Bag These Four Books

We pick 4 books by 4 British writers that are all the buzz; Inferior, Diversify, Black & British, Little Black…

From science, to business, to history, to social and economic issues, we pick books that represent a jump off point into subjects that impact our lives daily. All authored by writers of colour, in many ways, this selection of books reflects the state of progress in our society.

Regardless of whether you read often, ready slowly or tend to steer away from self help, Otegha Owagba’s ‘Little Black Book’ is a concise commonsense read for creators, and freelancers operating in a landscape that seemingly has no rules. The need for it as a text speaks to the change in perceptions when it comes to being self-employed. At a time when more people than ever are choosing a work style outside of convention, it’s important to grasp the information that will help you swim.

Angela Saini’s look into the enduring myths around gender goes a long way to illuminating the literal centuries old fight women have been waging for equality in their field. Told with a wry humour Saini is able to turn what could otherwise be unbearably dry scientific research into a narrative that puts fact at its centre. The differences between men and women are often emphasised by both genders for various reasons but what we come to see is that these differences are often wildly overstated.

David Olusoga’s epic ‘Black and British’ is an essential read for anyone who tends to ask why? History taught in schools barely scratches the surface when it comes to our shared British history. And understanding that people of colour have had a presence on these shores literally since the Roman Empire only highlights how empty and baseless most fanatical nationalism is. It’s one thing to take pride in your country for no other reason than the lottery of your birth, it’s another entirely to be proud and informed of the history that continues to shape our progress as people.

‘Diversify’ is the compelling case for different points of view. On TV, in front of, and behind the camera, in boardrooms and agencies we see time and time again diversity being conflated with tokenism, we see brands making a play for new sections of society without really believing or standing by the causes. ‘Diversify’ represents our direction of travel, society is becoming evermore culturally entangled and if marketers, managing directors and company owners are serious about avoiding a brandlash it’s high time they got on board.

Black and British by David Olusuga (now available in paperback)

Last year David Olusoga’s acclaimed tv documentary Black and British aired on the BBC, looking at the global expanse of Black history seldom taught in schools. Black and British the book delves deeper than the documentary would allow, illuminating the often forgotten elements of black history in a way that’s both rich and revealing to both keen historians and curious readers.

From the memories of his own childhood, where he “imbibed enough of the background racial tensions of the late 1970’s and 1980’s to feel profoundly unwelcome in Britain” to the stories of Sierra Leone’s Freetown, Black and British is a reminder that while much has changed over recent decades, we are all bound by a shared history.

To try and compartmentalise ‘British’ history from ‘black’ history and ‘others’ is to miss the bigger picture. World history has long been shaped by migration, exploration, greed and profit, understanding all of this is to arm ourselves with knowledge that appears increasingly more necessary in a time where conversations about immigrants and their ‘worth’ to society has never seemed so fevered.

by Akua Ofei

Little Black Book by Otegha Uwagba

Little Black Book is the perfect pocket sized book for the bag. Blazing a trail as founder of ‘Woman Who’, Otegha Uwagba’s Little Black Book is “The Toolkit For Working Women” imparting pearls of wisdom on how to succeed in the 21st century modern world of work.

Written and initially self-published by Otegha Uwagba on a limited run, Little Black Book is now published by 4thEstate Books and has become a Sunday Times bestseller. Instantly accessible and practical with philosophical career advice for its readers, Little Black Book covers topics from public speaking, to nailing the art of networking to money management, building your personal brand to knowing your worth.

A direct and straight-talking book, Little Black Book successfully avoids all the ‘self-help’ clichés and puts women in the driving seat. Small but powerful, this book packs a punch! With a well-thought out, simple layout and structure, it really works, yet at the same time aims to push you outside of your comfort zone – there’s something for everyone. It’s loaded full of advice that really inspires with genuine common sense.

Little Black Book should successfully help you navigate and progress whatever career stage you’re at: starting out, established career woman, freelancer or flourishing entrepreneur. Contributions from Refinery 29’s co-founder Piera Gelardi , author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Tate Britain Curator Linsey Young re-enforces the books credibility and relevance in the modern world, as well as offering perspective and insights from women who have navigated their way to success.

by Vanessa Welham

Inferior: by Angela Saini
How Science Got Women Wrong and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story 

With only nine per cent of the UK’s engineering workforce being female in 2016 its clear that progress remains slow when it comes to recognising and encouraging the talents of women in scientific sectors. Angela Saini takes aim at the enduring ‘bro science’ myths on gender in her new book, Inferior.

“Sexism isn’t something that’s only perpetrated by men against women. It can be woven into the fabric of system.”

Throughout the book, Angela examines various sectors: neuroscience, psychology, medicine, anthropology and evolutionary biology. What becomes clear is that these accepted findings about the differences between men and women (women having higher ’emotional intelligence’ for example, or the idea that men are ruled by testosterone and therefore more sexual, aggressive and dominant) is the real differences are so slight between genders it’s more society’s shaping and treatment of men and women that has seen such scientifically weak theories upheld for so long.

Angela Saini “explore[es] the empowering new portrait of women which look so different from the old one”.

Reviewed by Akua Ofei

Diversify – June Sarpong

‘Diversity’ has become a major buzzword recently. Corporations however regularly mistake tokenism for inclusion in a bid to be seen as progressive and the resulting in tone deaf campaign ideas that alienate, rather than include marginalised groups. Hollywood success stories like ‘Girl’s Trip’ and ‘Get Out’ alongside the unparalleled success of the launch of Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty show that, when executed correctly, true diversity and inclusion means soaring profits and a revered brand image

Broadcaster and presenter June Sarpong MBE has been a media industry professional for more than 10 years, and her new book is researched in partnership with Oxford University, L.S.E. and America’s RICE Institute in Texas. Diversify: Six Degrees of Integration takes a look at particular disadvantaged groups; from disenfranchised men (Muslim, black, white working class), to women, to the working class, LGBTQ and disability, and attempts to break down the benefits of diverse hiring. “Diversify is an argument for the moral, economic and social benefits of diversity.”

Diversify tasks readers with examining the ways in which we each ‘otherise’ people in society and challenges us to break out from these preconceptions.

by Akua Ofei