LIDC’S Lockdown Literature: seven books to get through the third lockdown
Written by Professor Claire Heffernan and Jenny Oster Warriner
March 3, 2021
Discovering informative, fascinating and provocative reads has become a treasured pastime of mine during lockdown 3.0. We are living through a period of heightened anxiety, but also prevailing boredom and restlessness for many who are staying at home. Finding a break in the day to sit down with a good book – to expand our knowledge, provide a new form of escapism, or for entertainment – can be a crucial way to prioritise our wellbeing and get through the pandemic.
I would like to share some of my favourite reads with LIDC’s members. I hope they spark your interest this lockdown.
THE LOUDER I WILL SING by LEE LAWRENCE
Early one morning in 1981, armed police burst into the home of Cherry Groce. They were looking for her elder son, who did not live there. Aged 11 at the time, this book’s author, Lee Lawrence, could only watch in horror with his siblings as their mother was shot and paralysed. Shrapnel from the shooting remained in her spine, becoming infected and later killing her. Cherry Groce’s shooting led to a mass uprising in Brixton, a community whose black population had long been subjected to oppressive policing. ‘The Louder I will sing ‘ is the product of Lee’s mission, as an adult, to tell a story that needs to be told.
GUEST HOUSE FOR YOUNG WIDOWS: AMONG THE WOMEN OF ISIS by AZADEH MOAVENI
(Scribe UK, 2019)
Written by journalist and Senior Gender Analyst with International Crisis group, Azadeh Moaveni, this book tells the stories of 13 young women who joined ISIS. Based on interviews with women across Europe and the Middle East, Moaveni looks at their motivation for joining, exploring the reasons why young women would leave behind their lives and in some cases their families to embark on often perilous journeys to join this terrorist group. It is fascinating to read and learn about ISIS women from a previously untold point of view.
SPOON-FED by TIM SPECTOR.
(Jonathan Cape, 2020)
Tim Spector is the lead researcher behind the world’s biggest citizen science health project – the Covid Symptom study app. This free tool has been used by more than 4 million people in the UK, US, and Sweden. The app identifies new symptoms of the disease and risk factors as well as monitoring its progress to warn health authorities. In Spoon-Fed, Spector dispels myths and rumours around what we eat and challenges what we are told by food companies.
WHY I’M NO LONGER TALKING TO WHITE PEOPLE ABOUT RACE by RENI EDDO-LODGE.
(Bloomsbury Circus, 2017)
This book by award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge expands on her 2014 blog where she discusses the emotional disconnect and denial of the majority of white people when engaging in the topic of race and structural racism.
Eddo-Lodge describes how it feels to try and explain the experience of racism to those who ‘believe that their skin colour is the norm’ and act defensively to polite explanations of how the privilege of being born white effects those not born with white skin. I’m particularly struck by the author’s interactions with the ‘denials, awkward cartwheels and mental acrobatics’ that follows when the idea that white skin might be a privilege is presented to them, much less the idea that black history is systematically censored and erased.
Described as a book that ‘sparked a national conversation’, it is well worth a read for those wanting to learn more about race relations in 21st century Britain.
AMERICANAH by CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE
(Fourth Estate, 2014)
Americanah, a National Book Critics Circle Award-winning novel by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, tells the powerful story of Ifemulu and her teenage boyfriend, Obinze and their experiences of dislocation after fleeing military dictatorship in Nigeria. Tracing the lives of Ifemulu in America and Obinze in Britain, the novel is written across continents and decades, thoughtfully touching on issues of race, loss and identity. It brilliantly blends a love story with insight into structural inequality, oppression and the politics and anxieties surrounding migration.
STUCK: HOW VACCINE RUMOURS START – AND WHY THEY DON’T GO AWAY by HEIDI LARSON
(OUP USA, 2020)
In Stuck, Heidi Larson, Professor of Anthropology and Founding Director of the Vaccine Confidence Project at LSHTM, uses her expertise to examine today’s pressing global vaccination debates, particularly the 21st century’s mainstreaming of anti-vaccination positions and its significance for human health.
Larson is one of our key speakers at LIDC’s event ‘Vaccines: Ending the Pandemic in a world plagued by rumours and scepticism’ on April 15, 2021. Alongside Dr Jonathan Kennedy, Larson will speak on social and political factors impacting the uptake of vaccinations and how vaccine rumours start and are spread in the context of Covid-19.
HAITI: THE AFTERSHOCKS OF HISTORY by LAURENT DUBOIS
(Picador Paper, 2013)
In this well-researched book, Historian Laurent Dubois helps the reader to gain a deeper understanding of Haiti. He provides a detailed and insightful history of the country and its struggles, which goes beyond the 2010 earthquake and harmful reductionist images of Haiti as poverty-stricken. This deeper picture gives a more balanced and accurate view of the country than often portrayed in the media.
The topics you can engage with this lockdown are endless and the above titles are just a few of my highlights (picking just seven was a hard task!).
I’d be interested to know if any of the books on my list have been your lockdown reads, or what you are currently reading and why. Tweet us your thoughts: I’m @cheffernan_LIDC, LIDC is @LIDC_UK
PS! You may also enjoy my top seven podcasts I highlighted on our blog last Autumn https://lidc.ac.uk/seven-podcasts-to-listen-to-this-autumn/ .