‘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; he would shake off the burden he believed his parents’ generation had carried. 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 factory worker and small-time ganja dealer with a violent temper; his sister Selma, who refashioned herself as an African princess; his great uncle Percy, estranged from his family through his own pride.
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 poignant and insightful testimony of black British experience. Written with the intrigue, nuance, beauty and wit of short stories, and with the veracity and painful revelation of memoir, I’M BLACK, SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE is an unforgettable exploration of family and generational change.
Colin Grant lives and works in Brighton and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Director of WritersMosaic, an innovative online platform for new writing. Read more about his work here: https://colingrant.info/