To honour the 30th Black History Month, we’ve picked out some perfect Vintage titles to add to your ‘to be read’ pile this October...
Dedicated to ‘the lives they said don’t matter’, this is the definitive history of racism and the must read book that won the National Book Award for non-fiction. Stamped from the Beginning details exactly where racism came from, and where it’s going. Its deeply researched and fast-moving narrative chronicles the journey of racist ideas from fifteenth-century Europe to present-day America through the lives of five major intellectuals – Puritan minister Cotton Mather, President Thomas Jefferson, fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, brilliant scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis – showing how these ideas were developed, disseminated and eventually enshrined in American society.
Including excerpts from the books Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye and Beloved by Toni Morrison, in this searing, remonstrative book, race is unravelled through the stories of those debased and dehumanised because of it. A young black girl longing for the blue eyes of white baby dolls spirals into inferiority and confusion. A friendship falls apart over a disputed memory. An ex-slave is haunted by a lonely, rebukeful ghost, bent on bringing their past home. Strange and unexpected, yet always stirring, Morrison’s writing on race sinks us deep into the heart and mind of our troubled humanity.
Beautifully written and tragic in its comment on loss, Danielle Allen’s Cuz is a memoir on the author’s cousin, Michael Allen. Michael Allen was 15 when he was arrested for an attempted carjacking, tried as an adult and sentenced to 12 years and 8 months in prison. He was released at the age of 26 only to return a year later. When he was released finally, aged 28, he was shot and killed less than a month later. Cuz is the devastating analysis of a broken system that, sadly, continues to keep men like Michael Allen trapped by a fate assigned to them by the state. This is the new American tragedy.
Identical twins, Georgia and Bessi, live in the loft of 26 Waifer Avenue. Their Nigerian mother puts cayenne pepper on her Yorkshire pudding and has mysterious ways of dealing with homesickness; their father angrily roams the streets of Neasden, prey to the demons of his Derbyshire upbringing. Forced to create their own identities, the Hunter children build a separate universe. It is when the reality comes knocking that the fantasies of childhood start to give way. How will Georgia and Bessi cope in a world of separateness and solitude, and which of them will be stronger?
A collection of poetry so brilliant, beautiful, bold and true that it was anticipated months before its release by poets and readers alike, Kumukanda is ‘a brilliant debut – a tender, nostalgic and at times darkly hilarious exploration of black boyhood, masculinity and grief’, says Warsan Shire. Translating as ‘initiation’, kumukanda is the name given to the rites a young boy from the Luvale tribe must pass through before he is considered a man. Underpinned by a love of music, language and literature, here is a powerful exploration of race, identity and masculinity, celebrating what it means to be British and not British, all at once.
Four very different women have made their way from Africa to Brussels. They have come to claim for themselves the riches they believe Europe promises but when Sisi, the most enigmatic of the women, is murdered, their already fragile world is shattered. Drawn together by tragedy, the remaining three women - Joyce, a great beauty whose life has been destroyed by war; Ama, whose dark moods manifest a past injustice; Efe, whose efforts to earn her keep are motivated by a particular zeal - slowly begin to share their stories. They are stories of terror, of displacement, of love, and of a sinister man called Dele. Of it, Ali Smith says: ‘This powerful book will leave you haunted’.
'The most important and celebrated novel of Negro life to have appeared in America' said James Baldwin of Native Son, a book that shocked readers when first published in 1940. It tells the story of Bigger Thomas, a young black man living in the Chicago slums, held down by poverty. Unwittingly involved in a wealthy woman's death, he is hunted relentlessly, baited by prejudiced officials, charged with murder and driven to acknowledge a strange pride in his crime. He realises his full individuality only through the confrontation of death.