Black history book list: Shetland Library October 2009


These are just some of the books of black interest held by Shetland Library. We hope you find something to enjoy among the books on the list. We welcome suggestions to add to this selection.



British Fiction




Adebayo, Dotun


Sperm bandits

One man's fight for the rights of his sperm!

Augustus, Patrick



Complete baby father

This book gives an insight into fatherhood through the eyes of four very different black men, using wit, humour and sensitivity.


Try also: Don't make me laugh

Bandele, Biyi

Burma boy

Coming-of-age story of the young Nigerian soldier

Chikwava, Brian

Harare North

Follows the adventures of a Zimbabwean refugee arriving in London

Evans, Diana


Story about a mixed White/Nigerian family growing up in Britain and briefly in Nigeria

Evaristo, Bernardine


Blonde roots

What if Africans had enslaved Europeans and not the other way round? Hugely imaginative satire.


Try also: The Emperor’s babe

Gayle, Mike

Mr Commitment

Mike Gayle is an agony uncle turned lad-lit author.


Try also:  The life and soul of the party; My legendary girlfriend

Kay, Jackie

Wish I was here

Short stories from this Glaswegian poet and author, who draws with humour and pathos on her experience of being black, gay and adopted.


Try also: Why don’t you stop talking

Koomson, Dorothy

The cupid effect

A funny look at love, life and matchmaking


Try also: My best friends girl

Levy, Andrea

Small island

Excellent Orange Prize winning story of Jamaican immigrants in Britain after the war.


Try also: Every light in the house burnin’; Fruit of the lemon

Mitchell, Dreda Say

Killer Tune

Well-reviewed book by a new black crime author

Newland, Courttia

The Scholar: A west side story

'A glimpse into an urban nightmare where violence is casual, drugs are the norm...a freshness in the details and in the dialogue - frighteningly believable.'


Try also: Dying wish; Snakeskin

Phillips, Mike

The name you once gave me

A ‘quick read’ book – one man’s search to find his Nigerian father.

Selvon, Samuel

The lonely Londoners

Classic award-winning novel of immigrant life in London in the 1950s

Smith, Zadie

White teeth

A rich novel of different cultures across three generations.


Try also: The autograph man; On beauty

Sutherland, Luke

Venus as a boy

Growing up black in Orkney; graduating to a milieu of sexual exploitation in London.

Wheatle, Alex

East of Acre Lane

A rhythmic, fast-talking tour of the tower blocks of South London.

Williams, Nicola


Without prejudice

Legal thriller.

Zephaniah, Benjamin

Teacher’s dead

A teacher is dead, murdered by two of his students in front of the school. He was a good man. People liked him. So how could this happen? It just doesn't make sense to Jackson, and he is determined to investigate the case until he understands. Novel aimed at young adults.


Try also: Face; Refugee boy



World fiction




Baldwin, James

Another country

The story of the suicide of jazz-musician Rufus Scott and the friends who search for an understanding of his life and death.


Try also: Giovanni's room

Bergner, Daniel


Soldiers of light

Novel set against atrocities in Sierra Leone.

Clarke, Maeve



What goes round

A humorous, character-packed account of a man's return to Jamaica with his teenage daughter.

D’Aguiar, Fred



A novel-in-verse that tells the story of a young female slave who falls in love with the son of the plantation owner.


Try also: Feeding the ghosts

Danticat, Edwidge

The dew breaker

In a series of episodes which resemble short stories, Danticat illuminates the lives of Haitian immigrants as they remember a traumatic period "back home."


Try also: After the dance

Fuller, Vernella


Unlike normal women

Set in rural Jamaica during the late 1960s, where Aunt Vie, the community matriarch, Miss Dee, the town dressmaker, and Azora, the "obeah," become unlikely allies.

Gaines, Ernest B.

A lesson before dying

In a small Cajun community in 1940s Louisiana, a young black man is about to go the electric chair for a murder he didn’t commit.

