Beta
X

19Jun

I Heard What You Said by Jeffrey Boakye review – a lesson in everyday racism

The teacher relates his experiences in the education system – many of them shocking – with insight, intelligence and wit

Jeffrey Boakye draws on 15 years of experience as a secondary school teacher to tackle racism and inequality in Britain’s schools. His experience, like the book, is a mixed bag. For every black student who flourishes under his interest and encouragement, there are instances of overt bigotry and baiting from other students, passive aggression and smirking truculence from peers and colleagues. For every small win there is a depressing realisation, for every apparent triumph a poisonous sabotage. Every time Boakye congratulates himself there is a deep wake of nagging doubts and reservations: “I’ve walked around schools with signs of whiteness jumping out at me at every turn. Science displays of famous scientists from history without a single non-white face represented. Literature timelines guilty of the same.”

Boakye’s tone is pleasantly chatty and lightly humorous; quite a feat while slipping issues of race, class, sex and cultural supremacy into everyday classroom anecdotes. He occasionally lapses into an egregious – and sometimes plain weird – egotism: “Depending on how long you’ve been tracking my movements, you may or may not know that my Twitter handle used to be @unseenflirt… But when the book deals started coming in, I had to think again.” Yet any boasting, humble-bragging and solipsism soon get punctured by Boakye’s actual experiences in the classroom and by the realisation of his own relative smallness in the system.

Continue reading...

Related

I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel review – fizzing debut that’s hard to put down

Patel’s searing novel skitters through a world of toxic exes, mean girls and bad jobs – and it’s ...

Read More >

East Side Voices, edited by Helena Lee review – reflections on exile and exoticism

This thoughtful collection reminds us of the narratives that lie buried beneath belittling stereotyp...

Read More >

Men Don’t Cry by Faïza Guène review – witty novel of everyday French life

The former teenage sensation returns with an acutely observed cast of comic charactersThe young Fren...

Read More >

Skin by Kerry Andrew review – atmospheric novel of loss, loneliness and yearning

The musician and author’s second novel, about a young person’s search for their vanished father, i...

Read More >

Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan review – lives in the margins in gothic Edinburgh chiller

The city’s 20th-century history is refracted through the mysterious occupants of a cursed tenement ...

Read More >

The Shift by Sam Baker review – funny, frank and empowering

Although this ‘menopause memoir’ doesn’t break new ground, it is still vital readingWith its inti...

Read More >