Dominating the news in the UK and around the world this week is the despicable treatment of the Windrush generation, a generation of Caribbean migrants who came to Britain after World War II to provide labour.
The name comes from HMT Windrush, a troopship that brought 492 migrant workers to Tilbury Docks, London on 22nd June 1948. These people were the first to land on our shores, and the name came to mean anyone that arrived in this movement, which lasted until 1971.
As those following the news will know, many of these people have been threatened with, or may have already been deported, due to new hostile immigration policy brought in more recently by the Conservative government. Policy that many people voted for. Policy that has effectively made these people illegal in retrospect.
The whole incident has made me feel pretty ashamed to be British this week, and while I can’t do much about my government’s policy, I can do a little to give voice to this generation, their service to my country and their enrichment of it. So here are eight books that I believe capture the Caribbean voices of that time, and the spirit of the Windrush generation:
The Pleasures of Exile – George Lamming
George Lamming is considered to be one of the most important West Indian emigrant voices of the time and The Pleasures of Exile was his first work of nonfiction, exploring identity, colonialism and what it was to be a West Indian in London.
The Lonely Londoners – Sam Selvon
Like many of the novels on this theme, The Lonely Londoners is a semi-autobiographical account of the migrant experience during the 1940s and 1950s. Considered to be one of the greatest London novels of the 20th century, it’s funny, touching and moving.
City of Gold – Colin McInnes
City of Gold is one of the few books on the list that isn’t written by a Caribbean voice but the London Trilogy is an important part of the story. It’s London, 1957 and liberal England is about to learn the legacy of the Commonwealth. A unique and inspiring read.
The Emigrants – George Lamming
First published in 1954, the Emigrants is an intricate novel following the process of the emigrant journey, settling in, and the exploration of the alienation and displacement caused by colonialism. George Lamming is the only author who appears in this list twice, once for nonfiction, once for fiction, as he’s believed to be one of the most important voices on this period of history.
To Sir With Love – E. R Braithwaite
Rick Braithwaite was an RAF pilot and fought in World War II so when the British Guianan couldn’t find employed in engineering because of the colour of his skin, he was pretty shocked. In desperation he turns to teaching, taking a job in a tough East London school. To Sir with Love is probably the most well known book on the list, and has been made into a movie too.
Small Island – Andrea Leavy
Andrea Leavy’s father sailed here in 1948 on the Windrush, and this novel is set around the same time. The only contemporary novel on the list, Small Island is an award winning novel that explores the difficulties in communities, the conflicts that immigration brought and what life was for everyone, whatever their colour, after World War II.
Lovers and Strangers – Claire Wills
As well as novels and memoirs, we’ve included a couple of nonfiction reads, specifically about this period in history. The first of these is Lovers and Strangers, Longlisted for the 2018 Orwell Prize. An important book, it gives voice to this generation, and could not have been released at a better time (out 5th April).
This month we see the same book in the number 1 spot for a second month, it’s proven to be a massive bestseller and is now the top of our top 20 for two months running! Have you read any of the books below? We hope you enjoy the recommendations. Read More
Every month we ask the group members to let us know what their favourite read was from the previous month. Those results are then collated, giving us a top 20 recommended reads for the following month. Here’s September! Read More
Obama published a post on Sunday evening detailing five books, both fiction and non-fiction, that he’s been reading over the Summer. “One of my favorite parts of summer is deciding what to read when things slow down just a bit, whether it’s on a vacation with family or just a quiet afternoon,” he wrote. “This summer I’ve been absorbed by new novels, revisited an old classic, and reaffirmed my faith in our ability to move forward together when we seek the truth. Here’s what I’ve been reading: Read More
Uris was six years old when he was first recognised for his literary skills when he wrote an operetta inspired by the death of his dog. He would go on to write many bestselling works, based around major political and historic events. Today we’re going to recommend four books you may like to try. Read More
Last month we created a poll in our reading group The Cwts, and that poll has run all month giving you the chance to add your favourite read from the last thirty days. With July now over we have our top 20 for August and here it is, the readers’ choice top 20 for August.
Prior to his visit, Obama published a post on his official Facebook page where he wrote about his love for his ancestral home, and revealed what books he’s been reading in the build up to his trip. As you would expect, the books are from and about the continent of Africa and show what a diverse, historic, sometimes troubled, but also extraordinary continent it is. Not only has Obama recommended the books, but also provided a quick insight as to why he found them interesting. Read More