twin, linked to her scandalous aunt Mariam in a way that hardly bodes well.
If you're after more reads by Black authors then discover more titles from Surrey libraries on their catalogues online and in libraries: