April 2021 to be read list

We did it Joe! Spring is here and (at the time of writing) we’re slowly emerging out of lockdown.

So whether you’re out and about making good use of park spaces and longer daylight hours, or at home adjusting to the idea of being sociable again, here’s a selection of books, including my top three picks from Bernardine’s Evaristo’s Black Britain Writing Back series, to see you through.

One of Them: An Eton College Memoir by Musa Okwonga

Musa Okwonga was not your typical Eton College student. He was a young Black man who grew up in a predominantly working-class town. His experience at Eton in the 1990a moulded and challenged him, but also made him wonder what a place that was so good for him also appears to contribute to the harm being done to the UK.

The more he searched, the more evident the connection became between one of Britain’s most prestigious institutions and the genesis of Brexit, and between his hometown in the suburbs of Greater London and the rise of the far-right.

In this deeply personal and unflinching memoir, Musa explores a wider narrative about privilege, the distribution of wealth, systemic racism, the ‘boys’ club’ of government, and the power of the few to control the fate of the many.

Promising reviews:
A superb memoir … written with a poet’s lyricism and a journalist’s clarity‘ Nish Kumar

Raw evidence of the power of resilience and determination and hope … a blistering memoir‘ Salena Godden

Writing that holds and ambushes you in turn … a portrait of the allure of institutional power‘ Vinay Patel

Mixed/Other: Explorations of Multiraciality in Modern Britain by Natalie Morris

In Mixed/Other journalist Natalie Morris takes a deep dive into what it really means to be mixed in Britain today. The mixed population is the fastest-growing group in the U.K. today, yet the mainstream conversation around mixedness is stilted, repetitive, and often problematic.

From blackfishing to the fetishisation of mixed babies; from the complexities of passing and code-switching to navigating the world of work and dating, Natalie explores the ways in which all of these issues uniquely impact those of mixed heritage.

Drawing from a wealth of research, interviews, and her own personal experiences, she aims to dismantle the stereotypes that have plagued mixed people for generations and to amplify the voices of mixed Britons today.

This One Sky Day by Leone Ross

With its cast of quirky, unforgettable characters and a woozily atmospheric magic realist setting, This One Sky Day charts the troubled course of two star-crossed lovers trying to find their way back to one another across a single day. When night falls, all have been given a gift, and many are no longer the same. The sky is pink, and some wonder if it will ever be blue again.

Promising review:
A sensual meditation on the nature of love and addiction…a dazzling, funny and incisive disquisition on post-colonial politics” – Faber & Faber

Black Britain Writing Back

The following books are part of the Black Britain Writing Back series curated by Booker Prize-winning author Bernardine Evaristo. This series rediscovers and celebrates pioneering books that depict Black Britain.

The Fat Lady Sings by Jacqueline Roy

This groundbreaking novel explores the intersection between race, class, and mental health in the UK.

It’s the 1990s, and Gloria is living in a London psychiatric ward. She is unapologetically loud, audacious, and eternally on the brink of bursting into song. After several months of uninterrupted routine, she is joined by another young black woman – Merle – who is full of silences and fear.

As the two women journal their pasts, whispered into tape recorders, and scrawled ferociously at night, the remarkable stories of their lives are revealed. This is a tender and moving depiction of mental health where two women find strength in their shared vulnerability as they navigate a system that fails to protect them.

Promising review:
This is a novel of daring – enjoyable, surprising, and original.’ Bernardine Evaristo

A strong and humane work of fiction‘ Jackie Kay

A strong, humorous and moving piece of fiction . . . such is the life injected into the characters that by the end of the novel there remains that reluctance to part with people you have come to love’ calabash

Without Prejudice by Nicola Williams

This gripping, propulsive courtroom thriller follows barrister Lee Mitchell as she uncovers the dark secrets of London’s obscenely rich. A thirty-year-old barrister from a working-class Caribbean background, Lee inhabits the cut-throat environment of the courtroom, where everything is stacked against her.

When a high-profile fraud case involving the notorious millionaire playboy Clive Omartian, dangerously blurs the line between her personal and professional life, can Lee survive her case, let alone win it?

Promising review:
Impressive and unique. As relevant today, as it was over two decades, go‘ Bernardine Evaristo

Bernard and the Cloth Monkey by Judith Bryan

A shattering portrayal of family, guilt, and unshakable bonds as a family’s deepest secrets explosively unravel.

When Anita finally returns home to London after a long absence, everything has changed. Her father is dead, her mother is away, and she and her sister Beth are alone together for the first time in years. Tentatively, they reach out to one another for connection, but the house echoes with words unspoken.

This dazzling and heartbreaking novel is a searing portrait of family, a rebellion against silence, and a testament to the human capacity for survival.

Promising review:
A quietly outstanding work of fiction . . . an exemplary novel‘ Bernardine Evaristo

Buy all books in the Black Britain Writing Back series from Penguin Books. All the other books mentioned in this list are available from Hive and other online retailers and bookstores.


Latest articles

Related articles