Book Clinic: Oyinkan Braithwaite on finding mixed-race identity

Q: I’m mixed-race and I never knew my father. What books can help me find my black identity and self-esteem?
Student, 37, Manchester

A: Oyinkan Braithwaite is a Nigerian-British author. Her first novel, My Sister, the Serial Killer, is published by Atlantic. She writes:
Blackness is multilayered, complex and beautiful. And by learning to love yourself as a whole, you will be embracing even the parts of yourself you feel you do not know.

That being said, books are a great way to educate us on our history, revealing to us the experiences of others in situations we recognise and some that we don’t, giving us heroes who are able to overcome slavery, racism, abuse, loss and more.

In that vein, I would advise you to read Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. This book is particularly thought-provoking because it subverts the world as we know it. In her series, she creates a reality where black people are not the marginalised race but, rather, the ones with power and influence.

I can’t say too much about Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi without giving away the plot but it also explores race and perceptions of race.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah manages to treat what could be a dark topic with humour and light. The title refers to the fact that Noah’s birth was illegal since interracial marriage was against the law of South Africa at the time.

Then read Jazz by Toni Morrison. Actually, any book by Toni Morrison will move and influence you. I would also like to suggest My Best Friend’s Girl by Dorothy Koomson, because it is light-hearted and touching, and the protagonist’s skin colour isn’t a major theme.

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