Photo collage of Black History Month recommendations

Ranging from iconic series that you might have read at school to ground-breaking contemporary writing, Colour[full] share the books that have made an impact on them. Straight from the Penguin Random House archives, as well as some more recent publications, these recommendations barely scratch the surface when it comes to brilliant Black writing, but they’re a great place to start.
 

Homecoming: Voices of the Windrush Generation by Colin Grant

The striking photograph on the cover of Homecoming made me pick up this fascinating book which tells stories of the Windrush generation – a key part of British history which is merely glossed over in the school curriculum. It’s a literary tapestry of over one hundred first-hand interviews, archive materials and memoirs documenting Britain during the period between the late 1940s and early 1960s. I’d recommend it to anyone who, like me, wants to fill in the gaps in their knowledge about Black British history.

Naomi Morris Omori, VINTAGE Brand Executive

Look Up! by Nathan Bryon

This is a perfect picture book about a little girl who wants everyone to look down from their screens and look up at the world around her. Rocket is one of the most lovable, memorable picture book characters I’ve ever encountered and she’s set to inspire a generation of readers to discover their passion for science and space!

Joe Marriott, Commissioning Editor

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde

This is a genre-defying memoir. It is a deconstruction of the self, a journey into vulnerability. It is electric in its poetry, as the reader finds themselves lost in the beauty of Audre Lorde’s verse, her poetic mythology. Her search for identity, her peaks and pitfalls, makes this a must-read for any black woman, but particularly for queer black women.

Léa Malinur, Education Assistant Intern

  • In the Castle of My Skin

    Penguin Modern Classics

  • 'They won't know you, the you that's hidden somewhere in the castle of your skin'

    Nine-year-old G. leads a life of quiet mischief crab catching, teasing preachers and playing among the pumpkin vines. His sleepy fishing village in 1930s Barbados is overseen by the English landlord who lives on the hill, just as their 'Little England' is watched over by the Mother Country. Yet gradually, G. finds himself awakening to the violence and injustice that lurk beneath the apparent order of things. As the world he knows begins to crumble, revealing the bruising secret at its heart, he is spurred ever closer to a life-changing decision. Lyrical and unsettling, George Lamming's autobiographical coming-of-age novel is a story of tragic innocence amid the collapse of colonial rule.

    'Rich and riotous' The Times

    'Its poetic imaginative writing has never been surpassed' Tribune

  • Buy the book
  • White Teeth

    Penguin Essentials

  • A Guardian Best Book of the 21st Century

    From the MAN BOOKER PRIZE- and WOMEN'S PRIZE-SHORTLISTED author of Swing Time, On Beauty and Grand Union

    'BELIEVE THE HYPE' The Times

    'The almost preposterous talent was clear from the first pages' Julian Barnes, Guardian

    'Street-smart and learned, sassy and philosophical all at the same time' New York Times

    'Outstanding' Sunday Telegraph

    The international bestseller and modern classic of multicultural Britain - an unforgettable portrait of London

    One of the most talked about debut novels of all time, White Teeth is a funny, generous, big-hearted novel, adored by critics and readers alike. Dealing - among many other things - with friendship, love, war, three cultures and three families over three generations, one brown mouse, and the tricky way the past has of coming back and biting you on the ankle, it is a life-affirming, riotous must-read of a book.

  • Buy the book

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other is an intersectional, intergenerational chronicle of Black Britain, and specifically of the Black women who call this country home. The novel follows the threads of twelve very different characters – along the way we meet friends, lovers, rivals, idols, the ones who triumph and the ones left behind. Joyful and sharp, personal and political, wise and full of hope – this is the celebration of Black Britain our country desperately needs.

Hannah Chukwu, Editorial Assistant

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

The Confessions of Frannie Langton is a completely unique take on the slave narrative which owes as much to Charlotte Brontë as it does Toni Morrison. I have never read a book like this, I got lost in the world she created through her beautiful storytelling. If you are into the gothic novels, you will be after this. But even if you don’t like gothic fiction, read this beautiful book.

Gift Ajimokun, Early Careers Coordinator

Don't Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri

As a Black woman of Caribbean descent, I have struggled to connect my experience to the African diaspora and the history I have lost due to colonisation. Dabiri educated me on how deeply connected hair is to ‘Blackness’, our culture and spiritual beliefs before, during and after colonisation and how Black hair has always been judged against a Eurocentric idea of beauty and value. Dabiri elaborates on her experience as a Black mixed race woman and delves into the often forgotten experience of what mixed Black slaves endured as well as illuminating the origins of many damaging stereotypes.

