Both of these books were given to me by the publisher in the hope of an honest review.I have chosen to review, Black, Listed Black British Culture Explored, by Jeffrey Boakye, Little, Brown Book Group UK, Dialogue Books and Taking Up Space the Black Girl’s Manifesto for Change, by Chelsea Kwakye, Ore Ogunbiyi, Random House UK, Cornerstone together. Since, their themes gel together really well.
Russell Group Universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, are elitist institutions whose studentship mainly comprise; rich, white, heterosexual, Cis, men. Taking up space is written by a group of Black women who have bucked that trend by attending these Elite Universities. It takes the form of letters written to; Black girls who wish to follow in the footsteps of the authors, and those individuals who wish to help them accomplish that goal. The letters take the reader through every step of the process; applying to the university, arriving at the university, Fresher’s week, leaving university, and finding a job. It gives advice on; how to tackle Fresher’s week, finding your tribe, socialising, balancing work and personal time, issues around mental health, and dealing with institutions that are imbued with hidden and not so hidden Racism. It clearly outlines the barriers faced by this group of students. It’s a condemnation of these institutions and an inspiration for those students wishing to survive and thrive in institutions that are hostile to their very existence. This book was aimed at Black women. However, many of the issues raised in the text resonated with my experience of being; a working class, queer, state educated woman who attended a Russell group University. It is a thought-provoking work. That inspires and reproves in equal measure.
Blacklisted is another book on Race. But, while Taking up Space explores practical experiences of racism, Blacklisted looks at the language we use to describe and explain issues of Race. It explores the words we use to describe ‘Black’ people. It looks at words, such as; Black Ethnic Minority, Black Minority ethnic, ‘other’, and African American, exploring the various ways that society creates and reinforces racial hierarchies. Each word is given its own essay. Each essay weaves together personal narrative and cultural criticism to form a picture of the word and its place in both; cultural discourse and lived experience. It is a very worthwhile read. I highly recommend both books. What are you reading? Talk to me in the comments.