As Black History Month comes to a close, there’s always more we can do to educate and enlighten ourselves throughout the whole year. A good start? Reading and supporting books written by Black authors. Here’s the BrandAlley edit of some our favourite reads, both old and new…
Small Island by Andrea Levy
Whether you studied Small Island in your school days, or you’re yet to discover this modern classic, add this novel to your must-read list ASAP. Written from the perspective of its main characters – married Jamaican couple Hortense and Gilbert Joseph, and British Queenie and Bernard, Small Island explores interracial life during the late 1940’s through some comical but also eye-opening moments, as the characters lives are all interwoven. It’s a long read, but you’ll find yourself truly enveloped in the pastimes of these protagonists.
Love In Colour by Bolu Babalola
A debut from author Bolu Babalola, Love In Colour is a collection of mythical love stories. It retells fables from West Africa and further afield with Babalola’s fresh, modern perspective. One of our other favourite authors, Candace Carty-Williams reviewed the book, saying, ‘So rarely is love expressed this richly, this vividly, or this artfully.’ If it’s good enough for her, it’s most definitely good enough for us.
Queenie by Candace Carty-Williams
Completely unputdownable, Queenie is one of those books which we feel every twenty and thirtysomething woman should read. The humorous modern-day novel story circles around (you guessed it) Queenie Jenkins and her everyday life. We become a part of her friendships, career and of course, romances. Yet, beyond this everyday discourse, there’s a focus on mental health, racism and consent, provoking thought and perhaps some tears. If you’re inspired to buy just one book from this list – make it be this.
Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman
Although intended for children and young adults, Noughts & Crosses is a novel which is enjoyed by all ages. Set in a dystopian world with a divide between the black elite and white underclass, it’s the story of Sephy (the daughter of an influential politician, and Cal, (the son of Sephy’s family cleaner) who fall in love à la Romeo and Juliet. However they face prejudice and difficulty from the world around them. Will their love be enough?
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
It’s more than likely you’ve heard of the film Hidden Figures, but did you know the true story was adapted from a 2010 book? The story follows the story of a group of African American women, hired as NASA’s ‘computers’. This resulted in much of the space stations success during the 1940’s and 1960’s. As you can imagine, they face racism, sexism and prejudice from those around them. Despite this, they smash the glass ceiling and ultimately aid in life-changing studies. Hidden Figures is the perfect historic story to pick up when in need of a hint of inspiration.
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Released in 1969, the first part of Maya Angelou’s autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings was sometimes controversially received. A historic classic, it immediately became a bestseller, as Angelou shared the story of her harrowing early years. Whilst it’s not the easiest read, it’s an important one, exploring identity, race, literacy and sexual assault. She also discusses a life dominated in a male-driven society, a topic which is still relevant today. The literary analogy of her comparison to a caged bird is just one of the many qualities which makes this book so incredible.
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith has built a reputation as an esteemed literary icon, elevated to success by her bestselling debut novel White Teeth. Published in 2000, it’s a heart-warming, often hilarious novel adored by both readers and critics.
White Teeth tells the story of the later lives of two wartime friends. These are Bangladeshi Samad Iqbal and Englishman Archie Jones, alongside their families in London. The WW2 veterans become unlikely friends, challenging race and cultural traditions in the capital. At 448 pages it’s a longer novel – but it’s well worth it.