This book really shows how much we have to re-educate ourselves to learn about who we really are.

Sharifah Grant, Creative Responsibility Assistant

 

Yoruba Girl Dancing by Simi Bedford, William Heinemann 1991

Yoruba Girl Dancing by Simi Bedford, William Heinemann 1991

Letters for Lettie by John Agard, Bodley Head 1979

Letters for Lettie by John Agard, Bodley Head 1979

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

As soon as I read it in January, I knew there wouldn’t be another book that I would read this year that could outdo it. Incredibly beautifully written, the details are harrowing, vivid and breathtaking in this multi-generational tale of two sisters, one enslaved, another married to a slave trader. Gyasi has a wonderful way of intertwining non-fictional events and making them echo down several eras. I recommend it to everyone and anyone as much as I can.

Folayemi Adebayo, Marketing Executive

Surge by Jay Bernard

This collection from award-winning poet Jay Bernard – written when they were resident at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton unearthing records from the New Cross Fire of 1981 – draws tighter the gap between past and present, drawing continuous lines of grief inherited and repeated across generations. The flames of New Cross and Grenfell tangle around each other, illuminating the inevitability of state violence against the vulnerable. This is a collection densely peopled, by mothers and fathers rendered unrecognisable by grief, by bodies thrown from windows, by throngs marching for action, and by the faceless indifference of authority. It carries within it a political and artistic legacy from poets like Linton Kwesi Johnson, woven in with a voice unmistakably from today’s South London. A beautiful and astonishing first collection.

Zainab Juma, Brand Campaign Manager

Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

I read the Noughts and Crosses series when I was 13, and it’s the first time I remember reading a book about someone who looked like me. I found the series incredibly profound and moving, especially Checkmate, where the protagonist was of dual heritage, the same as me. I recommend these books to everyone and think they are perfect for any age range because the Noughts and Crosses series is still as timely and relevant today as they were when they were first published.

Ajebowale Roberts, Editorial Assistant

Poetry Jump-Up by Grace Nichols, Puffin 1990

Poetry Jump-Up by Grace Nichols, Puffin 1990

Ordinary People by Diana Evans, Chatto & Windus 2018

Ordinary People by Diana Evans, Chatto & Windus 2018

  • Poetry Jump-up

  • A ground-breaking collection of children's poetry filled with life, music and rhythm that brings together the voices of black writers from Britain, Africa, America, Asia and the Caribbean. Including work from Benjamin Zephaniah, Maya Angelou and Zinziswa Mandela, this is an exciting anthology, compiled by one of today's top black British writers.
  • Buy the book
  • Ordinary People

  • WINNER OF THE SOUTH BANK SKY ARTS AWARD
    SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION
    SHORTLISTED FOR THE RATHBONES FOLIO PRIZE
    SHORTLISTED FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE FOR POLITICAL FICTION


    'I am shouting from the rooftops to anyone who will listen about this book. It’s so so good – realistic and funny and so truthful it almost winded me' Dolly Alderton, The High Low

    Two couples find themselves at a moment of reckoning. Melissa has a new baby and doesn't want to let it change her. Damian has lost his father and intends not to let it get to him. Michael is still in love with Melissa but can't quite get close enough to her to stay faithful. Stephanie just wants to live a normal, happy life on the commuter belt with Damian and their three children but his bereavement is getting in the way.

    Set in London to an exhilarating soundtrack, Ordinary People is an intimate study of identity and parenthood, sex and grief, friendship and ageing, and the fragile architecture of love.

    'I just finished Ordinary People by Diana Evans and it is utterly exquisite. What a writer she is - the depth of her insight, the grace of her sentences. WHAT HAVE I BEEN DOING ALL THIS TIME NOT READING HER?'
    Elizabeth Day, Twitter

    ‘God this book is fantastic’ Pandora Sykes


    A NEW YORKER, NEW STATESMAN AND FINANCIAL TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR
    NOMINATED FOR THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDALS FOR EXCELLENCE IN FICTION



    ‘Diana Evans’s fiction is emotionally intelligent, dark, funny, moving. The sheer energy in her novels is enthralling. A brilliant craftswoman, a master of the form, she makes the reader ask important questions of themselves and makes them laugh at the same time’ Jackie Kay, British Council and National Centre for Writing's International Showcase on Britain's 10 best BAME writers

  • Buy the book

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