The Lifestyle & Culture editors give their recommendations for influential and impactful contemporary literature by Black authors.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Americanah follows Ifemelu, a young Nigerian woman who immigrates to the United States to attend university.
Throughout the novel, we witness Ifemelu struggle with understanding her identity in the U.S. as an immigrant and a Black woman. She experiences being Black in the U.S. as an outsider, but learns quickly about the ingrained and idiosyncratic nature of racism in America. She starts a blog to document her experiences. She comments about the expectations placed on Black women’s hair, what it’s like to date a man who fetishizes her appearance, whilst viewing himself as a white saviour, and the pressures faced by young Black men as she views her own nephew’s upbringing in the states.
The novel also takes us back to Ifemelu’s childhood in Nigeria and later, her return home. We see a side of Nigeria that is not often represented in the Western cultural depiction of Africa – one that shows a modern and thriving city.
Adichie’s observations about race and identity in the modern world are both poignant and eye-opening.
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race comprises of a collection of essays examining structural racism, surfacing out of the author’s frustration with the way that discussions of race and racism in Britain continue to be led by those who aren’t affected by it.
The novel started as a blog post of the same name in 2014, in which Eddo-Lodge wrote “I can no longer engage with the gulf of an emotional disconnect that white people display when a person of colour articulates our experiences.” The blog post went viral, resonating with others who were desperate to join in the conversation.
The essays cover the inextricable links between gender, class, race and privilege, through the lens of British culture and history. For anyone wanting to understand race relations in Britain today, this book is an essential.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Dear Martin, Nic Stone’s debut work, is a YA novel that tells the story of Justyce McAllister, a Black boy with exceptional grades and a promising future at an Ivy League school, who becomes a victim of racial profiling. At the very start of the book, Justyce gets arrested based on a false assumption. After this incident, his world views begin to change and he starts noticing the small things such as racist remarks that would normally pass off as jokes by his classmates and other microaggressions geared towards him. As he attends a prep school with a majority white student body, he starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, penning down what he thought was similar between present day and the days of Martin Luther King Jr.
It’s an incredibly eye-opening read because, whilst Dear Martin is labelled as fiction, the situations that the characters face are very realistic and often occur in the society that we live in today. Nic Stone quite successfully addresses the relations between races in America in this insightful book.
Jade Verbick, Caitlin Tilley, Mary Yeh