Last month was Black History Month 2015 . The following are just a few of the books by writers with an African, Asian or Caribbean heritage that can be found in the Education in Literature Collection. They describe life both in the UK and further afield.
The Bachelor of Arts (1937) by R. K. Narayan (1906-2001) describes the college days of Chandran. Narayan is regarded as one of the leading figures of early Indian literature in English. Many of his gently humorous novels are about the people who live in the fictional southern Indian town of Malgudi.
The African Child (L’Enfant noir) (1953) by Camara Laye is an autobiographical work regarded as one of the earliest major works in Francophile African Literature. The author grew up in the then colony of French Guinea in West Africa. He first attended school in Kouroussa before going on to attend a technical college in then colonial capital Conakry. Success in his studies meant he went onto study mechanics in Paris. Whilst abroad, feelings of homesickness caused by living in such a different culture, lead him to write about his childhood.
To Sir, With Love (1959) by E.R. Braithwaite (1920- ) a Guyanese novelist,writer,teacher and diplomat. A semi-autobiographical novel about a well qualified Afro-Caribbean man who serves in the RAF during WWII but then cannot find work. He becomes a teacher in a school in London’s East End and gradually overcomes the intial racism he encounters. Also available as a DVD (To Sir, With Love ) of the 1967 film starring Sidney Poitier.
School Days (1994) by Patrick Chamoiseau (1953- ) reflects his school days in Fort-de-France, Martinique. What makes his experiences different is his struggle to retain his unique Creole culture in the face of his strict Francophile teachers.
So Long a Letter (Une Si Longue Lettre) (1980) by Mariama Ba (1929-1981) a Senegalese author and feminist who wrote in French. Senegalese school teacher Ramatoulaye writes a letter to her friend in which she describes her feelings about being abandoned by her husband and later widowed. It is a testimony to the plight of women who live in a society that denies them their proper place.
Gifted (2007) by Nikita Lalwani (1973- ) Rumi Vasi lives with her Hindu parents in 1980’s Cardiff. She is a maths prodigy who receives extra tutoring from her father. Once at Oxford University she finds it hard to cope with her new- found freedom. This is a funny and tender story about how Rumi’s intellect isolates her from her peers. Nikita Lalwani was born in Kota, Rajasthan and raised in Cardiff.
True Murder (2009) by Yaba Badoe (1955- ) a Ghanaian – British documentary film-maker, journalist and author. Eleven-year –old Ajuba’s mother has a breakdown and her Ghanaian father abandons her in a Devon boarding school. The owners of the school are kind and supportive. However Ajuba has the misfortune to be befriended by a new girl Polly Venus and her glamorous and chaotic family. Polly is obsessed with the magazine ‘True Murder’ and enjoys playing dangerous games.
Miss Timmins’ School for Girls (2011) by Nayana Currimbhoy is set in 1974. Young Charulta Apte arrives in Panchangi to teach Shakespeare to rich Indian girls in a boarding school that is still run like an outpost of the British Empire. Charulta is enjoying her new life until a body is discovered. Panchangi is a mountain village in Western India founded by the British . Women and children were sent there to escape the heat of the plains. Nayana Currimbhoy herself attended a boarding school there from the age of seven.
Last but no means least is I know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) by Maya Angelou (1928-2014) the African-American author, poet, dancer, actress and singer. The first of her seven autobiographical works.