Black History Month UK

October was designated as Black History Month in the UK by Akyaaba Addai Sebo in 1987. This was as a result to the riots of the 1980s in the UK when black Britons fought for tolerance and acceptance and their fight against racism and marginalization headlined. Black History Month was chosen to be in the month of October because it is the month when African leaders and chiefs get together to settle their differences. It also corresponds to the beginning of the school year and there was hope that it would instill pride in black children.

Since I host a month of videos, Instagram photo challenges, a readalong, and blog posts for Black History Month in February for the US, I felt like I needed to do something this year for Black History Month UK and I will continue to do things for October. I’m terribly disappointed that it is hardly mentioned in the book communities online, especially since there are many other different book activities hosted this month. So, I decided to spearhead a readalong of 26a by Diana Evans over on Goodreads.

I believe when readers are asked who is their favorite black British writer they either have a tendance to say Zadie Smith or they have no idea. I find that a little sad because there are a plethora of black British writers out there but I don’t think they are getting as much recognition and love as they should. So I decided to contribute these two extensive lists below of black British Women and Men Writers that you may not have even heard of.

Once during one of my Instalives someone asked me, «Who is your favorite British author? » I was taken aback because the only name that came to mind was Zadie Smith. It was in that moment that I realized I was lacking in reading Black British authors. There were other names I could have said that I’d read, but for some reason they weren’t coming to mind. That goes to show how important publicity is and why it’s important to not only read black writers but to talk about them and to gush about your favorites. Why is it we can name white men and women British writers’ names without hesitation? Their names are foremost in our heads because they are literally all over the net ALL THE TIME from Goodreads to YouTube to Instagram to Litsy and so on….

In order to encourage you to discover some black British writers check out my list below. I’ll highlight the authors and the titles I’ve read. I’m sure this is another literary journey I’ll attempt to go on eventually because the lists are rich. At the moment, I’m enjoying discovering literature from the Caribbean, which will overlap with these two lists. Concerning my Caribbean reading journey, the backlist has been where I’m finding the gems. The Backlist is where it’s at people. You’re chasing the new titles and missing out on the tried and true. Remember there will always be new titles coming out but the oldies are classics which stand the test of time.

Black British Women Writiers

Mojisola ADEBAYO

Helen OYEYEMI

Patience AGBABI

Joan ANIM-ADDO

Similar BEDFORD

Malorie BLACKMAN – Noughts and Crosses

Zena EDWARDS

Buchi EMECHETA

Diana EVANS – 26a

Bernadine EVARISTO

Laura FISH

Aminatta FORNAThe Memory of Love

Beryl GILROY

Jackie KAYRed Dust Road An Autobiographical Journey

Dorothy Koomson

Andrea LEVY

Sheree MACK

Dreda Say MITCHELL

Nadifa MOHAMED

Grace NICHOLS

Sharon DODUA

Winsome PINNOCK

Lou PRENDERGAST

Mary PRINCE

Joan RILEY

Mary SEACOLE

Khadijah (George) SESAY

Dorothea SMARTT

Zadie SMITHNW/On Beauty/White Teeth/Swing Time (curently reading Feel Free)

Adela SOLANKE

Su ANDI

Debbie TUCKER GREEN

Yrsa DALEY-WARDbone

Precious WILLIMAS

Oona KING

Irenosen OKOJIE

Hannah POOL

Yvette EDWARDS

Black British Men Writers:

Alex WHEATLE

Benjamin ZEPHANIAH

Caryl PHILLIPSCrossing the River

Courttia Newland The Gospel According to Cane

Diran ADEBAYO

Mike GAYLE

Paul GILROY

Ben OKRI

E. R. BRAITHWAITE

Gary YOUNGE

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows – Balli Kaur Jaswal

Today my book club met to discuss our second book of the 2018-2019 school year, Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows. The discussion was short but rich. There was an overall consensus that Jaswal did an excellent job depicting the complexity of the Indian community in Southall. Nikki the main character of the story is a young modern Indian origin woman looking for her correct path in life. She refuses her father’s expectations of her being lawyer halfway through the degree and winds up “teaching” English to Punjabi widows in the community hall in Southall.

In spite of the seemingly well-plotted out novel, Jaswal doesn’t deliver on making the characters meaningful. We can’t get close enough to them to like them. The story is guided mostly by Nikki and Kulwinder but neither of them are developed enough for the reader to care about them. I stopped wondering when the characters were going to become more interesting (because clearly it wasn’t going to happen) and I decided to focus mostly on the hard hitting themes and plot.

“We built Southall because we didn’t know how to be British… If you had any problems in this new country, your neighbors would rush to your side and bring you money, food, whatever you need. That’s the beauty of being surrounded by your community.” The younger women in the story view community as a prison. It can be supportive but it’s critical if you don’t comply to doing what is expected of you. It can even lead to death. However there are many different versions of this community which we compared to ourselves living here in France. As Anglophones, we adapt to French society as much as we can, while taking comfort in meeting amongst ourselves regularly. It’s our way of giving support and sharing our common culture, but we don’t pressure each other to behave or live in particular ways. The Southall community women, on the other hand, are repressed and made to believe that their lives are not successful without marriage and children. The repression isn’t just implemented by the men but also by the older women on the younger ones for the men; and that makes it all the more disturbing.

As a whole this book makes for a very good book club discussion, although it wasn’t all I expected. Lacking in character development, Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows comes off as a movie script, with wooden dialogue. As I was reading, I could actually imagine how it would look on screen. There is a lot of telling and not much showing. It’s not literary fiction because it doesn’t give you more to mentally chew on other than what is literally written on the pages. I don’t think this book will stick with me very long. Even though, I’d recommend this book to people who like community/immigrant stories and stories about Indian communities living in England. But, if you’re looking for a book that’s going to make you think deeply this isn’t the one.

Balli Kaur Jaswal was born is Singapour. Inheritance, her first novel, was published in 2013. She won the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelist Award. She has also written Sugarbread (2016) and her new release of 2019 The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, a novel about Punjabi sisters off on a pilgrimage to their homeland to lay their mother to rest.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, (Harper Collins) paperback 295 pages

Rating: ⭐️⭐️💫

https://youtu.be/brL4FZCWt2k