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Written by Francesca Dolan, 1st October 2021

To mark Black History Month, we want to showcase the work of black authors and poets from throughout history. This week’s four recommendations seek to highlight the disparities in the experiences and lives of black people and communities around the world.

The Reader stands with those that have suffered systemic racism, social injustice and violence.


Citizen by Claudia Rankine

Written in the second person, Rankine forces the reader into her world, weaving a lyrical narrative with the kind of linguistic command only a poet could possess. She lays bare the everyday micro aggressions she has faced as a black woman with heart-breaking mundanity. However, there is nothing casual about the way she writes. Her words penetrate, forcing you, the reader, to stand to attention and contemplate prejudice that has never before crossed your mind. It pierces and, once devoured, will never leave you.

A Portable Paradise by Roger Robinson

Many of Roger’s poems are about Windrush, Grenfell and slavery. Through this collection of poems, he translates deep trauma into something we, the reader, can begin to grasp. Transporting us to different settings, he gives equal weight to each individual black experience. It feels as though every kind of reaction to literature it is possible to have lives within the pages. Throat lumps aplenty, some laughter too. It’s full to the brim of moving portraits of life, pain and trauma. If you haven’t already read it, we cannot recommend it enough.

Native Son by Richard Wright

At The Reader, as part of our work on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, we are taking part in staff Shared Reading sessions where we discuss Native Son by Richard Wright. Nearly 80 years later, this piece of literature continues to hold up over time as the pinnacle of black writing.  Wright portrays the horror that punctured the lives of black people in 1940s America, holding up a magnifying glass to the racial power structure that can still be found today.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

In her 1969 autobiography, Maya Angelou exposes the pain and loss experienced by black people during the 1930s and 40s in the American South. By documenting her own individual experience of sexual assault, Angelou is successful in preventing the erasure of her history as a victim and provides a ground-breaking depiction of what it meant to a young, black American female during that time.


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