If My Words Had Wings by Danielle Jawando

Recommended by: Stephen Dilley/@stephenjdilley

Form and Genre: Novel

Length: 350 pages

Summary: Hard-hitting but beautifully written novel about a Black British teenage boy’s experiences in prison and after his release, exploring some of the injustices in the criminal justice system and wider British society which disproportionately affect people of colour, but also showing how poetry can help people to discover and reclaim their own voice.

Age recommendation and challenging content: Contains violence, references to self-harm and suicide, recreational drug use and very frequent strong language – probably suitable for Year 9 upwards, thinking carefully about issues that might affect individual readers. 

Notable reasons for recommending this book: This is an incredibly powerful novel which, like Jawando’s previous novels, explores issues relating to racial justice in a British context (often students explore these issues more commonly through an American prism.) Although it is harrowing, it is also a very hopeful read, particularly because of the use of poetry.

Further information for teachers: Jawando includes references to lots of Black poets such as Lemn Sissay and Caleb Femi which readers might enjoy exploring alongside the novel.


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