#BlogTour In Black and White – Alexandra Wilson

‘Ayo was not in a gang. He was just an unfamiliar face to these boys. He was a black teenage boy in the wrong place at the wrong time. His friend managed to escape from the cul-de-sac. Ayo was not so fortunate. He was caught by the boys. Despite pleading with them, he was stabbed over 14 times before being left for dead. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene. He was just 17 years old.’

Alexandra Wilson was a teenager when her dear family friend Ayo was stabbed on his way home from football. Ayo’s death changed Alexandra. His death compelled her to enter the legal profession to search for answers. As a junior criminal and family law barrister she finds herself navigating a world and a set of rules designed by a privileged few. A world in which barristers sigh with relief at the retirement of a racist judge: ‘I’ve got a black kid today and he would have had no hope.’

In her debut book In Black and White, Alexandra beautifully re-creates the tense court room scenes, the heart-breaking meetings with teenage clients and the moments of frustration and triumph that make up a young barrister’s life. Alexandra speaks with raw honesty about her experience as a mixed-race woman from a non-traditional background in a profession that is sorely lacking in diverse representation. A justice system in which a disproportionately large number of black and mixed-race people are charged, convicted and sent to prison.

She shows us how it feels to defend someone who hates the colour of your skin or someone you suspect is guilty, and the heart-breaking youth justice cases she has worked on. We see what it’s like for the teenagers coerced into county line drug deals and the damage that can be caused when we criminalise teenagers. Her account of what she has witnessed as a young mixed-race barrister is in equal parts shocking, compelling, confounding and powerful.
Alexandra’s story is unique in a profession still dominated by a section of society with little first-hand experience of the devastating impact of violent crime.

In Black and White is an absolutely fascinating read for so many reasons! Although I read a lot of crime novels, I would have to say that my understanding of how the court system works is definitely not as good as it could be. Alexandra very clearly outlines how many aspects of the legal system function and what different terms mean and this has led to a few ‘light bulb’ moments for me! As a female reader, it is great to read such an interesting book by a young woman who has succeeded and made her way into a highly competitive system when the odds were not necessarily in her favour. At the very beginning Alexandra writes about her cousin Ayo and the tragic circumstances surrounding his death. Whilst I had a limited understanding of elements of racism within the justice system, I was unaware of many of the aspects which Alexandra discusses. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn.

I really like how In Black and White is written. I found it very easy to read and not too technically challenging to understand. It has a very conversational feel to it and is a really nice balance between life and work related anecdotes. Alexandra does not shy away from talking about difficult issues both in her training where she has unfortunately been subjected to some very strange and unpleasant comments from other members within the profession but also those within society. She frequently talks about the challenges that a lack of diversity create and it has opened my eyes to quite a few things that I simply did not know or understand the extent of. One of the other strengths of this book is that there are references and a bibliography provided and further reading. I definitely would like to read more around this area to increase my understanding.

I think this is an important book and a very accessible book so I really hope that it will be widely read. Seeing someone so passionate about her career and her drive to make changes rather than just accept things are and will be how they are is really inspiring. We need to do better as a nation but I think there is most definitely hope.

Thank you to Octopus, to Alexandra and to Random Things Tours for having me on this #BlogTour.

Published by Intensive Gassing About Books @AboutGassing

Anaesthetist and Intensive Care doctor with a passion for reading in my spare time!

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