When Colin Grant was growing up in Luton in the 1960s, he learned not to ask his Jamaican parents why they had emigrated to Britain. 'You have some place else to go?' But now, seventy years after the arrival of ships such as the Windrush, this generation of pioneers are ready to tell their stories.
A BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week A Daily Telegraph Book of the Year
'Hopeful and angry, joyful and tear-jerking' Grazia 'An extraordinary and compelling book' Daily Telegraph 'Prickles with beautiful, comic and brutal details' Observer 'Oral history at its finest' Daily Mail
Homecoming draws on over a hundred first-hand interviews, archival recordings and memoirs by the women and men who came to Britain from the West Indies between the late 1940s and the early 1960s. In their own words, we witness the transition from the optimism of the first post-war arrivals to the race riots of the late 1950s. We hear from nurses in Manchester; bus drivers in Bristol; seamstresses in Birmingham; teachers in Croydon; dockers in Cardiff; inter-racial lovers in High Wycombe, and Carnival Queens in Leeds. These are stories of hope and regret, of triumphs and challenges, brimming with humour, anger and wisdom. Together, they reveal a rich tapestry of Caribbean British lives.
Homecoming is an unforgettable portrait of a generation, which brilliantly illuminates an essential and much-misunderstood chapter of our history.
Colin Grant is a historian and author of four highly praised books, including Bageye at the Wheel, a memoir about his Jamaican family. He is an Associate Fellow in the Centre for Caribbean Studies, and teaches creative non-fiction writing. He has worked as a BBC radio producer and writes for many publications, including the Guardian, Times Literary Supplement and New York Review of Books.
In Homecoming... Colin Grant collates fragments from several hundred interviews, first-hand and archival, with a cross-section of Caribbean immigrants to Britain from the 1940s and early 60s, and allows his subjects to speak for themselves in idiosyncratic statements that refuse to be co-opted into a generalized account of immigrant experience... A fascinatingly varied tapestry emerges of why people came, what they made of it when they got here, and how they related both their Caribbeanness and their blackness. -- Lloyd Bradley Times Literary Supplement [A] superb oral history... Interspersed with social commentary and pages of sprightly autobiography. -- Ian Thomson Tablet Interesting and nuanced. Literary Review The structure of Homecoming gives its subjects space to speak for themselves, with each vignette providing a glimpse into little known history... Grant's collection of voice...exposes effectively the cruel logic of Britain's legacy of domination. -- Renni Eddo-Lodge Guardian Colin Grant has interviewed and collected nearly 200 voices from [the Windrush] era, from all walks of life, including policemen and fascists. It's quite a feat. -- Bernardine Evaristo i Newspaper [An] impressive work of oral history. BBC History The Windrush generation's voices are rarely heard, but Grant's anthology is informative and funny, a well-researched window into a vanished world. -- Sarah Hughes i [Grant] lets people speak for themselves... there is much to enjoy. Some of the memories are painful, some are joyous, others are much more ambivalent. -- Clive Davis The Times Hundreds of first hand interviews, archive footage and memoir extracts of the Windrush Generation, beautifully edited into a patchwork quilt of experience and heritage. It's so powerful hearing these voices direct, making for a hopeful and angry, joyful and tear-jerking read. Grazia Drawing on scores of first-hand accounts, Colin Grant offers oral history at its finest. -- Bel Mooney Daily Mail Grant is the writer to do justice to [the Windrush Generation's] lives... he has conducted dozens of interviews, dug into the Mass Observation archives, and combed through semi-forgotten oral histories from the 1960s to produce this anthology of submerged lives that prickles with beautiful, comic and brutal details. Observer A remarkable oral history of black postwar British life... Homecoming is an extraordinary and compelling book in which the memories of bus drivers, civil servants, engineers, nurses, RAF and army recruits, teachers, shop stewards and seamstresses jostle with those of journalists, musicians, novelists and poets... The recovered memories in Homecoming are a formidable challenge to those still nostalgic for a lost empire, to all who cling to narrow and parochial definitions of Britishness... The voices in Homecoming sing throughout the book but they also reverberate pain, for so many are recounting stories they do not want to remember. -- Hazel V Carby Daily Telegraph
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