Celebrated in the UK each October, Black History Month recognises and champions Black excellence in British culture and society – and fosters an understanding of how these rich contributions have shaped our country’s history.
With the theme Proud to Be, this month will salute the diverse legacies, achievements and individual stories of those making their mark both today and across British history. To celebrate the occasion, we’ve rounded up a selection of essential reads centred on the Black experience from across our lists.
From a visionary West African-inspired YA epic to a celebration of familial love from an award-winning poet, you’ll find a mix of bestselling authors, illustrators and books you might have missed the first time – a range of scintillating reads to enjoy all year round.
David Matthews – Voices of the Windrush Generation (535)
The Windrush Generation – those who answered Britain’s call and left the Caribbean behind to plug the gaps in our labour shortages – are given a platform they’ve long been denied in this powerful collection of stories edited by journalist and bestselling author David Matthews. Their oral testimonies are a treasure trove of human interest, a celebration of Black British culture, and a damning indictment of the deportation scandal. An evocative read told by the voices – with all their humanity, hurt and humour – of a generation that have left an indelible mark on the making of modern Britain.
Rochelle Humes – Mega Magic Hair Swap! (Studio Press)
Mai’s hair is curly and never stays put; Rose’s locks are as straight as a ruler. The dazzling debut book by TV personality Rochelle Humes tells the fantastical (pony)tale of two best friends who wish they had each other’s head of hair. When they’re granted their wish of a mega magic hair swap by an enchanted coconut, they soon learn that ‘perfect’ hair isn’t everything that it’s cracked up to be – and discover that perhaps they possessed it already.
Ashley C. Ford – Somebody’s Daughter (Manilla Press)
The brilliant coming-of-age memoir from writer, broadcaster and educator Ashley C. Ford; Somebody’s Daughter recounts her childhood growing up in Indiana in a family fragmented by incarceration. Richly observed and written with deep love and self-reflection, the book follows Ford on a journey to find the threads between who she is and what she was born into, and the complicated familial bonds that connect them. A triumphant debut of extraordinary power and honesty.
Joya Goffney – Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry (Hot Key Books)
A YA romcom packed full of juicy secrets and a red-hot chemistry that radiates off the page. Quinn keeps lists of everything – from the days she’s ugly cried to all the boys she’d like to kiss. Until, one day, the journal – and all those incriminating lists – go missing. Truly the stuff of teenage nightmares! But in the hands of Joya Goffney, Quinn’s story becomes an empowering tale of facing one’s fears and finding love along the way.
Michael Fuller – Kill the Black One First (Blink Publishing)
A fascinating and unflinching memoir from Michael Fuller, Britain’s first ever black Chief Constable. Born to Windrush-generation Jamaican parents, Fuller tells the story of his rise up the police ranks from his early days on the beat responding to the Brixton inferno to his role in the formation of Operation Trident. With race relations and the response of the police under the spotlight like never before, this first-hand account of race, identity and injustice within the force is essential reading.
Jordan Ifueko – Redemptor (Hot Key Books)
The follow-up to Raybearer and the closing chapter in Jordan Ifueko’s epic YA fantasy duology. Tarisai sits on the throne, but – facing threats from unknown quarters and haunted by the sinister spirits of the dead – she must dare to brave the dangerous descent into the Underworld… Hugely ambitious and utterly spellbinding. The books also happen to boast two of the best covers in the business, with a hidden face illusion that catches plenty of readers by surprise!
Elizabeth Acevedo – Clap When You Land (Hot Key Books)
Unlike anything you’ve ever read, this dual-narrative, novel-in-verse from the bestselling poet Elizabeth Acevedo depicts the fallout from a plane crash that sees two girls – separated by distance and secrets – lose their father; and the road to recovery, forgiveness and the bittersweet forging of new familial bonds from the fires of tragedy. An eloquent and compassionate YA novel from a Carnegie Medal-winning master of her craft.
De Nichols – The Art of Protest (Big Picture Press)
From the psychedelic typography of the 1960s “Make Love Not War” posters to the raised fist symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement that has energised and swept the globe; art has always been inextricably linked to protest. De Nichols guides young readers through these potent images to paint a picture of the visual history of protest – providing the tools to channel your own revolution and keep the momentum of the momentous last couple of years going strong. Published in November and available to pre-order today.