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London Crossings: A Biography of Black Britain. (nonfiction reviews).

London Crossings:
A Biography of Black Britain
by Mike Phillips
Continuum, July 2001, $29.95
ISBN 0-826-45292-2

Mike Phillips is a Guyana-born, London-based writer who, together with his highly accomplished brother, Trevor, authored (in 1998) an important chronicle of the history of post-war Caribbean migration to Britain entitled Windrush.

Windrush presented multiple biographies of black Britain. London Crossings, on the other hand, presents a singular biography of black Britain, as told and seen through the eyes of Mike Phillips alone. He makes no claim of authority or representation. Nor does he make a claim for any notion of racial authenticity. Instead, Phillips presents a reflective and engaging summary of Britain, as he has encountered it from the earliest days of his childhood, when he arrived in January of 1956.

London Crossings is a curious, hybrid affair. Much of it is autobiographical.

Some of it exists in the well-established mold of travel writing, and a good bit of this book can also be classified as straightforward journalistic meanderings. Taken together, these disparate ingredients make up a compelling whole.

Readers learn many things about Phillips's life. Family intrigues, his experience of fatherhood--as a son and as a father. We read his reminiscences of travel to many different parts of the globe. Commentary on the state of race relations and racial politics--in the United Kingdom and elsewhere--are never far from Phillips's biographic narrative.

Readers of this book within the United States will find many fascinating insights in London Crossings. For example, Phillips's theories on some of the significant characteristics of African-American writing, and the ways in which such writing compares to similar British genres.

This is a highly unusual book that includes anecdotes, and the author's impressions of a motley assortment of people and places encountered on a thousand journeys.

--Eddie Chambers is a curator and writer of art criticism based in Bristol, England.
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Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Chambers, Eddie
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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