Title: Natives – Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire

Author: Akala

Pages: 352 Pages

Publisher: Two Roads

The Blurb

From the first time he was stopped and searched as a child, to the day he realised his mum was white, to his first encounters with racist teachers – race and class have shaped Akala’s life and outlook. In this unique book he takes his own experiences and widens them out to look at the social, historical and political factors that have left us where we are today.

Covering everything from the police, education and identity to politics, sexual objectification and the far right, Natives speaks directly to British denial and squeamishness when it comes to confronting issues of race and class that are at the heart of the legacy of Britain’s racialised empire.

Natives is the searing modern polemic and Sunday Times bestseller from the BAFTA and MOBO award-winning musician and political commentator, Akala.

 (AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

When dealing with the contentious discussion of race and racism there are few people I will turn to for answers. Being in the position as a white female I cannot begin to put myself in the position of a black person or POC because I haven’t lived there experiences. I can, however, try and learn as much as possible about racism through reading. I read as much as I can so I can try to understand a bit more. One of the people that I turn to for information is Akala. He is smart and articulate and has a way of delivering information that seems both relevant and accurate. His knowledge of the history of racism is exceptional and in his book Natives – Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire he not only offers his opinions but his thoughts are founded in historical fact.

I firmly believe that knowledge is power and you gain that knowledge through immersing yourself in reading. In Natives, Akala answered questions that I didn’t even know I had. I know much more about the Windrush generation, more about the disparity between black and white children in schools and the shocking difference in attainment – something I should have been aware of being that I work in a school, and I feel I know more about this through the lived experience of Akala and how he has dealt with systemic racism his whole life.

The overall thing that I took from reading Natives (and books of a similar ilk such as Born a Crime, Slay in Your Lane, Brit(ish), Diversify) is that we need to teach children about racism in schools. We are so quick to look at racism in America and celebrate key figures such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks but we need a much more realistic education in schools today that can have an impact on racism in the 21st century. Essentially, Natives needs to be studied on the curriculum

Natives – Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala is available now.

For more information regarding Akala (@akalamusic) please visit his Twitter page or YouTube channel.

For more information regarding Two Roads (@TwoRoadsBooks) please visit www.tworoadsbooks.com.

Title: Born a Crime

Author: Trevor Noah

Pages: 288 Pages

Publisher: Random House

The Blurb

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humour and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

The Review

I love Trevor Noah. I love how he approaches his political view points and how he uses humour to emphasise important arguments. It was due to this love of his comedic style that made me decide to read his autobiography Born a Crime.

In Born a Crime, Noah chronicles his life being a mixed race boy in Africa and how he felt certain privileges due to his being ‘not quite black enough’ and how through his experiences he is able to paint a picture of modern day racism.

Born a Crime is a fascinating read, especially if you are not familiar with the political situation in certain parts of Africa or political situations such as apartheid which personally I wasn’t very familiar with. So even if, like me, you only pick up Born a Crime due to the name of the author you are bound to learn something new.

Noah’s experiences are – at times – shocking, sometimes heart-warming but always painted with humour. I laughed a lot when reading Born a Crime.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is available now.

For more information regarding Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) please visit www.trevornoah.com.

For more information regarding Random House(@randomhouse) please visit www.randomhousebooks.com.

Title: A Good Neighbourhood

Author: Therese Anne Fowler

Pages: 311 Pages

Publisher: Headline

The Blurb

In Oak Knoll, a tight-knit North Carolina neighbourhood, professor of forestry and ecology Valerie Alston-Holt is raising her bright and talented biracial son. All is well until the Whitmans move in next door – an apparently traditional family with new money, ambition, and a secretly troubled teenage daughter. With little in common except a property line, these two very different families quickly find themselves at odds over an historic oak tree in Valerie’s yard. But as they fight, they fail to notice that there is a romance blossoming between their two teenagers. A romance that will challenge the carefully constructed concepts of class and race in this small community. A romance that might cause everything to shatter…

The Review

A Good Neighbourhood is a bold novel about disguised racism in a small town in North Carolina.

It centres on two neighbouring families: The Aston Holt’s – Valerie and her son Xavier and The Whitman’s – local businessman Brad, his wife Julia and their two daughters. Xavier and eldest daughter Juniper have started to have feelings for each other but by embarking on a relationship they are crossing the divide of class, politics and race.

