I'm Black So You Don't Have to Be

A Memoir in Eight Lives

Colin Grant author


Publisher:Vintage Publishing

Published:26th Jan '23


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I'm Black So You Don't Have to Be cover

A memoir told through a series of intimate portraits, which build into a poignant, insightful and unforgettable testimony of West Indian British experience


'Grant is a natural storyteller... Compelling and charming'
BERNARDINE EVARISTO, author of Girl, Woman, Other

'Grant's most revealing work'

'I'm black, so you don't have to be,' Colin Grant's uncle Castus used to tell him. For Colin, born in Britain to Jamaican parents, things were supposed to be different. If he worked hard and became a doctor, he was told, his race would become invisible. The reality turned out to be very different.

This is a memoir told through a series of intimate intergenerational portraits. We meet Grant's mother Ethlyn, disappointed by working-class life in Luton, who dreams of returning to Jamaica; his father Bageye, a maverick and small-time ganja dealer with a violent temper; his sister Selma, who refashioned herself as an African princess.

Each character we meet is navigating their own path. Each life informs Grant's own shifting sense of his identity. Collectively these stories build into a poignant and insightful testimony of the black British experience - an unforgettable exploration of family, identity, race and generational change.

Colin Grant writes about the characters in his family with the mischievous, dramatic flair of a natural storyteller. This is a compelling and charming read. -- Bernardine Evaristo, Booker Prize-winning author Girl, Woman, Other
An important and timely bookfor an increasingly diverse and diffuse set of communities, a reminder of those questions of home and belonging, an invitation to parse them. * Guardian *
Fascinating, brilliant, subtle, educative book. -- Michael Rosen, author of We're Going on a Bear Hunt
This outstanding memoir contains a beautiful tenderness and a courageous realness. Vibrant, poignant and brutally frank, it is rooted in authenticity and wisdom, the details of a world well-observed. Grant's work here is powerful, evocative, empowered and forthright. -- Salena Godden, author of Mrs Death Misses Death
Grant's most revealing work... This compelling and poignant book gives a convincing answer to the first question: that there is more than one way to be black. * New Statesman *
A memoir told through Grant's interaction with his family and others, but presented in impeccable prose and woven together with all the tensions and humour of the best fiction. A hugely enjoyable read. Get it now. -- Roger Robinson, author of A Portable Paradise
Thoughtfully and meticulously constructed... A refined yet unflinching book. * Sunday Times *
Thought-provoking... Witnessing the next generation acquaint themselves with their Caribbean heritage, without perceiving it a burden, fills the author, and the reader, with hope. * Times Literary Supplement *
Colin Grant takes us round his family and to the Caribbean and back, exploring deep feelings to do with memory, hope, loss and a determination to survive. There are great moments of sadness and humour. * New Statesman, *Books of the Year* *
I want everyone to read this book. Not only for the transformative powers of its humanity and lucidity, but because it is brimming with life. Tender yet shocking, funny yet sad, compelling and yet challenging too. It's revelatory. It's unsettling. And so utterly vivid with character and talk. I loved it more than I can say. But more than that, it changed my perception of how things really are. Colin Grant opened the door to me. -- Keggie Carew, author of Dadland

ISBN: 9781787333468

Dimensions: 222mm x 144mm x 26mm

Weight: 377g

256 pages