Afua Hirsch: ‘Brit(ish). On Race, Identity and Belonging’.
Another review of sorts. Because I have time. Because I enjoyed the book. Because in my clunky and inadequate way I want to oppose racism – even though my colour and the baggage I carry makes it likely I will execute that aspiration worryingly badly.
Brit(ish) is a rounded, personal, accomplished book on Afua Hirsch’s struggle – and it is a struggle – to get comfortable with her own identity; the imprint she should make. It’s generous and good. It speaks to ‘the denial of our imperial past & the racism that plagues our present’. (Robbed from back cover, but true enough). But hey – go see what I said. Despite the unflattering pic below! 🤣
So, yeh I liked it. Am something of a fan, in fact, having seen a certain amount of Afua Hirsch on the telly-box, lately. Find the intrigue around her relative affluence (and the obvious and profound need to ‘find herself’) rubbing up against her partner Sam’s “in the hood-ness” engaging in more than one sense. Hirsch is open about the frisson between her and Sam, much of it arising from their different (though partially shared) upbringings. The author is admirably self-aware, around this.
Quite right but hugely important to recognise your own privileges: this Afua does, whilst still going on to make a legitimate and compelling case for the continuing, multi-layered existence – arguably preponderence – of racism(s). She is medium-posh and opportunities have been there but so has crass prejudice. Things are complex, often in a bad way.
On her journey, Hirsch also gets stuff wrong. Senegal and Ghana, though necessary and urgent, even, really don’t work out. Again, very much to her credit, there are bold admissions and absolutely no self-pity, here.
An admission of my own. I don’t immediately know who Philippe Sands is. (Gonna google, any minute). On the back cover he provides the following quote:
‘Wonderful, important, courageous… Warm, funny and wise”.
‘Brit(ish)’ is probably all, or most of that. But I found the word ‘warm’ interesting and wondered briefly if this reflected a certain cosiness… which might be something of a negative(?)
Could be that this book is less directly challenging than the Layla F Saad or Renni Eddo-Lodge works I’ve read recently – reviewed elsewhere. But no. It’s warm in the sense of its generosity, its open-ness, I think. It’s personal without being indulgent: it reveals. So I like it; I rate it and do recommend.