In good news for lovers of global literature, history and culture, June is a key month for Caribbean culture and literature. Firstly, June has been designated Read Caribbean month for the fifth year. To discover dozens of incredible novels from this diverse, culturally-rich region of the world, dive into our Collection of Caribbean writers.

In addition, 22nd June 2023 is the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the passengers of the Empire Windrush to the UK. Following a campaign by social commentator and political activist Patrick Vernon, Windrush Day was introduced in June 2018 with the purpose of commemorating and celebrating the contributions of the Windrush Generation and their descendants.

For context, the British Government invited citizens of the British Caribbean to relocate to Britain to help rebuild the “Mother Country” following WWII. On arrival, after voyaging for some four thousand miles, many passengers discovered that England was no land of milk and honey. Britain’s streets were not, as many had been led to believe, paved with gold. In fact, it was far from easy for arriving citizens to pave their way in their cold, and often hostile, new home. 

Unquestionably, despite the prejudice, racism and hardships faced by many migrants, the Windrush generation’s social contribution to Britain was, and remains, substantial and transformative. The same is true of cultural contributions  — Britain’s music, art, food and literature is all the richer thanks to the pioneering passengers who disembarked the Empire Windrush.

To gain a deeper understanding of the experiences of those who arrived in the UK 75 years ago, to understand what it means to be British and Caribbean, and to appreciate the Windrush generation’s continued achievements and contributions through their legacies and descendants, we’ve curated a collection of top-notch literature by brilliant British Caribbean writers and thinkers with connections to the trailblazing Windrush Generation.

Kicking off with an icon of the era — and an icon of the Empire Windrush itself — Anthony Joseph’s Kitch presents an extraordinary account of the life of Aldwyn Roberts, better known Lord Kitchener, the Trinidadian calypsonian. Kitch’s impromptu performance of “London is the Place for Me” is an oft-repeated, important document of the Windrush experience, and Joseph’s book unveils Kitch’s extraordinary life with witty, engaging, enlightening brilliance. 

Recounting the hardships faced by many of those who disembarked the Empire Windrush, Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners is an absolute classic. Written in 1956, this wise, heart-breaking, hilarious story of struggle and survival, conflict and camaraderie, hustling and brotherhood, is one of my all-time favourite novels. Indeed, all Sam Selvon’s works come massively recommended.

The same goes for Colin Grant, whose I’m Black So You Don’t Have to Be memoir is one of our top reads of 2023. At once entertaining and poignant, Grant’s personal portraits of his family paint a profound picture of British West Indian lives.

We also recently relished Alexis Keir’s Windward Family memoir. Born on the island of St Vincent, Keir was raised in Luton and returned to his homeland some twenty years later via transformative experiences in Texas, New Zealand and London. The author’s return to St Vincent and reconnection with his family is astonishingly poignant and thought-provoking, and underpinned by the fact that we never really break bonds with beloved places we leave — beautifully, than say goodbye, Vincentians say, “We coming back.”

Returning now to fiction, mention must be made of the late, great Andrea Levy, whose Small Island is an enriching, multi-perspective, multi-award-winning novel of life in post-war Britain. We also rate Every Light in the House Burnin', in which Levy writes about the children of the first Windrush era migrants.

Lastly, if you’re looking to engage your own children with Windrush Day and British Caribbean experiences, Floella Benjamin’s Coming to England is perfectly-pitched for young readers — radiant with hope while never shirking from the truth of the prejudice Floella experienced as a little girl. A lovely picture book edition is also available, with John Agard’s Windrush Child picture book also highly recommended for 3+-year-olds. 

Meanwhile, the recently-published My Name is Sunshine Simpson, aimed at 9+-year-olds, celebrates the legacy of Britain’s Windrush Generation through the wonderful Sunshine and her beloved grandad, who came to Britain from Jamaica. 

Scroll down to discover brilliant books by writers connected to the transformative Windrush Generation, from soul-stirring fiction, to moving memoirs, to history that should be shared.