Six Degrees of Separation: from Hold Tight to The Handmaid’s Tale

For August’s 6 degrees of separation, we’ve been asked to start with the last book we finished in the month of July. Continue reading

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Hold Tight: Black Masculinity, Millennials and the Meaning of Grime

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Read 06/07/2019-16/07/2019

Rating 4 stars

Read as part of the 20 Books of Summer readathon.

I read Hold Tight as someone who isn’t strictly a fan but who likes the Grime I’ve heard and wanted to know more about its artists and evolution. I’m aware that this review might not be of interest to most of the readers who regularly follow my meandering thoughts on what I’m reading. However, if you’re even vaguely interested in the sociology of working class culture and the music genres that emerge from it, then give this review and the book it’s about a chance. For anyone black, urban and millennial dropping by, please be aware that this review is going to be a bit like the bromance between Michael Buerke and Tinchy Stryder on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Continue reading

The Confessions of Frannie Langton

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Read 24/06/2019-25/06/2019

Rating 3 stars

A friend recommended The Confessions of Frannie Langton to me ages ago, so I reserved it at the library. Everyone else in Manchester wanted to read it, apparently, so it took weeks and weeks and arrived just when I already had an armful of library books to read. When I finally got to it, I only had two days left in which to read it. Fortunately, it’s a page turner, and I managed to whip through it.

The story of Frannie Langton is a feisty one. She begins her tale as a prisoner on trial for murder, but not even she is sure whether she did it or not. Her lawyer asks her to write down anything she remembers that will help her case, and so she writes her life story.

Continue reading

White Teeth

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Read 20/03/2019-27/03/2019

Rating 2 stars

White Teeth is Zadie Smith’s debut novel. It won the Whitbread First Novel award in 2000. It was touted as a new writing for a new millennium.

I tried to read White Teeth once before, because people raved about it, Continue reading

BRIT(ish)

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Read 17/01/2019-26/01/2019

Rating 4 stars

In BRIT(ish), Afua Hirsch has written a sort of memoir, sort of political appraisal, sort of social history of race and racism in the UK. There’s a bit of travelog in there as well. I struggled to get to grips with it at first, finding it a little piecemeal in its approach, jumping from personal experience peppered with historical context to historiography peppered with personal experience to journalistic investigation of specific aspects of racism in Britain. Each piece had its merits, but for me they didn’t always hang together as a whole. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it. It’s articulate, it draws out different strands of the issue, there were lots of things that I learnt from reading it. Hirsch clearly has something she wants to say, and has struggled to understand her own existence, and there is value in what she extracts and shares from that personal struggle. Continue reading

Washington Black

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Read 21/10/2018-10/11/2018

Rating: 3.5 stars

I was itching to read Washington Black as soon as it made the long list for the 2018 Booker Prize. Its strapline “Escape is only the beginning” carried an air of intrigue and adventure with it, and the premise of a young black slave plucked from the horrors of plantation life to assist an inventor in his flights of fancy promised something a little different in approach to the usual telling of the story of slavery. The book mostly hits its mark and is worthy of its place on the Booker short list, the thing that prompted me to pick the book off the New Stock Just In shelves at the library. Continue reading

Black and British

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Read 27/05/2018-02/09/2018 (with breaks!)

Rating: 4 stars

It took me a while to read this history of Black people in Britain, mainly because it’s an in-depth piece of research that warranted a slow read to absorb the multi-layered stories, but also because the majority of those stories are necessarily hard going. I needed to take a number of breaks to read books that were lighter in tone or pure fiction.

I watched David Olusoga’s BBC TV show Black and British last year and have been meaning to read the accompanying book for a while. I enjoyed his presenting style and the way he made a difficult subject accessible without diluting the message of white culpability in the enslavement and continued denigration of people of colour that is central to this history. Continue reading