Kincaid, Jamaica


The island of Antigua come vibrantly to life under the gaze of Mr Potter, an illiterate taxi chauffeur who makes his living driving a navy blue Hillman along the wide open roads which pass the only towns he has ever seen and the graveyard where he will be buried. The sun shines squarely overhead, the ocean lies on every side and suppressed passion fills the air.

McMillan, Terry


The interruption of everything

Sassy, witty read from a popular black American author


Try also: A day late and a dollar short

Morrison, Toni


Pulitzer Prize-winning story of slavery in the USA.


Try also: Song of Solomon

Mosley, Walter

Bad Boy Brawly Brown

Popular black author writing thrillers set in LA, starring unofficial detective Easy Rawlins

Phillips, Caryl

Dancing in the dark

The story of Bert Williams, the highest-paid entertainer in America in his heyday. Off-stage, Williams was a tall, light-skinned man with marked poise and dignity; on-stage he blacked up and played a stereotype. But the mask was beginning to overwhelm Williams and he sank into bouts of melancholia and heavy drinking, unable to escape the blackface his public demanded.


Try also: A distant shore; Crossing the river

Rhys, Jean

Wide Sargasso Sea

A classic - inspired by Jane Eyre, and is set in the lush, beguiling landscape of Jamaica in the 1830s

Tademy, Lalita

Cane river

Family saga of four generation of women born into slavery in Louisiana.


Try also: Red river

Walker Alice

The color purple

The story of Celie: raped by the man she calls father, her two children taken from her and forced into an ugly marriage, she has no one to talk to but God, until she meets a woman who offers love and support.

Wright, Richard

Native son

A young black man in 1930s Chicago murders a white woman in a moment of panic.



African fiction




Achebe, Chinua

Anthills of the Savannah

One of the most widely read novels from Nigeria's most famous novelist, Things Fall Apart is a gripping study of the problem of European colonialism in Africa.


Try also: A man of the people; Things fall apart

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi

Half of a yellow sun

Hugely successful novel set among the horrors of the Biafran war.


Try also: Purple hibiscus

Afolabi, Segun

A life elsewhere

An impressive debut collection of stories of Diaspora; of people making their lives in new lands, of the universal need to establish family and identity in a world where the boundaries of geography, culture and language are increasingly fluid.

Atta, Sefi

Everything good will come

An original, witty coming-of-age tale: Tom Sawyer meets Jane Eyre, with Nigerian girls.

Coetzee J.M


J M Coetzee has become identified as one of the most finely tuned among contemporary Southern African writers.


Try also: Youth; Summertime; Dusklands

Courtenay, Bryce




Tandia is just a teenager when she is brutally attacked by the South African police. She seeks refuge in a brothel deep in the veld, where her growing relationship with a white man has the most explosive consequences.

Couto, Mia

Last flight of the flamingo

Writer born in Mozambique – a novel about the civil war there.

Diome, Fatou

The belly of the Atlantic

Salie lives in Paris. Back home on the Senegalese island of Niodior, her football-crazy brother, counts on her to get him to France, the promised land where foreign footballers become world famous.

Emecheta, Buchi

The bride price

Takes you into the way of life of the Ibo people of Nigeria and their approach to marriage. Aku-nna becomes a victim of the system of traditional beliefs.

Habila, Helon

Measuring time

The story of two brothers in the small Nigerian village of Keti, one who becomes a soldier, one a writer.


Try also: Waiting for an angel

Kourouma, Ahmadou


Allah is not obliged

Birahima is ten years old. He lives in the Ivory Coast. He is a soldier.

Mills, Marilyn Heward

Cloth girl

Engrossing novel, exploring the strains of colonial life in Ghana through the contrasting lives of black and white women.


Try also: The Association of Foreign Spouses

Ngugi, Wa Thiong’o

Petals of blood

Published to great controversy in 1977, this Kenyan novel is as much a whodunnit as a political novel and satire. Ngugi unfolds a human landscape that is both beautiful and horrifying, as tribalism and village life are manipulated in the name of progress by the cynical bureaucrats who came to power as heroes of liberation.


