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November's Bookshelf


How To Say Babylon By Safiya Sinclair

Throughout her childhood, Safiya Sinclair’s father, a volatile reggae musician and militant adherent to a strict sect of Rastafari, became obsessed with her purity, in particular, with the threat of what Rastas call Babylon, the immoral and corrupting influences of the Western world outside their home. He worried that womanhood would make Safiya and her sisters morally weak and impure, and believed a woman’s highest virtue was her obedience.


How to Say Babylon is Sinclair’s reckoning with the culture that initially nourished but ultimately sought to silence her; it is her reckoning with patriarchy and tradition, and the legacy of colonialism in Jamaica. Rich in lyricism and language only a poet could evoke, How to Say Babylon is both a universal story of a woman finding her own power and a unique glimpse into a rarefied world we may know how to name, Rastafari, but one we know little about.'



Ordinary People By Diana Evans

South London, 2008. Two couples find themselves at a moment of reckoning, on the brink of acceptance or revolution. Melissa has a new baby and doesn’t want to let it change her but, in the crooked walls of a narrow Victorian terrace, she begins to disappear. Michael, growing daily more accustomed to his commute, still loves Melissa but can’t quite get close enough to her to stay faithful. Meanwhile out in the suburbs, Stephanie is happy with Damian and their three children, but the death of Damian’s father has thrown him into crisis – or is it something, or someone, else? Are they all just in the wrong place? Are any of them prepared to take the leap?


Set against the backdrop of Barack Obama’s historic election victory, Ordinary People is an intimate, immersive study of identity and parenthood, sex and grief, friendship and aging, and the fragile architecture of love. With its distinctive prose and irresistible soundtrack, it is the story of our lives, and those moments that threaten to unravel us.



The Magic Border By Arlo Park

The Magic Border is the debut book from Mercury Prize-winning musician and poet Arlo Parks, combining never-before-seen poetry, song lyrics and beautiful, intimate images from collaborator, photographer Daniyel Lowden.


Featuring twenty original poems, alongside an exclusive artist’s statement and the complete lyrics from her sophomore album My Soft Machine, this vital collection explores the queer experience, blackness, grief, trauma and love through the eyes of the remarkable young musician. The Magic Border allows readers rare insight into her creative process and beautifully showcases the full breadth of Arlo’s singular artistry.




Manorism By Yomi Sode

Impassioned, insightful, electric, Manorism is a poetic examination of the lives of Black British men and boys: propped up and hemmed in by contemporary masculinity, deepened by family, misrepresented in the media, and complicated by the riches, and the costs, of belonging and inheritance. It is also an exploration of the differences of impunity afforded to white and Black people, and to white and Black artists.


In this profound and moving debut, Yomi Sode asks: what does it mean to find oneself between worlds - to 'code-switch', adapting one's speech and manners to widely differing cultural contexts? Who is, and who isn't, allowed to be more than their origins? And what do we owe each other? What do we owe ourselves?




The Race To Be Myself By Caster Semenya

Olympic and World Champion, Caster Semenya finally shares the story of her extraordinary life and her battle to compete on her own terms.


Labelled 'different' and banned from the sport she loved, Olympic and World Champion Caster Semenya shares the revealing and blisteringly honest story of how the world came to know her name, and place her at the centre of a debate about gender in sports which still continues today.


Told with defiance and speed, The Race To Be Myself is a journey through innocence, ambition, obstacles and acceptance. From her rural beginnings running in the dust, to crushing her opponents on the track. To the falsehoods spread about her name, and the many trials she has been forced to endure publicly and privately. This is Caster's time to set the record straight and share her story of how she became a defiant champion. Caster's story is our story, and testimony to anyone forced to stop doing what they love and to fight for what they believe in.



The Selfless Act Of Breathing By JJ Bola

As a charismatic teacher living in London, Michael Kabongo strives to alleviate the injustices he sees around him: for the students who long for better lives, in memory of his father’s tragic death, and to end the violent marginalization of Black men around the world.


But after a devastating loss, he decides to embark on an adventure in the land of the free—the United States of America. From Dallas to San Francisco, Michael parties with new friends, engages in fleeting romances, splurges on thrilling escapades, all with the intention of ending his life once all his savings run out.


As he makes surprising new connections and faces old prejudices in odd but exciting new settings, Michael alone must decide if his life is worth living after all.





On The Rooftop By Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

A stunning novel about a mother whose dream of musical stardom for her three daughters collides with the daughters’ ambitions for their own lives—set against the backdrop of gentrifying 1950s San Francisco


At home they are just sisters, but on stage, they are The Salvations. Ruth, Esther, and Chloe have been singing and dancing in harmony since they could speak. Thanks to the rigorous direction of their mother, Vivian, they’ve become a bona fide girl group whose shows are the talk of the Jazz-era Fillmore.


Now Vivian has scored a once-in-a-lifetime offer from a talent manager, who promises to catapult The Salvations into the national spotlight. Vivian knows this is the big break she’s been praying for. But sometime between the hours of rehearsal on their rooftop and the weekly gigs at the Champagne Supper Club, the girls have become women, women with dreams that their mother cannot imagine.



An Olive Grove In Ends By Moses McKenzie

Sayon Hughes longs to escape the volatile Bris­tol neighborhood known as Ends, the tight-knit but sometimes lawless world in which he was raised, and forge a better life with Shona, the girl he’s loved since grade school. With few paths out, he is drawn into dealing drugs along­side his cousin, the unpredictable but fiercely loyal Cuba. Sayon is on the cusp of making a clean break when an altercation with a rival dealer turns deadly and an expected witness threatens blackmail, upending his plans.


Sayon’s loyalties are torn. If Shona learns the secret of his crime, he will lose her forever. But if he doesn’t escape Ends now, he may never get another chance. Is it possible to break free of the bookies’ tickets, burnt spoons, and crook­ed solutions, and still keep the love of his life?


Rippling with authenticity and power, Mo­ses McKenzie’s dazzling debut brings to life a vi­brant and teeming world we have read too little about. In its sheer lyrical power, An Olive Grove in Ends recalls the work of James Baldwin and marks the arrival of an exciting and formidable new voice.

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