Terraformed: Book Review & Author Interview

One of the few highlights of 2020 has to be the release of this brilliant, poignant and necessary book by Dr. Joy White. Terraformed: young Black lives in the inner city does an amazing job of detailing the consistent history of systemic oppression Black lives in Britain experience in quotidian ways. White does this by anchoring her argument in the “one mile by one mile radius” of Forest Gate, which falls under the jurisdiction of the East London borough of Newham. A process White defines as “hyper-local demarcation“. In doing so, White ties the area’s past to its present and provides an astute analysis of how local and national government initiatives, policies and (re)generation projects have disproportionately affected the area’s Black communities, causing economic disparities and cultural segregation.  

Terraformed is a compellingly piece of literature which intertwines objective analytical research, favored by the academy, with White’s own experiences and person insight since she herself is a Newham resident. This, to me, is what makes White’s argument so urgent and compelling as it reminds the reader that this knowledge comes at a real human cost, its not abstract! I also really appreciated the critical direction the book takes as White evokes the work of Christina Sharpe and her concept of “wake work” to balance the somber tones of grief, powerlessness and despair with the possibility of hope and self-agency.

While Terraformed can be read as extending care to young Black people today who have had to navigate growing up through austerity, a shrinking welfare state, extortionate higher education costs, and lack of secure job income. The book also does a fantastic job of telling both an intergenerational tale of the area’s race relations and that of the parallels of youth experiences, in the area, over the decades. Terraformed importantly documents a moment that ordinarily doesn’t make it to the news or in the history books. And in doing so White’s does us (Black Brits) a great service by keeping watch and bearing witness to the changes and effects of political regimes on the very fabric of our daily lives. For this I am grateful and truly inspired.

Listen to myself and Julia Toppin’s in conversation with Dr. Joy White, the author of Terraformed, here.


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