The best books to introduce you to Black London

Why am I passionate about this?

Much of the Britain that's exported to the world is fed by the monochromatic myth of nobility and royalty, but the heart of Britain is multifaceted and multicultural. I didn’t grow up in London, but grew up visiting family here and ‘The Big Smoke’ had an allure for me. The people were all different colours and ethnicities and it truly felt like the most exciting place in the world. I moved here the week I turned 18, and I haven’t left. It's a harsh, expensive city, and it's much too busy to provide anyone with any lasting sanity, but here I found a version of Black Britain that I was missing in my hometown.


I wrote...

Book cover of Hope and Glory

What is my book about?

Glory arrives back in Peckham, from her seemingly glamorous life in LA, to mourn the sudden death of her father and finds her previously close family has fallen apart in her absence. Her brother, Victor, has been jailed, her sister, Faith, appears to have lost her independence and ambition and their mother, Celeste, is headed towards a breakdown. Glory is thrown by their disarray, and rather than returning to America, she decides to stay and try to bring them all together again. However, when she unearths a huge family secret, Glory risks losing everyone she truly cares about in her pursuit of the truth.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Rosewater

Jendella Benson Why did I love this book?

Besides the fact that I love a messy, sexy love story, Rosewater captures the very real feeling of being in your mid-20s in a beautiful but harsh city and trying to work your ish out.

Elsie, the main character, is a poet, which I feel leads a song-like quality to the narrative. This is for dreamers and lovers and those who kind of know what they want but are scared of throwing themselves at it fully. 

By Liv Little,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rosewater as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A TODAY and LGBTQ Reads Most Anticipated Book of 2023 * A Goodreads Buzziest Debut Novel of the New Year * An Electric Lit Most Anticipated LGBTQ+ Book of Spring 2023 * A Bustle Most Anticipated Book of Spring & Summer 2023 * A Nylon April 2023 Must-Read Book * An Ebony Required Reading Pick for April

For fans of Bolu Babalola and Tia Williams comes a "tender, soulful, and sexy" (Phoebe Robinson) debut novel about finding love in an unexpected place.

Elsie is a sexy, funny, and fiercely independent woman in south London. But several things in her life…


Book cover of Small Worlds

Jendella Benson Why did I love this book?

This is a gorgeous book to be savoured slowly.

It is suffused with music throughout (and the nerd within me loves the reoccurring literary motifs and phrases that definitely lend a musical quality to the book) and took me back to lazy summer days as a teenager when I first moved to London and the city felt wide open with excitement and possibility.

This is another love story, but one about community, family and the first loves that we learn from our parents.

By Caleb Azumah Nelson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Small Worlds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An exhilarating and expansive new novel about fathers and sons, faith and friendship from National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree and Costa First Novel Award winning author Caleb Azumah Nelson

One of the most acclaimed and internationally bestselling “unforgettable” (New York Times) debuts of the 2021, Caleb Azumah Nelson’s London-set love story Open Water took the US by storm and introduced the world to a salient and insightful new voice in fiction. Now, with his second novel Small Worlds, the prodigious Azumah Nelson brings another set of enduring characters to brilliant life in his signature rhythmic, melodic prose.

Set…


Book cover of Settlers: Journeys Through the Food, Faith and Culture of Black African London

Jendella Benson Why did I love this book?

This book fills a gap that I didn’t know was missing until I read it.

Not much has been written documenting the history of Black Africans in 20th/21st Century London, but Jimi Famurewa covers the migration, the cultural contributions, the food, the music, the community…ah, it really covers a lot.

Non-fiction is never really my go-to but is immensely readable and the research is thorough and sharp. It filled in some the gaps in the word-of-mouth anecdotes you hear from the older generation, as well as introduced me to corners of our history that I wasn’t as familiar with.

By Jimi Famurewa,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Settlers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A journey into the extraordinary, vibrant world of Black African London which is shaping modern Britain. What makes a Londoner? What is it to be Black, African and British? And how can we understand the many tangled roots of our modern nation without knowing the story of how it came to be? This is a story that begins not with the 'Windrush Generation' of Caribbean immigrants to Britain, but with post-1960s arrivals from African countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Somalia. Some came from former British colonies in the wake of newfound independence; others arrived seeking prosperity and an English…


Book cover of East of Acre Lane

Jendella Benson Why did I love this book?

