Review: Black Joy by Various Authors

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Edited by award-winning journalist Charlie Brinkhust-Cuff and up-and-coming talent Timi Sotire, join twenty-eight inspirational voices in this uplifting and empowering anthology as they come together to celebrate being Black British, sharing their experiences of joy and what it means to them.

Thank you to Penguin for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction but this one was a must-read for me. This was a collection of essays by Black British people from across disciplines and industries, and it is full of Black joy. It was beautiful.

These essays are perfect for teenagers, but great for those of any age. All of them are around 10 pages long and are spaced out with illustrations and block quotes, making them accessible to read and approachable to read one or two at a time. It took me a while to read this one as I mainly read a chunk a day, which is exactly what I’d recommend if you’re going to pick this one up!

I loved the different subjects and aspects of Black Joy that were discussed throughout this collection. There’s essays about music, radio, literature, love and romance, to barber shop culture and connecting to nature. The way the authors weave in their own subjects and things that bring them Black Joy throughout their stories is beautiful.

There was not one essay in this book that didn’t capture my attention or make me want to read on. Every one made me feel more educated and I would recommend this one to anybody.

5 out of 5 stars


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Review: All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

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Goodreads | Waterstones

This powerful YA memoir-manifesto follows journalist and LGBTQ+ activist George M. Johnson as they explore their childhood, adolescence, and college years, growing up under the duality of being black and queer.
From memories of getting their teeth kicked out by bullies at age five to their loving relationship with their grandmother, to their first sexual experience, the stories wrestle with triumph and tragedy and cover topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, inequality, consent, and Black joy.

Thank you to Penguin for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is not something I would usually pick up, but I’m really glad I did. This is a memoir targeted at teens about George M Johnson’s life, from beginning to present day. I really enjoyed how this was chronological but also sectioned into topics such as friends, family, relationships etc. Every section included a very hard-hitting experience that happened to George, which felt very well written.

The best word I can think of to describe this book is ‘honest’. As soon as I picked this up I could sense that there was just no filter to be had, which was really important to me. George doesn’t shy away from any topics because, as stated in their author letter at the start of the book, if they went through these experiences at such a young age, there is no saying other teens won’t have as well. And those teens will benefit from knowing they are not alone.

This was highly readable but also covered some very heavy discussions, approaching them in a very forthright manner. Although I am definitely not the target audience (I imagine those who will relate strongly to this book are Black, queer teens), I felt like I learned a lot about the experiences George has already been through in the first 33 years of their life. The writing has a very no-filter attitude, which I really appreciated and stood out in this kind of genre. It explored so many important topics, including suppressing who you are even when you have a supportive family, growing up and learning more about your sexuality and gender identity, and being Black and queer. I will definitely be recommending this one as it felt like such an important book and a must-read!

I struggle to ‘rate’ non-fiction, especially when it comes to a personal recollection of somebody’s life, but I thought this was brilliantly written and loved the honesty. Even though this was not quite geared towards me, it honestly feels like the kind of book everyone would benefit from reading, but especially gender nonconforming folx. This is the kind of book that will save and change lives, and I hope is read and appreciated by many.

5 out of 5 stars


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Mark’s Review: Jews Don’t Count by David Baddiel

Hi all! It’s the third month of my boyfriend, Mark, being featured on the blog! Today he’s back with another review for a very important recent non-fiction release, Jews Don’t Count by David Baddiel.


Goodreads | Waterstones

How identity politics failed one particular identity.
Jews Don’t Count is a book for people who consider themselves on the right side of history. People fighting the good fight against homophobia, disablism, transphobia and, particularly, racism. People, possibly, like you.
It is the comedian and writer David Baddiel’s contention that one type of racism has been left out of this fight. In his unique combination of close reasoning, polemic, personal experience and jokes, Baddiel argues that those who think of themselves as on the right side of history have often ignored the history of anti-Semitism.
He outlines why and how, in a time of intensely heightened awareness of minorities, Jews don’t count as a real minority: and why they should.

In Jews Don’t Count, David Baddiel offers his lived experience of antisemitism in the UK, and argues how the fight against racism, especially on the political left, has a blind spot.

“Progressives themselves will sometimes respond to anti-Semitism by pointing to the – implied – much worse racism suffered by minorities in, say, opinion columns in the Daily Mail. A fair enough point, but I’m not interested in those columnists, as their racism is active and obvious, and also, to be honest, not mine to talk about.”

Baddiel has been around for much of my life, from being an edgy young comedian to a more established pop culture figure via the song ‘Three Lions’. He has gone on to write novels for both adults and children, none of which I have read I must admit, but he has become one of my favourite modern grumpy old men via his TV appearances and on Twitter.

While it covers many areas that Baddiel has discussed throughout his career, Jews Don’t Count feels most like a companion piece to his documentary Confronting Holocaust Denial. Made with the BBC in 2020, and not on iPlayer at the time of writing, Baddiel directly confronted both current and historical attitudes to antisemitism, something he looks at closer to home further in this book.

“Jews are somehow both sub-human and humanity’s secret masters. And it’s this racist mythology that’s in the air when the left pause before putting Jews into their sacred circle. Because all of the people in the sacred circle are oppressed. And if you believe, even a little bit, that Jews are moneyed, powerful and secretly in control of the world … well, you can’t put them into the sacred circle of the oppressed.”

It’s fair to say I am predisposed to agree with Baddiel, so don’t expect a full critical breakdown of his arguments here. For a while now I have pondered on the nature of outrage and how it isn’t actually meted out in society as equally for some issues as others, so I welcomed the opportunity to read such a singular take on antisemitism. Baddiel covers a lot of ground in a short book, but essentially argues across various levels that racism against Jews, actively or passively, makes them the forgotten section of the anti-racist movement.

With a self deprecating style you might expect from his other work, Baddiel looks at the discrepancies in approach to problematic language and activity in a range of areas including football, entertainment and politics. He touches on Israel and addresses scandals, including his own from Fantasy Football League in the late 1990’s. He looks at the nature of being Jewish and what that means culturally, ethnically and religiously, but crucially also looks at the way current political divisions and identity politics both tacitly support antsemitism and, more often than not, forget racism against Jews. Hence the title, Jews Don’t Count.

“Anti-racists need to listen more to the enemy. Because anti-racists only exists to fight racists, it only has meaning oppositionally. If there were no racists, there would be no anti-racists. And the racists say: Jews are not white.”

I am sad to say in resulting discussions I have around this book, over the ambiguity about where being Jewish fits into racism, I have seen parts of Baddiel’s arguments confirmed with friends and have subsequently had to call them out. Something I have no problem with, but a disappointment I did not expect to be realised so easily. For me, the key might lie in Baddiel’s argument that we should fight less amongst ourselves as progressives and pay more attention to racist and white supremacists definitions, because if we’re truly committed to being anti-racist, we should be fighting their definitions, not arguing about our own.


May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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