I'm Black So You Don't Have to Be

I'm Black So You Don't Have to Be

A Memoir in Eight Lives

Summary

'I'm black, so you don't have to be,' Colin Grant's uncle Castus used to tell him. For Colin, born in Britain to Jamaican parents, things were supposed to be different. If he worked hard and became a doctor, he was told, his race would become invisible; he would shake off the burden he believed his parents' generation had carried. The reality turned out to be very different.

This is a memoir told through a series of intimate intergenerational portraits. We meet Grant's mother Ethlyn, disappointed by working-class life in Luton, who dreams of returning to Jamaica; his father Bageye, a maverick and small-time ganja dealer with a violent temper; his sister Selma, who refashioned herself as an African princess; his great uncle Percy, estranged from his family through his own pride.

Each character we meet is navigating their own path. Each life informs Grant's own shifting sense of his identity. Collectively these stories build into poignant and insightful testimony of black British experience. Written with the intrigue, nuance, beauty and wit of short stories, and with the veracity and painful revelation of memoir, I'M BLACK, SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE is an unforgettable exploration of family, identity, race and generational change.

About the author

Colin Grant

Colin Grant is a historian and author of five highly praised books: Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey (2008), I and I: The Natural Mystics Marley, Tosh and Wailer (2011), Bageye at the Wheel (2012), A Smell of Burning (2016), and Homecoming (2019). He is an Associate Fellow in the Centre for Caribbean Studies, and teaches creative non-fiction writing, most recently for Arvon and Sierra Nevada College.
Learn More

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more