A powerful hybrid of memoir, reportage and commentary considers so-called racial blindness, the draw of Africa and life as a black woman in Britain
‘England is an island but not I land,” say the Rastas. They may have been born in Birmingham or Bristol but they don’t believe they belong in the UK. The same feeling courses through every fibre of Afua Hirsch’s being. The daughter of a black Ghanaian woman and white English man, Hirsch recalls how, in going to work in Senegal as a young adult, she “had left Britain to leave being British”.
An investigation into a nation’s identity and the barrister turned journalist’s lack of a sense of belonging, Brit(ish) is a hybrid of memoir, reportage and social commentary. But it is also a quest to articulate and complete a personal identity by looking to Africa for answers, and this has taken place down the ages. ...
Spanish flu in 1918-19 killed vastly more people than the world war it followed, yet has remained in the shadowsA high-security containment facility in Atlanta, Georgia, keeps under lock and key an organism that in the course of a few months from 1918-1919 was responsible for more deaths than the number of people killed in the first world war. Vanished until 2005, the H1N1 strain of the influenza virus was brought back to life for the purpose of better understanding its catastrophic effect on the world’s population a century ago. But as Laura Spinney points out in Pale Rider
the resurrection is not thought universally to be a good idea.
The Spanish flu pandemic
, which killed at least 50 million people, has remained something of an enigma, not only because scientists are still unsure about why it was so lethal, but because it’s a hugely significant world event ...
White people avoid discussing race, and when discussions are had, they fail to meet the reality of black experience
Ignatius Sancho, whose parents died on the slave ship on which he was born, had the good fortune later in life to receive a classical education courtesy of the Duke of Montagu. As an adult, Sancho
was feted as an African man of letters who, entering into a correspondence with Laurence Sterne
in 1766, beseeched the author to use his authority to intervene in the plight of enslaved Africans. So for hundreds of years black writers in Britain have sought to engage white people on the subject of race. But not any more – at least as far as Reni Eddo-Lodge
Yet the title of her book, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race
– it was first used in a widely read blog she posted ...
This posthumous memoir by the renowned cultural theorist hinges on his journey from the West Indies to the ‘mother country’
Stuart Hall, who died in 2014, was a radical Caribbean intellectual based in Britain for most of his adult life, an activist and cultural theorist who became a hugely influential figure for his own and subsequent generations. His fierce championing of social engagement – as exemplified in his editorship of the New Left Review – was underpinned by compassion, delivered in a voice as smooth as the finest rum. He was a pioneering thinker about race in Britain, who nonetheless put class first, arguing along with Richard Hoggart
and others for the rightful place of the working class and popular art forms in mainstream culture. He helped to define the term “Thatcherism”, and in such prescient books as The Hard Road to Renewal
– about Margaret Thatcher and the crisis ...
Joshua Jelly-Schapiro’s elegant travel book delves deep into the region’s brutal history and unique allure
In 1958 the BBC World Service shut down Caribbean Voices
, a programme that had provided a nurturing platform for fledgling West Indian authors, a handful of whom went on to become luminaries of the region. Explaining the reasons for its closure, a BBC official announced that inevitably “the children had outgrown the patronage of the parent”. Four years later Jamaica and Trinidad gained independence from the UK, with a rush of jubilation and anxiety. It is particularly this theme – the fallout from change – that travel writer Joshua Jelly-Schapiro explores cogently in Island People
It takes courage to venture into a territory already inhabited by Anthony Trollope
, Patrick Leigh Fermor
and VS Naipaul
. A writer is bound to ask himself whether he has anything to say – to match their wit and arrogance. ...
Olusoga’s insightful ‘forgotten history’ amounts to much more than a text to accompany a TV series. Yet despite its many attributes, is it too temperate?
How do you make black British history palatable to white Britons? Actually, hold on a second. How do you make it palatable to black Britons? Let’s start again. How do you compose a history of Britain’s involvement with black people? The answer during my childhood was to accentuate the positive; to tweak the past, for instance, so that schoolchildren were left with the impression that slavery was somehow an abhorrent North American practice and that the British, through the good works of William Wilberforce
, should be commended for their part in bringing about the end of the Atlantic slave trade.
Related: David Olusoga: ‘There’s a dark side to British history, and we saw a flash of it this summer’
A captivating memoir on the distinction between white and black privilege and how the black power movement brought on a crisis for the author
Have you been to or, for that matter, even heard of “Negroland”? Here’s a clue. It’s not Harlem or Chicago’s South Side or any conurbation of black Americans. As Margo Jefferson illuminates in her captivating memoir, Negroland is not so much a geographic location as a state of mind; an exclusive club without discernible borders, to which few have ever belonged. Over the years, its members have been characterised by descriptions ranging from “the coloured 400” (families) to “the blue vein society”.
If you have to ask how you gain entry to Negroland, you’ve already betrayed your lack of credentials. It’s a society composed of a “better class” of Negro, though such people’s judgment is not always sound. In one of Jefferson’s many startling passages she reveals that, at the height ...