Reni Eddo-Lodge recommends books to change the conversation

The journalist and author suggests books to challenge your thinking on work, food, beauty and sex

In the media bunfight about the legitimacy of trans people’s lives, Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness is a must read. It drags the conversation out of the gutter, instilling empathy but also forcing those of us who support trans rights to reconsider exactly how we are doing so.

For a long time, my support stopped at “trans women are women”. It seemed that anything was better than the vitriol heaped on them by the press. But reading Mock’s first memoir helped me understand that I was practising a kind of gender colour-blindness. I’ve never had to fight for my gender to be recognised, neither have I faced harassment for trying to do so. And while both cis and trans women are subject to vicious sexual violence because of our gender, I realised that there ...

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn review – the sinister side of Jamaica’s tourist trade

An engaging debut about exploitation and racial prejudice, as seen through the eyes of three women This book has exactly the sort of cover that might entice you to grab it in the airport for a beach holiday. And it ticks all the boxes of great summer fiction: it’s engrossing, the writing is urgent, and the characters’ lives are deeply moving. But it’s no passport to escapism. As you read it on your sun lounger, you might become uncomfortably aware of how your presence in your chosen destination is disrupting the lives of local people. The novel charts the creeping colonialism of the hotel industry in Jamaica, and the sheer dominance it holds in poor areas, rendering it the most attractive of the limited employment options for people living there. It’s about the effect of displacement this has on the locals, and the egregious wealth and entitlement of short-term visitors. But it would ...

The Sellout by Paul Beatty review – a whirlwind satire about racial identity

Every anxiety about race in the US is laid bare in a surreal fable about a black neighbourhood being wiped off the mapIf there is one thing we know about words you shouldn’t say, it’s that those words end up becoming very alluring. The Sellout is a fast-paced, verbose book, but one particular word crops up again and again. Paul Beatty’s version is the slave master spelling of nigger, not the 90s hip-hop “nigga”. Although the “er” is a harsh and oppressive end to a harsh and oppressive word, his repetitive use comes off with a friendly familiarity. It’s far from menacing or mocking. You might even close the book feeling desensitised to one of the most contentious words in the English language. Maybe that’s the point of this whirlwind of a satire. Everything about The Sellout’s plot is contradictory. The devices are real enough to be believable, yet surreal ...