8 Books that Capture Caribbean Voices and the Spirit of the Windrush Generation

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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 Pleasures of Exile US
The Pleasures of Exile UK

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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.

The Lonely Londoners US
The Lonely Londoners UK

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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.

City of Gold US
City of Gold UK

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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.

The Emigrants US
The Emigrants UK

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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.

To Sir with Love US
To Sir with Love UK

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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.

Small Island US
Small Island UK

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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).

Lovers and Strangers US
Lovers and Strangers UK

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Windrush – Mike Phillips & Trevor Phillips

Our second nonfiction for the list and our final book today is Windrush, full of first hand accounts, eye witness perspectives and stories from those affected and embraced by multiculturalism since 1948.

Windrush US
Windrush UK

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4 Brilliant Leon Uris Books

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book of the month
Leon Uris (3rd August, 1924 – June 21, 2003) was an American author of historical fiction who wrote many bestselling books. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Uris was the son of Jewish American parents Wolf William and Anna Uris. His father was a Polish born immigrant, his mother a first generation Russian American.

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

FRA Readers’ Choice Top 20: August

By | Hit of the Lits!, Literature | No Comments
book of the month
Those who have been around a while will remember our Hit of the Lits feature, a top 20 of the books you’ve loved in the previous month. Well on popular request we’re giving this feature a reboot with a new name and a new layout.

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.

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Obama Reveals What He’s Been Reading Prior to Visiting Africa

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book of the month
For the first time since he left office, the former President of the United States, Barack Obama, has returned to Africa where he spent time in both Kenya (his ancestral home) and South Africa. There he met 200 young leaders from all over the continent and made a speech to commemorate the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela.

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

Sense8, Bookshops and Some Reading Recommendations

By | Discussion and Recommendations, Television | No Comments
book of the month
Is anyone else really sad that Sense8 is over? The Netflix show was a science-fiction drama created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski (of Matrix fame) following the lives of eight strangers from around the world linked by a sense of mental and emotional telepathy.

While a science fiction show, the series was very grounded in real issues such as race, sex, gender, and religion featuring a multi-national cast, various sexualities and a transgender character, played by a transgender actor (yay!).

I absolutely loved it, and I know much of the team did too and brilliant storylines aside, I loved the fact that Amanita, played by Freema Agyeman worked at the City Lights Bookstore, meaning it was featured in various episodes. And if you were hanging out for more bookstore references there was a second one with a mention for Shakespeare and Co in the finale too! Read More

George R.R. Martin Gives Us His Book Recommendations

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book of the month
George R.R. Martin has shot to fame in recent years after his gritty fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire was adapted into a TV show by HBO. Called Game of Thrones, the series has become one of the biggest shows on TV and has helped newcomers discover Martin’s equally great novels. Game of Thrones‘ final season is set to air next year, but we’re still eagerly waiting for the next installment in the Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter. If you can’t wait for the next book, then why not check out this list of books Martin has recommended?

As the New York Public Library reports, Martin has given us not one, but two lists of books he feels we should read, fantasy and general fiction, so there should be something for everyone here.

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Barack Obama Shares What Books He’s Been Reading

By | Discussion and Recommendations, Political, Reading Habits | No Comments
book of the month
It’s always interesting to learn what other people are reading, even more so when they happen to have been one of the most powerful people on the planet. If you’ve been wondering what former US President Barack Obama has been reading since he left office then you’re in luck. As Harper’s Bazaar reports, Obama recently took to his official Facebook page to share what he’s been reading.

“I’m often asked what I’m reading, watching, and listening to, so I thought I might share a short list from time to time,” he wrote. There’s so much good writing and art and variety of thought out there these days that this is by no means comprehensive – like many of you, I’ll miss The Americans – but here’s what I’ve been reading lately. It’s admittedly a slightly heavier list than what I’ll be reading over the summer.” Read More

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