Have you noticed that your child’s GCSE syllabus features almost no BIPOC writers? Breaking this norm, here’s our GoStudent guide on introducing students to a more inclusive syllabus!
Research published in June this year by Penguin and The Runnymede Trust has revealed that “less than 1% of GCSE students in England study a book by a writer of colour” [we prefer the term BIPOC writers] – and only 7% by a female author. This despite the fact that 34.4% of children in England identify as Black, Asian or of an ethnic minority. ✊
Which books should I read of BIPOC writers? 🤔
There is no one answer to that question! The list will no doubt be long and exhaustive and we still might miss out on some important writers.
Though The Guardian did recently publish a list of books which its readers recommended as “A 'decolonised' syllabus: the BAME [Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic] authors you think students should read.”
As for our GoStudent guide, this is a list of my personal favourite books by BIPOC writers that I read through my early and late teenage years.
They were some of the first texts that led me to discover and appreciate literary language. Perhaps even sparking my passion for literature that later helped me choose my future career path as a writer.
These books opened up my then small world towards issues like racism, colonialism, the refugee crisis and even the more tender ones like sexuality, romance and all the taboos surrounding human existence. The characters of these books helped me evolve my emotional intelligence and understand the power of relationships in our lives.
I hope students (and even parents!) find themselves enriched by these books, as much as I did. ❤️
👉 The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseni
An international bestseller, The Kite Runner is Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseni’s debut novel. The heart of the story is about an unlikely friendship that forms between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant.
The book will give students a peek into the lives of those whose home and country is being systematically destroyed. As well as the harsh realities of betrayal, child-rape and what it means to be a refugee.
All while the power of love, friendship and familial bonds continue to move the characters' life forward. 🤗
👉 The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
The God Of Small Things, became the first book by an Indian author to win the Man Booker prize.
In this book writer Arundhati Roy, describes the tropical lushness of Kerala in a language both vivid and exquisite. A hard one to put down for students who love descriptive nature writing! 🏞
The book is about the childhood experiences of fraternal twins, whose lives are pulled apart by what Roy describes as society’s “Love Laws” – that lay down "who should be loved, and how. And how much."
Through this allegory, the author educates her readers about the deep entrenched casteism in Indian society and the injustices it inflicts through discrimination.
The book is also a gateway for students to get interested in Roy’s oeuvre, which is largely her political essays as a renowned human rights activist. ⭐️
👉 The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
One of 20th century’s greatest novelists, Jean Rhys grew up on the Caribbean island of Dominica. Written as a sequel to Charlotte Brontë’s ‘Jane Eyre’, The Wide Sargasso Sea is a redemption of Bertha Mason; Mr. Rochester’s apparently deranged wife. Rhys sees Bertha not as the “aggressor” but the “sacrificial victim”.
Set in the mesmerizing landscape of the Caribbean islands, this novel will reveal to students the cruelty and irony of not being able to conform to the norms of English sexuality. As well as the colonial power of uprooting lives and the pathos it induces in the central character of Bertha.
Born to a Creole mother of Scottish descent and a Welsh doctor father, Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea bears echoes from her own life – of misunderstood identities and a desire to belong.
Linda Grant describes Rhys’ writing as one of “yearning, rage and desire whose unadorned prose hits the solar plexus.” 🔥
A book that will definitely be an impressionable literary read for students.
👉 Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
This two-part graphic novel which was also made into an animated award-winning film, is perfect for students who struggle to read longer novels. 🎦
An autobiographical account, Persepolis narrates the Iranian-born French author’s experience of growing up in Iran before and after the Islamic Revolution.
A poignant coming-of-age novel, through it students will witness Satrapi’s life as a child of war, when she is forced to flee her beloved homeland. 😢
The author’s experiences will also acquaint students with the struggles of cultural adaptation and xenophobia that Satrapi experiences in Austria.
Yet the book has a light touch, often laced with humour which becomes a great way to introduce young students to the difficult themes in the novel.
Persepolis connects the Western and Iranian world, like never before, making it a must-read contemporary literary gem!
👉 Women Of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor
Written in 1982 by African-American writer Gloria Naylor, The Women Of Brewster Place is a set of seven stories. Each featuring one of the female residents of Brewster Place – a fictional poor housing project in America.
As the characters intersect each other’s lives their relationships with each other reveal the hardships of loneliness, poverty and asserting one’s sexual identity.
Though at the core of the book lies the search for home – an inter-generational part of the African American experience.
Students' greatest take back from the book will also be the power of community and friendship. As despite their cultural and social differences, the women of Brewster Place ultimately find belonging and comfort in each other. 🤝
Does this list pique your interest but as parents you are struggling to teach your child how to read and cultivate it as an interest? Then check out our guide on increasing your child’s enthusiasm with reading, that is sure to help you!
At GoStudent we’d like to take full responsibility for students' academic needs so they can make the time to explore such culturally diverse books. Book a trial lesson with us here! 🚀