Title: How to Talk to Black People

Author: A. Anon

Pages: 217 Pages

Publisher: Self Published

The Blurb

Can someone break through the boundaries they are subconsciously taught to place on other people?

Ivy wants more from life. She wants more than her double-wide trailer, more than her dead father and drunk mother, and more than her clearance rack clothes. Her one comfort is the quirky and unpredictable Magnus: childhood best friend and member of the Dead Parent’s Club.

New student Alex might be her ticket to graduation. Alex has it all: an award-winning neurosurgeon for a mother, a world-famous athlete for a father, brains, and brawn.

When Ivy and Alex get stuck as Chemistry partners, Ivy rejoices. Alex is her ticket to an easy semester, maybe even college. But high school isn’t enjoyable for any of them.

Magnus is misunderstood, Ivy is poor, and Alex is the first black student in the entire school system.

By prom, their lives will completely change. One will learn who they really are, one will come to terms with their past, and one won’t make it out alive.

How to Talk to Black People is an honest and challenging look at how we subconsciously teach those in our community about race and what we’re willing to believe about ourselves based on those lessons.

The Review

Okay, so I know that writing is difficult and I know that it is easy to fall into writing tropes but How to Talk to Black People by A. Anon takes it to a whole new level.

How to Talk to Black People reads like a paint by numbers. The main character is given some unlikable qualities but we also are meant to feel sorry for her because of her alcoholic mother and deceased father. She is held back in school because of her social status – she is poor therefore she cannot be smart. She is affected by the people around her and doesn’t know any better – vis a vis race. The whole set up was to problematic, twee and due for a moment of realisation to neatly wrap up all of the storylines. However, I cannot tell you if that happens because I had to DNF this book.

It was awful. The narrative was over written – seriously just call a bus a bus not a banana yellow machine to take me to my scholastic destiny – okay I’m potentially exaggerating with my example but there were several times when the writer just didn’t call nouns by what they actually were. It was tedious.

I read about 30% of this book and I realised I have several hundred other books that are worthy of my attention and this was draining me of potentially reading a great book.

I’m sorry but How to Talk to Black People was a big, fat DNF for me.

How to Talk to Black People by A. Anon is available now.

Title: The Power of Privilege – How White People Can Challenge Racism

Author: June Sarpong

Pages: 128 Pages

Publisher: HQ

The Blurb

The death of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests have made clear to everyone the vicious reality of racism that persists today. 

Many of those privileged enough to be distanced from racism are now having to come to terms with the fact that they continue to prosper at the detriment of others. Having spent the last four years researching, writing, and speaking about the benefits of diversity for society, June Sarpong is no stranger to educating and challenging those that have been enjoying the benefits of a system steeped in systemic racism without realising its true cost.

In The Power of Privilege, June will empower those fortunate enough not to be ‘otherised’ by mainstream Western society to become effective allies against racism, both by understanding the roots of their privilege and the systemic societal inequities that perpetuates it. The Power of Privilege offers practical steps and action-driven solutions so that those who have been afforded privilege can begin undoing the limiting beliefs held by society, and help build a fairer future for all.

The Review

I was absolutely blown away by Diversify by June Sarpong when I read it. Where I was expecting a book about the history of racism – which to be fair could have been full of anger and hurt – what I got was a very measured, practical guide to modern day racism across the spectrum and advice on how we can help to stop it – starting with the classroom. In her pocket sized book The Power of Privilege, June Sarpong discusses another, often ignored side of racism – privilege. 

It is easy to get confused by the term and become instantly defensive but it is a concept that needs further discussion and understanding and also acceptance that society has been built on white privilege. The sooner people accept that, the more likely institutionalised racism will hopefully come to an end. 

I listened to The Power of Privilege on audiobook and what I appreciated was that June Sarpong narrate it herself. This allowed her to get her points across more accurately than if someone else had narrated it for her.

The Power of Privilege isn’t an exhaustive read, yet it is an important one.

The Power of Privilege by June Sarpong is available now.

For more information regarding June Sarpong (@junesarpong) please visit www.junesarpong.co.uk.

For more information regarding HQ (@HQstories) please visit www.hqstories.co.uk.

Title: Noughts and Crosses

Author: Malorie Blackman

Pages: 479 Pages

Publisher: Penguin

The Blurb

Two young people are forced to make a stand in this thought-provoking look at racism and prejudice in an alternate society.

Sephy is a Cross — a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a Nought — a “colourless” member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood, but that’s as far as it can go. In their world, Noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum — a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger. Can they possibly find a way to be together? 

The Review

I work in a high school library. I have walked past the B shelf a hundred thousand times (probably more) and yet I never picked up Noughts and Crosses. I had read other books by Malorie Blackman and really enjoyed them – Pig-Heart Boy has stuck with me since reading it – yet I just never picked up the book that she is probably best known for. How stupid am I?

A year 9 class that I work with are reading Noughts and Crosses as their set text this year and I wanted to get a head start on it. Only, I couldn’t put it down. I soared through it, barely stopping to eat and drink. Blackman had me on the edge of my seat, my heart was constantly in my throat, I cried, I yelled, I lost the ability to breathe. That is how powerful a writer Blackman is. I have never known a writer to build tension the way she does and man alive she got my heart racing.

Noughts and Crosses is sensational. There are so many amazing ways I could describe it but I would come across as hyperbolic and insincere. The only thing I can say with absolute certainty is that you must read it. It is as relevant know (if not more so) than when it was originally released. 

It should be a crime that a book that has racism as a central theme can be so relevant 20 years after its initial release. Hopefully, stories like Callum’s and Sephy’s can have an impact on today’s youth and make positive changes for the future.

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman is available now.

For more information regarding Malorie Blackman (@malorieblackman) please visit www.malorieblackman.co.uk.

For more information regarding Penguin (@PenguinUKBooks) please visit www.penguin.co.uk.

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.


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.