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Top 5 books about the Windrush Generation, chosen by author Paul Mendez

Author Paul Mendez, whose debut novel Rainbow Milk has been nominated for the Polari First Book Prize 2021, chooses his top five books that tell the stories of the Windrush Generation.

22nd June 1948: The ex-troopship 'Empire Windrush' arriving at Tilbury Docks from Jamaica, with 482 Jamaicans on board, emigrating to Britain. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

22nd June 1948: The ex-troopship 'Empire Windrush' arriving at Tilbury Docks from Jamaica, with 482 Jamaicans on board, emigrating to Britain. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Here are five must-read books about the Windrush Generation, chosen by author Paul Mendez.

The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon

A vital, often hilarious, snapshot of the Windrush Generation settling into Brixton in the 1950s. Moses Aloetta, an Afro-Trinidadian, provides our perspective, having become the go-to man for new arrivals unaware of the hardships they’ll face. 

Small Island by Andrea Levy

This prize-winning novel examines how the docking of SS Empire Windrush in 1948 affected two couples, one Jamaican, one British. Funny, moving and full of historical detail, including the “brown baby problem” that shamed British authorities.

Escape to an Autumn Pavement by Andrew Salkey

Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez is out now (Little, Brown, £13.99). It is shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize 2021. Tickets are available for the winner’s announcement at London’s Southbank Centre on October 30.
Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez is out now (Little, Brown, £13.99). It is shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize 2021. Tickets are available for the winner’s announcement at London’s Southbank Centre on October 30.

The first example we have of queer Black British fiction. Johnny is a Jamaican bartender working in Soho. 

Too well educated for the seedy bar and not white enough for the British establishment, his is a subtle study of the disillusionment many Caribbean-born nationals faced as the truth of British life sank in. 

Black Teacher by Beryl Gilroy

Another unfairly forgotten text that has been recently resurrected. Gilroy was one of Britain’s first Black headteachers, and her memoir charts the challenges she faced, earning acceptance by fellow teachers and parents alike. 

Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands by Hazel V Carby

Carby is one of the world’s leading academics on race, gender and African/African American studies.

In Imperial Intimacies, she retraces her history, as the child of a white British woman and Jamaican father, while examining the sexist, classist conventions working-class British women have endured. 

Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez is out now (Little, Brown, £13.99). It is shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize 2021. Tickets are available for the winner’s announcement at London’s Southbank Centre on October 30

This article is taken from the latest edition of The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach local your vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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