This is a modern classic – one that provides a slice of a very pivotal time in Black British history.

The 1980s saw a lot of civil unrest in Britain, from workers’ strikes to uprisings fuelled by racial tensions and police brutality. East of Acre Lane is set in Brixton – a neighbourhood in London that saw its fair share of uprisings – amongst the young Black Caribbean community.

It is such an authentic portrait, down to the musicality of the slang and dialects used. It’s immersive, it’s got action, it’s moving, it’s everything!

By Alex Wheatle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked East of Acre Lane as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Alex Wheatle writes from a place of honesty and passion' Steve McQueen, director of Small Axe

East of Acre Lane is the fast-paced and razor sharp story of a young man trying to do the right thing from celebrated author Alex Wheatle, one of the figures who inspired Steve McQueen's Small Axe

It is 1981, and Brixton is on the verge of exploding. Biscuit lives with his mother, brother and sister, trapped hustling on the frontline for the South London badman Nunchucks. As the patience of the community breaks and the riots erupt, Biscuit must make a choice that could…


Book cover of The Lonely Londoners

Jendella Benson Why did I love this book?

Another classic, but this time set a generation before East of Acre Lane.

This follows members of the Windrush generation as they try and make their way in a city that is hostile in weather and temperament. There is a lot of humour here amongst the occasional bleakness, but either way it’s a revelatory read. Again, language is really important here to really hear the voices of the characters.

Admittedly, I read this quite late in the game, but could instantly see why it’s one of the classics.

By Sam Selvon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Lonely Londoners as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Lonely Londoners, an unforgettable account of immigrant experience and one of the great twentieth-century London novels, now in in a stunning Clothbound Classics edition.

At Waterloo Station, hopeful new arrivals from the West Indies step off the boat train, ready to start afresh in 1950s London. There, homesick Moses Aloetta, who has already lived in the city for years, meets Henry 'Sir Galahad' Oliver and shows him the ropes. In this strange, cold and foggy city where the natives can be less than friendly at the sight of a black face, has Galahad met his Waterloo? But the irrepressible…


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Let Evening Come

By Yvonne Osborne,

Book cover of Let Evening Come

Yvonne Osborne Author Of Let Evening Come

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up on a family farm surrounded by larger vegetable and dairy operations that used migrant labor. From an early age, my siblings and I were acquainted with the children of these workers, children whom we shared a school desk with one day and were gone the next. On summer vacations, our parents hauled us around in a station wagon with a popup camper, which they parked in out-of-the-way hayfields and on mountainous plateaus, shunning, much to our chagrin, normal campgrounds, and swimming pools. Thus, I grew up exposed to different cultures and environments. My writing reflects my parents’ curiosity, love of books and travel, and devotion to the natural world. 

Yvonne's book list on immersive coming-of-age fiction with characters struggling to find themselves amidst the isolation and bigotry in Indigenous, rural, and minority communities

What is my book about?

After her mother is killed in a rare Northern Michigan tornado, Sadie Wixom is left with only her father and grandfather to guide her through young adulthood. Miles away in western Saskatchewan, Stefan Montegrand and his Indigenous family are displaced from their land by multinational energy companies. They are taken in temporarily by Sadie’s aunt, a human rights activist who heads a cultural exchange program.

Stefan promptly runs afoul of local authority, but Sadie, intrigued by him and captivated by his story, has grown sympathetic to his cause and complicit in his pushback against prejudiced accusations. Their mutual attraction is stymied when Stefan’s older brother, Joachim, who stayed behind, becomes embroiled in the resistance, and Stefan is compelled to return to Canada. Sadie, concerned for his safety, impulsively follows on a trajectory doomed by cultural misunderstanding and oncoming winter.

Let Evening Come

By Yvonne Osborne,

What is this book about?

After her mother is killed in a rare Northern Michigan tornado, Sadie Wixom is left with only her father and grandfather to guide her through the pitfalls of young adulthood.
Hundreds of miles away in western Saskatchewan, Stefan Montegrand and his Indigenous family are forced off their land by multinational energy companies and flawed treaties. They are taken in temporarily by Sadie's aunt, a human rights activist who heads a cultural exchange program.
Stefan, whose own father died in prison while on a hunger strike, promptly runs afoul of local authority, but Sadie, intrigued by him and captivated by his…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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