Try also: A grain of wheat; Weep not, child

Okri Ben

The famished road

Acclaimed Nigerian author, now living in London. The famished road won the Booker Prize in 1991.


Try also: In Arcadia; Infinite riches; Songs of enchantment

Oyeyemi, Helen

The Icarus girl

Eight-year-old Jessamy Harrison is the only child of a Nigerian mother and English father. Intelligent, imaginative and prone to sudden and inexplicable tantrums and unusual obsessions, she finds it hard to make friends. Then, on her first visit to her mother’s family home in Nigeria, Jess meets TillyTilly, a strange child with extraordinary abilities who leads her into forbidden places and uncomfortable situations. Some time after returning to the UK, TillyTilly turns up at the Harrison's London home and, at once, life for everyone is turned upside down.


Try also: White is for witching; The opposite house

Schreiner, Olive


The story of an African farm

Published in 1883, Schreiner's story of an articulate young feminist marks the entry of the controversial New Woman into nineteenth-century fiction. Raised as an orphan amid a makeshift family, she witnesses an intolerable world of colonial exploitation. She leaves the isolated farm for boarding school in her early teens, only to return four years later from an unhappy relationship.



Biography and Autobiography




Angelou, Maya

I know why the caged bird sings

A famous and inspirational autobiography.


Try also: All Gods children need travelling shoes; Even the stars look lonesome; The heart of a woman

Ecott, Tim

Stealing water: the secret life of an African city

Hilarious and heartbreaking portrait of poor-white family life in the twilight of apartheid.

Forna, Aminatta

The devil that danced on the water

Memoir of a childhood in Scotland and Sierra Leone and of a father’s courage.

Gallman, Kuki

I dreamed of Africa

Haunting memoir of bringing up a family in Kenya in the 1970s first with her husband Paulo, and then alone, is part elegaic celebration, part tragedy, and part love letter to the magical spirit of Africa.

Grant, Colin

Negro with a hat: the rise and fall of Marcus Garvey and his dream of Mother Africa

Greene, Melissa Fay

There is no me without you: one woman's odyssey to rescue Africa's children

King, Martin Luther


Mandela, Nelson

Long walk to freedom

McBride, James

The color of water:  A black man's tribute to his white mother

Pool, Hannah

My Father's daughter

In 1974 Hannah Pool was adopted from an orphanage in Eritrea and brought to England by her white adoptive father. She grew up unable to imagine what it must be like to look into the eyes of a blood relative until one day a letter arrived from a brother she never knew she had. Ten years later she finally decided to track down her surviving Eritrean family and embarked upon a journey that would take her far from the comfort zone of her metropolitan lifestye to confront the poverty and oppression of a life that could so easily have been her own.

Soyinka, Wole

You must set forth at dawn

Autobiography of the first African to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Wright, Richard

Black boy

At four years of age, Richard Wright set fire to his home; at five his father deserted the family; by six Richard was - temporarily - an alcoholic. Moved from home to home, from brick tenement to orphanage, Gradually he learned to survive in a world of white hostility, secretly satisfying his craving for books and knowledge until the time came when he could follow his dream of justice and opportunity in the north.




Poetry and music




Angelou, Maya

Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now

Baldwin, James

Jimmy's blues: selected poems

Bradley, Lloyd


Bass Culture when Reggae was King

The first major account of the history of reggae

Broughton, Simon

World music: 100 essential CDs : the rough guide

Hughes, Langston

Selected Poems of Langston Hughes

Linton Kwesi Johnson

Mi Revalueshanary Fren

McCarthy, Karen


Price, Richard

Lucky Day

Walcott, Derek

Tiepolo's hound

Zephaniah, Benjamin

Too black too strong



Travel and exploration




Allen, Benedict

The skeleton coast: a journey through the Namib Desert

Bell, Gavin

Somewhere over the rainbow: travels in South Africa

Boorman, Charlie

Race to Dakar

Charley recounts his extraordinary adventures through Portugal, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Mali, Guinea and Senegal – taking part in the Dakar rally.

