The Book Shelf

A Review: Natives, Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire

A book that finally holds up a mirror to the very selective British history that we have come to know and poses the questions that we’ve been too afraid to ask. This month Leah gives us a new spoiler free review. 

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From the tantalisingly provocative title to the strong imagery of London’s iconic landmark Nelson’s Column, we know from the get go that Akala is primed and ready to ruffle a few feathers in this semi autobiographical book. And ruffle feathers he does, in fact he pretty much shaves off the feathers and gives the bird a number 2 all over. In this incredible book Akala gives us the education we deserve and have been longing for since  our brains were filled with half truths and white heroism in our history lessons.

Akala has never exactly had a tendency to mince his words and he is truly on top form throughout Natives, Race & Class in the Ruins of British Empire. What sets him apart in my eyes is that fact he is able to educate us without patronising us or resorting to egotistical self-aggrandising. From the minute you open the book you know Akala sees you the reader as his equal. That being said, the man is a treasure trove of knowledge and realising he has the same amount of hours in the day as the rest of us is enough to make your heart beat triple time. This is why I had to make sure Natives was the first book we discussed in the newly founded Capital XTRA bookclub. You can find us discussing a new book written by a Black author every other Monday on Instagram live.

If any of the following words or phrases spark any kind of emotional response from you then you need to read Natives: The Newcross fire, Mark Duggan, stop and search and The Mcpherson report. Or better still, if they don’t trigger a response from you you definitely need to read this book because knowledge is power my friend! The only way I can really describe Akala’s writing in this ‘part biography, part polemic’ (David Olusoga) is to compare it to when dog owners disguise their pet’s medication in some kind of a treat. He manages to jam pack it with fact after fact after fact yet you don’t walk away feeling painfully overwhelmed. As someone with a strong preference for fiction I did worry that I would lose interest in this writing style but far from it. Like any gripping thriller or decadent romance novel it is impossible to put this book down.

As the spotlight on the Black Lives Matter movement seems to slowly be dimming and as celebrities and influencers seem to be posting fewer guides to anti-racism and allyship I would suggest Natives to anyone looking to get clued up on the Black British history. Akala takes you through everything from the slave rebellions in Haiti to the media portrayal of Linford Christie.

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I can confidently award Natives 5 worms out 5. Get reading as soon as you can but be prepared for a whole lot of head shaking and jaw dropping because the truth is quite shocking to say the least.

 

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