Author Q&A: Colin Grant on his memoir I’m Black So You Don’t Have To Be

Thursday 15 June

A memoir told through portraits, which build into a poignant, insightful and unforgettable testimony of West Indian British experience


‘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 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 the 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, identity, race and generational change.

Join Colin as he talks to bookseller Ezri Carlebach about his memoir.

Colin Grant’s books include Bageye at the Wheel, short-listed for the Pen Ackerley Prize, and Homecoming: Voices of the Windrush Generation, a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and director of Writers Mosaic. Grant writes for a number of newspapers including the Guardian, Observer and New York Review of Books.

More Brighton and Hove Listings MORE