Eight Must-Read Books by Black British Men
Following on from our blog post last week Eight Must-Read Books by Black British Women is a list of eight brilliant books, along with a brief synopsis of what each one is about, written by black male authors. Like before, each of the books we talk about are available to buy on Hive and have been linked accordingly. Hive specialise in books and give a percentage of each purchase to independent bookshops around Britain. You can even choose which participating bookshop you’d like to support. It’s such a brilliant idea and it’s more important than ever to support our local bookstores.
The debut novel from Hickson-Lovence is set over a thirty-six minute bus journey through inner-city London. Like a real life bus ride, the characters who take the 392 from Hoxton to Highbury all live very different lives - each of them with their own hopes, fears and stories to tell. Through first person narration we learn more about our passengers and, more importantly, how each of them reacts when they’re suddenly faced with a possible terrorist threat. The 392 is a great book for a number of reasons, but its authentic feel is what makes it truly special.
Original photographs and poems from poet Caleb Femi tell the stories of young Black boys growing up in twenty-first century Peckham - their hopes, happiness and hardships. Penguin sums this book up beautifully, describing it as above all else ‘a tribute to the world that shaped a poet, and to the people forging difficult lives and finding magic within it.’
Set in Brixton in 1981 (the year of the riots) we follow Biscuit as he tries to gain control of his life and make better decisions, something that’s easier said than done when he has his mum, sister and brother to support. He knows that a job or education will provide him with a better future, but his hustle on the front line for Nunchaks means he already has an income that he’s hesitant to give up. Throw in the rising anger of his local community into the mix - anger that soon explodes into riots - and Biscuit soon finds himself having to make a life-changing decision, regardless of the consequences.
Assuming the voice of the fictional Dr Boulé Whytelaw III (a leading professor in white people studies), author Nels Abbey brings us this satirical guide on how to navigate the white washed world of the western corporate environment - a lot of it based on his own personal experience as both a banker and media executive. With a combination of humour, facts and history, this book will no doubt leave you feeling a range of emotions: from laughter and surprise, through to anger and disgust.
Diran Adebayo’s debut novel (originally published in 1996) is a coming of age story, following the life of a young black Oxford graduate named Dele as he tries to make sense of his uni experience, explore his Nigerian roots and navigate urban London. Together with Dapo, his sister and best friend, he encounters love, politics and violence.
Intelligent, witty and honest, Elijah Lawal’s brilliant handbook is the ideal tool for shutting down negative racist stereotypes towards the black community once and for all. Lawal’s in-depth historical exploration supported by hard facts and research not only compels readers to accept some difficult home truths but provides them with a roadmap on how to call out problematic behaviours they might encounter in their day-to-day life
Drawing upon his own personal encounters of racism, from being stopped and searched as a child to dealing with racist teachers at his school, Akala takes these life experiences and examines their place among the wider social, political and historical issues that affect where we are today. Confronting Britain’s denial with the issues of race and class head on and exploring a range of topics, from the far right to the police force, Natives is an essential read.
The debut novel from author Paul Mendez is an emotional, authentic and bold read that follows the lives of Norman and Jesse. In the late 1950s Norman battles with illness and racism after moving to the West Midlands from Jamaica to secure a better life for his wife and children. In the year 2000 a nineteen year old Jesse arrives in London after cutting ties from his family and a stifling religious community that didn’t allow him to be his true self. In a bid to find himself and recentre his world he turns to sex work where he sets upon discovering new notions of love, fatherhood and spirituality.
We know there are more fantastic books out there - eight is just the tip of the iceberg! We’d love to hear the recommendations that you might have.