#DecolonizeReading2023 Adult Award-Winning Books Features Lifespan of a Reader Literary Fiction Reading Themes Saturday Reads

[Saturday Reads | #DecolonizeReads2023] Decentering Whiteness in Britain in Sam Selvon’s “The Lonely Londoners”

“People in this world don't know how other people does affect their lives.” ― Sam Selvon, The Lonely Londoners


Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.

This year, we hope to feature books that fit any of the following criteria:

  1. Postcolonial literature and/or [pre/post] revolutionary stories
  2. Stories by indigenous / first-nation peoples / people of colour
  3. Narratives of survival and healing, exile and migration, displacement and dispossession
  4. Books written or illustrated by people who have been colonized, oppressed, marginalized
  5. Translated or international literature

The Lonely Londoners [Amazon]

Written by Sam Selvon Published by Penguin Classics (2006, first published 1956) ISBN: 9780141188416 (ISBN10: 0141188413) Bought a copy of the book. Book quote layout via Canva. 

This is the third book that I am reviewing / featuring as part of our #DecolonizeReading2023 reading theme from my target list of 20 books (and 20th book in total since last year) from This Is The Canon: Decolonize Your Bookshelf In 50 Books (Amazon).

My book log indicates that I started reading the book on April 17, 2023 and finished it while I was still in London on April 21.

This was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. It provides a very different portrayal of Britain – decentering Whiteness and focusing instead on the plight of the immigrants from the Caribbean and the West Indies – Black and Brown voices predominating in the pages, the lilting colloquialism a refreshing and invigorating change from stuffy, ‘proper’ English.

I left my copy of the book with my host, Candy Gourlay, a Filipina-British novelist based in London, who was largely unaware of this classic novel. Our conversation during our first evening in their lovely home centered around writing for the ‘White’ gaze and making stories more ‘accessible’ to a White audience in order for it to be considered ‘publish-worthy.’ Enter Sam Selvon, who published in the 50s and who couldn’t care less about pandering to a White audience, and what a liberation it is.

I won’t repeat much of what I have already written in my book journal, but here are some of the more unforgettable quotes from a book that will stay with me for a long time.

This tendency to regard all people of color as a monolith is something that I found to be striking and how tragic is it that it continues to happen until the present time.

That part of the novel where the characters had to surreptitiously capture pigeons because they were unemployed and had nothing to eat (being very careful to not have the White people see their ‘barbaric’ acts, of course) was deeply moving and unsettling, too.

For the most part, the books listed in This Is The Canon: Decolonize Your Bookshelf In 50 Books had left me wanting more and largely unsatisfied, but The Lonely Londoners had made me recommit to reading at least a few more to find stories that would resonate.

#DecolonizeReading2023 Update: 30 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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