Fuller, Alexandra

Scribbling the cat: travels with an African soldier

Kingsley, Mary



The Congo and the Cameroons

Contemptuous of Europe's 'civilising mission' in Africa, Mary Kingsley's (1862-1900) extraordinary journeys through tropical west Africa are a remarkable record.

Lanting, Franz

Okavango: Africa's last Eden

The very best of nature photography

Livingstone, David

Narrative of an expedition to the Zambezi and its tributaries

Malathronas, John

Rainbow diary: a journey in the new South Africa

McGregor, Ewan, and Boorman, Charlie

Long way down

Moore, Peter

Swahili for the broken-hearted: Cape Town to Cairo by any means possible

Murphy, Dervla

In Ethiopia with a mule

This extraordinary and intrepid veteran travel writer gets to the heart of a country, and completely off the tourist trail.


Try also: South from the Limpopo: travels through South Africa and The Ukimwi road : from Kenya to Zimbabwe

O'Hanlon, Redmond

No mercy: a journey to the heart of the Congo

Park, Mungo

Travels in the interior of Africa

In 1795 Mungo Park travelled through Africa on the sufferance of African rulers and soon came to depend for his survival on the charity of African villagers. Before he reached the Niger, he endured months of captivity in the camp of a Moorish chief. Yet throughout his travels, Park maintained a remarkable empathy for African societies and beliefs. He recorded what he saw as accurately as he could, and without presuming European superiority.

Pryce, Lois

Red tape and white knuckles

One woman’s motorcycle adventure through Africa.

Randall, Will

Botswana time

Ross, Karen

Okavango: jewel of the Kalahari

Revisits this extraordinary wetland created by the Okavango River as it spreads and spills over the Kalahari sands of northern Botswana

Salak, Kira

The cruellest journey: 600 miles by canoe to the legendary city of Timbuktu

Stevens, Stuart

Malaria dreams: an African adventure

Theroux, Paul

Dark star safari: overland from Cairo to Cape Town

Wilson, Colum

In quest of Livingstone: a journey to the Four Fountains

Winternitz, Helen

East along the equator: a Congo journey



History and general non-fiction




Carlin, John

Playing the enemy: Nelson Mandela and the game that made a nation

How the sport of rugby, once the preserve of South Africa's Afrikaans-speaking minority, came to unify the new rainbow nation

Cartwright, Justin

Not yet home

A personal account of South Africa from the run up to the elections in 1994 and through the subsequent two years.

Eshun, Ekow



Black gold of the sun

”Where are you from? No, where are you really from?” These questions, which he has been asked since boyhood, drive Ekow Eshun to travel through Ghana in search of his roots, and lead him on an exploration of history and belonging, from slavery in Africa and the West to the present day and what it means to be black.

Hochschild, Adam

King Leopold’s ghost

“One of the major killing grounds of modern times” – a history of the Congo.

Itano, Nicole

No place left to bury the dead: denial, despair and hope in the African aids pandemic

Shows the world how the transformation of a few courageous women can heal entire communities, eradicate denial and increase global awareness of the worst epidemic in human history

Keane, Fergal

The bondage of fear: a journey through the last white empire

Maislish, David

White slave: based on the journal of James Riley

The true story of captain James Riley and his crew of ten men, who were shipwrecked off the coast of West Africa in 1815. Captured by locals, they are enslaved and suffer years of abuse and intolerable hardships

Meredith, Martin

The state of Africa: fifty years of a continent in crisis

Perrois, Louis


Fang art is the most emblematic of all the arts of Black Africa. This book investigates various Fang artefacts - statue heads, masks, headdresses, jewellery, musical instruments, everyday utensils.

Rees, Sian

Sweet water and bitter: the ships that stopped the slave trade

Silvester, Hans

Natural fashion: tribal decoration from Africa

Williams, Susan

Colour bar: the triumph of Seretse Khama and his nation

The story of how the first president of Botswana was forced into exile because of his relationship with a white woman.