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Black History Month Reading

Black History Month Reading


Teresa Turton
Teresa Turton
Black History Month Reading

Very often, in library studies lessons, I recommend books to students, occasionally, they suggest a book for me to read – some I enjoy more than others but, either way, it helps me relate to what is currently popular among our young people.

Recently, Gerrard Amoako-Wiredu, Year 8, read an extract of a book to me and said “Miss, you really should read this”. So, I duly took a copy of Black Brother, Black Brother and read the opening chapter. I was instantly engrossed. The issues of racism aside,what hit me was the frustration I was hearing from the narrator -how no one listens to him, being blamed for things he hasn’t done or compared to his model-student brother – things that sound familiar to many young people at some stage. Add to that the unusual family set-up that the author deployed: mixed race, affluent parents; bi-racial brothers, one white, one dark; privileged private school education where the most popular sport is fencing, and this became a book I had to read in one sitting.

Telling the story of Dante’s struggle to overcome prejudice, control his own emotions and get the respect he deserved, it is indeed a book that highlights the way we treat each other, but it also made me question things I took for granted. The author highlights that, for decades, Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers have been portrayed by Hollywood as white, ensuring that many people would imagine fencing to be a white-only sport. In reality, Dumas had African heritage; his father, the model for most of his son’s heroes, was the son of a black slave and a French aristocrat. In recent years, there have been numerous members of the US Olympic fencing team who were of African or Asian American heritage culminating in organisations like the Peter Westbrook Foundation, where Olympians teach fencing to young boys and girls of colour at weekends.

My favourite quote comes from the author’s notes which say ‘My grandmother taught me that everyone is a “mixed-blood stew” and that diversity of appearance (skin colour, hair and eye colour) are to be celebrated. Everyone is human and carries an ethnic heritage that results from the origins and journeys their ancestors made.’

Thank you Gerrard for bringing this engrossing, thought-provoking book to my attention.

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