Brit(ish) : On Race, Identity and Belonging

4.32 (5,288 ratings by Goodreads)
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4.32 (5,288 ratings by Goodreads)

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Where are you really from?

You're British. Your parents are British. You were raised in Britain. Your partner, your children and most of your friends are British.

So why do people keep asking you where you are from?

Brit(ish) is about a search for identity. It is about the everyday racism that plagues British society. It is about our awkward, troubled relationship with our history. It is about why liberal attempts to be 'colour-blind' have caused more problems than they have solved. It is about why we continue to avoid talking about race.

In this personal and provocative investigation, Afua Hirsch explores a very British crisis of identity. We are a nation in denial about our past and our present. We believe we are the nation of abolition, but forget we are the nation of slavery. We are convinced that fairness is one of our values, but that immigration is one of our problems. Brit(ish) is the story of how and why this came to be, and an urgent call for change.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 384 pages
  • 162 x 240 x 36mm | 611g
  • Jonathan Cape Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1911214284
  • 9781911214281
  • 220,574

Review Text

An admirable guide to our mixed-up, mixed-race modern nation.
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Review quote

Brit(ish) is a wonderful, important, courageous book, and it could not be more timely: a vital and necessary point of reference for our troubled age in a country that seems to have lost its bearings. It's about identity and belonging in 21st-century Britain: intimate and troubling; forensic but warm, funny and wise. -- Philippe Sands Brit(ish) brings together a thoughtful, intelligent, accessible, informative investigation on Britain as a nation not only in the midst of an identity crisis but in denial of what it has been and still is. -- Dolly Alderton Highly personal and yet instantly universal, this is a book that millions will instantly relate to. Hirsch places her own lifelong search for identity and a sense of Britishness against the backdrop of our national identity crisis. Part historical exploration, part journalistic expose of racism and class disadvantage in modern Britain, this is a book searching for answers to some very big questions. Delving behind words like 'prejudice', 'disadvantage', 'structural-racism' Hirsch unpacks the real world impact of these forces and on the lives of real people. Written with passion not anger, insight rather than resentment, on the issues of race, identity and the multiple meanings of Britishness this is the book for our divided and dangerous times. -- David Olusoga Memoir, social analysis and an incisively argued challenge to unconscious biases: this is a truly stunning book on racial identity by a remarkable woman. -- Helena Kennedy [A] bracing and brilliant exploration of national identity ... Through her often intensely personal investigations, she exposes the everyday racism that plagues British society, caused by our awkward, troubled relationship to our history, arguing that liberal attempts to be colour-blind have caused more problems than they have solved. A book everyone should read: especially comfy, white, middle-class liberals. -- Caroline Sanderson * The Bookseller, Editor's Choice * This is less a polemic about the past than an attempt to illuminate the problems of the present. Hirsch is exacting in her observations of how this history manifests itself today... This is a fierce, thought-provoking and fervent take on the most urgent questions facing us today. -- Diana Evans * Financial Times * A warm, informative and occasionally heart-wrenching blend of the personal and the political, and the messiness in between the two... She asks some uncomfortable questions, challenging us as individuals, the government, institutions and society at large, to think carefully about what constitutes Britishness and how it can be a term that embraces communities of colour in the UK... Hirsch's book is more than a countrywide conversation-starter, though: it's a deeply personal look at who she always knew she was, but didn't feel ready to say yet. -- Nikesh Shukla * Observer * Skilfully blending memoir, history and social commentary around race, culture and identity. Hirsch writes with an incisive honesty that disproves the idea that privilege can be easily reduced to racial binaries... Hirsch shows us that the issues are complicated, that blackness is no more homogeneous than whiteness, and that we do need to talk about it if anything is to change. -- Bernardine Evaristo * Times Literary Supplement * A dazzling book of stories ... Brit(ish) is, despite everything, a hopeful book ... It is impossible to do justice to the scope of this book ... The book teems with fascinating and uplifting as well as tragic stories ... This is writing that really shines. -- Martina Evans * Irish Times * Brit(ish) is the work of a confident social guide ... The power of her writing matches that of other important black writers, among them [Paul] Gilroy and, going back two centuries, the American abolitionist John Brown Russwurm. -- Colin Grant * Guardian * Searing ... Afua Hirsch's memoir adds a new chapter to the body of work on race in the UK. -- Burhan Wazir * New Statesman * What truly rings loud throughout Brit(ish) is Hirsch's refusal to believe Britain's accepted version of our turbulent racial history ... If you're looking for a deeper delve into our hidden past, Brit(ish) is the book for you. -- Ava Welsing-Kitcher * Stylist * An admirable guide to our mixed-up, mixed-race modern nation. -- Ian Thomson * Spectator * Engaging and thought-provoking... Hirsch skillfully demonstrates how racism is so intrinsically embedded in our culture * Nudge * Hirsch's writing is powerful, and ranges across a good number of subjects... Beyond the personal experiences, there are lots of pertinent observations in Brit(ish). There are nuggets of history and eye-opening details about the slave trade, the American South and Hollywood ... Brit(ish) is a fiery essay. -- Kwasi Kwarteng * Sunday Times * This is essential reading on identity, and how what it means to be British perhaps needs to be recalibrated. * Stylist * Brilliant... Hirsch outlines a compelling vision for change... Her writing is both intensely personal and incredibly resonant: whatever your background and racial identity, Brit(ish) will make you think. * Refinery29 * Sure to be a conversation starter. -- Layla Haidrani * Metro * Blazingly intelligent and beautifully written ... To those of us who swan easily through life, our place in it never questioned, Hirsch's book is both a sharp rejoinder and necessary wake-up call. -- Sarah Hughes * i News * A stirring interrogation of race and identity from an exciting, sharp mind. -- Irenosen Okojie * Tablet * Heart-warming, heart-breaking and informative. -- Jacinta Ruscillo * Melan Mag * Engrossing ... we daresay that [Brit(ish) is] essential reading. * Pride Magazine, The Buzz List * Tackles our squeamishness about race with wit and wisdom. -- Lucy Brooks * CultureWhisper * An utterly fascinating book on important aspects of contemporary Britain. -- Marina Valzey * The Arts Desk * An alarming and essential read. -- Olivia Ovenden * Esquire **10 Books We're Looking Forward To In 2018** * London's Big Read wants to get the capital talking about [Brit(ish)] ... a personal and provocative exploration of British history, race, identity and belonging. -- Jessie Thompson * Evening Standard * Afua Hirsch's new book uses the personal and political to take a good look at what it's like to be a person of colour here, now. Here's where you'll get an insight into what it means to be a mixed race and univocally British, yet continuously plagued with the question 'but where are you really from?' -- Jazmin Kopotsha * Debrief * An excellent read. -- Stephen Bush * Telegraph * [A] personal and admirably honest account of her journey towards self-realisation as a woman of colour. * Camden New Journal * A fascinating...deeply intelligent, witty and often moving exploration of race in modern Britain -- Samira Ahmed * Mail on Sunday *
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About Afua Hirsch

Afua Hirsch is a writer, journalist and broadcaster. She is a columnist for the Guardian, and appears regularly on the BBC, Sky News and CNN. Brit(ish) is her first book and was awarded a Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Prize for Non-Fiction.
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Rating details

4.32 out of 5 stars
- 5,288 ratings
5 47% (2,473)
4 41% (2,183)
3 10% (535)
2 1% (64)
1 1% (33)
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