Fowler has taken a risk with this A Good Neighbourhood. Often authors are criticised for writing outside of the boundaries of ‘what they know’ – Fowler, as a white woman –  cannot fully understand racism because racism is so internal and institutionalised therefore her writing cannot be ‘real’. However, to not write about racism is worse. It is almost to ignore it and disregard it as a topic because it doesn’t directly affect her. As you can see, writers are often in a no win situation.

I think Fowler handled the subject of racial division in a very sensitive manner. She shows just how internalised and institutionalised it can be and shows how much of a problem it is especially in specific states in America. We know it is a problem but when it is highlighted – by someone of whatever race – it is surely a good thing if it helps raise awareness and will hopefully – one day  insight change.

A Good Neighbourhood by Therese Anne Fowler is available now.

For more information regarding Therese Anne Fowler (@ThereseFowler) please visit www.thereseannefowler.com.

For more information regarding Headline (@headlinepg) please visit their Twitter page.

Title: Such a Fun Age

Author: Kiley Reid

Pages: 320 Pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

The Blurb

What happens when you do the right thing for the wrong reason?

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living showing other women how to do the same. A mother to two small girls, she started out as a blogger and has quickly built herself into a confidence-driven brand. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night. Seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, a security guard at their local high-end supermarket accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make it right.

But Emira herself is aimless, broke and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.

With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the awkwardness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone ‘family’, the complicated reality of being a grown-up and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

The Review

It is always surprising to me to find a book that feels incredibly fresh and unique. As a prolific reader, it is hard not to compare books to each other. Some will have similar love interests, some with similar storylines, other ones with similar settings. Such a Fun Age has a lot of these elements but done in such refreshing way that I found myself totally immersed in this story.

It is the story of Emira and Alix: two women with two very different life trajectories. Alix is a successful social media star who is struggling with an incident in her past that has made her overly conscious in the present. Emira is a young woman who is a bit lost. Like a lot of 20-somethings, Emira doesn’t have a clue what she wants. Alix tries to help her whether Emira wants this help or not.

Overall, Such a Fun Age is a book about power and racism. I often felt that Emira, who was one of the two protagonists seemed like an extra in her own life. She passively reacted to things – this was the stylistic choice of Reid – but it often led me to feel frustrated with her. Equally, Alix was so controlling and superior that I felt smothered by her. Furthermore, the villain of the piece kept changing. As a reader, I was kept on my toes throughout and constantly changed my allegiance.

I really enjoyed reading Such a Fun Age. It was an interesting look at privileged society and the racism contained within that world.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid is available now.

For more information regarding Kiley Reid (@kileyreid) please visit www.kileyreid.com.

For more information regarding Bloomsbury Books (@BloomsburyBooks) please visit www.bloomsbury.com.

Title: I’m Not Dying With You Tonight

Author: Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones

Pages: 272 Pages

Publisher: Sourcebooks

The Blurb

From #OwnVoices debut author duo Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones comes a page-turning and timely story about two teenage girls—one black, one white—who only have each other to get through the violent race riots enveloping their city over the course of one night.

Lena and Campbell aren’t friends.

Lena has her killer style, her awesome boyfriend, and a plan. She knows she’s going to make it big.

Campbell, on the other hand, is just trying to keep her head down and get through the year at her new school.

When both girls attend the Friday-night football game, what neither expects is for everything to descend into sudden mass chaos. Chaos born from violence and hate. Chaos that unexpectedly throws them together.

They aren’t friends. They hardly understand the other’s point of view. But none of that matters when the city is up in flames, and they only have each other to rely on if they’re going to survive the night.

The Review

I read an awful lot of books and it is always nice to be able to read a book that surprises me. With the amount that I read you would think that there would be few topics that I haven’t read a book about. However, I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones did just that.

The story follows two teenage girls – Lena and Campbell – as they traverse a night fraught with racial panic and riots. The two girls – who have very little in common – have to band together to make it through. As we watch their story unfold we see them both develop a respect if not a friendship towards each other.

Segal and Jones have used I’m Not Dying With You Tonight to highlight the very potent nature of race relations and how people of an ethnic minority are still persecuted on a daily basis. They haven’t tried to glorify or indeed downplay racism. We see it through the eyes of people who observe it. It is voices like Segal and Jones that make YA fiction so relevant and more importantly, necessary.

I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones is available now.

For more information regarding Gilly Segal (@really_gilly) please visit www.gillysegal.com.

For more information regarding Kimberly Jones (@kimlatricejones) please visit www.kimjoneswrites.com.

For more information regarding Sourcebooks (@Sourcebooks) please visit www.sourcebooks.com.