Book 1: Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge
So before I dive into this book review, I'm going to begin with a disclaimer. I am by no means a certified reviewer of anything. My opinion is personal and doesn't reflect any business that I am affiliated with. And finally, I am not connected with the authors of the book I review - I just read their books in awe of their magnificence.
So, with that boring prelude let's commence. I chose to read this book first as I'd seen it advertised on various posters and billboards dotted around Finsbury Park and a few other places. When I saw the ad, I have to admit it made my heart skip a little bit because the first thing I heard in my head was the kind of 'oooh' that implies something is a little awkward and uncomfortable. I mean we live in the UK and race is just a topic that people skirt around yet this title unapologetically hits you in the face with it. I connected with this title because I actually had stopped talking about race in general as I had begun to find it quite an emotionally draining conversation. Coming from an academic background that was mostly numbers I felt this burden to only address racial issues if I knew exactly what I was talking about, for fear that if I didn't, I'd be giving anyone who's not black/a person of colour with a poor insight into whatever issue we were discussing. However, one of the reasons I've started reading a lot more books is that I'm trying to fill that knowledge gap and learn so I can have more of these discussions!
Summary of the book
This book embarks on the journey that Reni Eddo-Lodge has had as a black British woman and addresses key topics such as feminism and class. She shares her experience in university where she discovered the scope of black history in the United Kingdom and how this history is interwoven into the structures that exist and the racial dynamics at play. She addresses the complexities of racism and white privilege. And she also touches on why she believes the xenophobic rhetoric ("go back to your country" / "immigrants are stealing our jobs") has thrived so much in recent years as well as in the past. And she does it without sounding extremely boring with her quick wit, sarcasm and a bit of dry humour.
'The book that's changing how we talk about race.' - Vogue
If you have walked into any book shop recently, you have seen that this is a best seller. The book itself is filled with reviews from Emma Watson to the Guardian, hailing it as an 'Essential' and 'Powerful' book. It makes sense as right now, in the words of the Gucci CEO, inclusivity is the new exclusivity. To be honest, black women are doing bits and I'm absolutely here for it! However, I have to be honest in saying that even with it's circulation and praise in the public sphere, I still felt a little weary when reading it on the tube. Even though the title is intentionally ironic, as she clearly does talk about race and indeed talks about race to white people, it is a bold title to say the least. Plus I wasn't looking to explain or defend why I was reading this book to a stranger as some people had said they've had to (readers who Reni quotes in the book).
Personally, I learnt so much from this book. It dawned on me that there are so many words that I see that I hadn't truly learnt the definitions for. An example is institutional racism: 'the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour, which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping, which disadvantage minority ethnic people'. Reni made it completely possible for someone with little to no background on literature or history associated with people of colour to understand her perspectives and knowledge. A lot of the feelings which I have felt before and will probably encounter in the future, were perfectly articulated by her. So for the black British history lesson I never had in class and for so many other lessons, thank you Reni!
5/5. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who cares about the differing experiences of black women in the UK and wants to learn about black British history.
you can find this book in most retailers but i personally got my copy from waterstones for £7.99