Issue 185 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published April 1995 Copyright Socialist Review

My favourite books
Benjamin Zephaniah is a radical rap poet and a political activist

Bloody Valentine is a bloody good book. Authored by John Williams, it tells the story of that miscarriage of justice known as 'the case of the Cardiff Three'.

There are two versions of this book, the first was removed from the bookshops after complaints from some organisations mentioned in the book to the publisher Harper Collins. I was lucky enough to get a copy of the original. What is so good about this book is that it is not only about facts, figures, statements or what was said in court. It starts with a history of the docks area of Cardiff known as Butetown, tracing all the immigrant groups that arrived there, with the murder of Lynette White woven into that history.

Bloody Valentine

This case highlights a big problem that we have with the law and the media--that is, when a body is found and we hear about it the next day, we tend to sit back and wait for someone to be arrested. The police feel that they must get a result. The simplest thing for them to do is arrest local black kids (who they have been trying to arrest anyway) and fit them up. In the real world it happens all the time. Always remember this as you read Bloody Valentine.

Islam for Beginners is one of my favourite books.

It is my view that the capitalist world needs an enemy, not little ones but a big 'threat', and after the collapse of the Soviet Union it is Islam that is now being cast in this role.

Non-Muslims must try to understand the Islamic mind and this book helps you do just that through prose, poetry and cartoons.

I have read many books on Islam in the past but what is so good about this one is that it is very easy to read, in some places it's quite humorous--and it's very difficult to explain Islam without being deadly serious, I can tell you. There is more to Islam than religion, there is Islamic art, music, astrology and architecture for example. All of these subjects are touched upon.

It is not a book that tries to convert you either--it's simply out to give a better understanding of a religion. You can get almost anything for beginners: Malcolm X, Africa, Capitalism, Communism, even Elvis for Beginners.

My next book reads on its front cover as follows: Out of the Night, Writings from Death Row, compiled and edited by Marie Mulvey Roberts with the assistance of Benjamin Zephaniah. Yes, I had something to do with this book, but I did not actually write any of it (only one little poem) and it really is one of my favourite books.

If you are sick of hearing free politicians telling lies and, like me, would rather hear people in prison speaking the truth, this book is for you. I find it very humbling to read the thoughts of people who very basically are waiting to die. Much of it is poetry and much of the poetry is of a very high standard.

I have always felt it crucial that those who have been denied a voice should be given a platform from which to speak. For this reason it is more than a favourite book of mine, it's one of my important books. It is published by New Clarion Press and it is not for the faint hearted.

Being dirty is to be 'hygienically challenged', to he odd is to he 'experientially enhanced' and to have a pet is to have a 'non-human companion'. So says Nigel Ree's Politically Correct Phrase Book--it's a laugh. What is even more funny is hearing all these very serious people repeating many of these phrases.

It's not a big book but one that turns me on every time I dip into it. Many of the words and phrases are accompanied by a history of their use. There's not much to say about this book really, it just has to he read--okay, call it fun. One thing I have always loved about working class people is that they call a spade a spade or they call a bastard a bastard, yet many of their middle class minders spend so much time and energy debating how to tell a fat, smelly bastard to fuck off.


Return to Contents page: Return to Socialist Review Index Home page