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


A memoir told through a series of intimate portraits, which build into a poignant, insightful and unforgettable testimony of West Indian British experience.


'Grant is a natural storyteller... Compelling and charming'
BERNARDINE EVARISTO, author of Girl, Woman, Other

'Grant's most revealing work'

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

This is a memoir told through a series of intimate portraits, including of Grant’s mother Ethlyn, his father Bageye, his sister Selma, and his great uncle Percy. 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 an unforgettable testimony of black British experience.


  • Colin Grant writes about the characters in his family with the mischievous, dramatic flair of a natural storyteller. This is a compelling and charming read.
    Bernardine Evaristo, Booker Prize-winning author Girl, Woman, Other

About the author

Colin Grant

Colin Grant is an author, historian and critic. He has written acclaimed biographies of the Wailers and of Marcus Garvey. Bageye at the Wheel, his memoir of growing up in a Caribbean family in 1970s Luton, was shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley Prize. His history of epilepsy, A Smell of Burning, was a Sunday Times Book of the Year. His most recent book, Homecoming: Voices of the Windrush Generation, was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week and Daily Telegraph Book of the Year. He is director of WritersMosaic and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Learn More

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more