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Growing up Black in a White World

  14 Oct '21   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Blood and Gold by Mara Menzies

This is a book that you won’t be expecting. But it is a book that you need – indeed that we all need. It is a book that will inspire you, exhaust you, move you, uplift you and fill you with hope for Scotland’s future. It is a generous book that offers breathing room to a difficult subject and approaches it with a freshness that will surprise. This is a book that we have truly never seen before.

Blood and Gold: A Journey of Shadows is a deeply inspiring first novel employing Scottish and Kenyan storytelling traditions to explore racism in Scotland, the legacy of colonialism and the problems faced by a young woman growing up black in a white world. As a story, it also bears witness to an older generation growing up female, growing bravely, in a community where women were not encouraged to learn and explore. It is a book that requires you and I, as readers here in Scotland, to consider and appreciate who we are as individuals, who we can become and how as a nation we can grow. It will break open your heart and your mind.

The author, the powerful Edinburgh-based performance artist Mara Menzies, has created a skilful blend of moving narrative, myth and history, woven together to create a powerful new platform from which to discuss race. Her writing does not shout but it does cry out – eloquently – as she brings truth and experience through storytelling and in doing so lays out concepts of justice and injustice, intention and opportunity in fantastical prose, inviting us to reflect and to consider the world anew. Her stories are those of a dying mother passing knowledge and understanding to her daughter and that young girl embarking on an incredible journey. As she learns about her African ancestry, Jeda discovers the pain suffered by those who went before her and their loss and sacrifice. She struggles to understand the complexity of worlds torn apart by greed and hatred, of beauty spoiled and a darkness that threatens across the world. But ultimately Mara Menzies tells us a story of sacrifice across generations, pride, love, empowerment and belonging. And hope.

The book is handsome, the cover boasting an illustration by Edinburgh artist Eri Griffin. It is a book to share and to gift. And to read.

The future belongs to brave writers and thinkers. Mara Menzies is one of those.

Jan Rutherford, October 2021

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