Book Review: Benjamin Zephaniah, Windrush Child
Written in 2020, Benjamin Zephaniah has written a children’s book dealing with a very current news story (the now infamous Windrush Scandal) but with ever recurrent themes:
1. Who is British and what does it mean to be British?
2. The impact of colonialism on the British & Caribbean mindset
3. Post war Black immigration and English racism
4. The effect of the modern day "hostile environment” policy as stated by Theresa May
It begins and ends with the main character (Leonard) being held in a detention centre. In between it tells the story of a young boy of Maroon heritage and his childhood in rural Jamaica, his journey on the ship over to here to begin his new life in Manchester, his English schooldays and surviving racism whilst reconnecting with his father who had arrived in Britain long before both Leonard and his mother.
We are brought up short towards the end of this tale when, in his older years, Leonard decides to revisit the island of his birth…the rest as they say is history.
Written in parts using Jamaican language, Windrush Child is a timely reminder that our position here remains perilous and questioned - whether we are born here or not. That most precious of documents, the royal blue British passport, which we are now having to return to courtesy of Brexit, remains at the heart of the matter. Leonard did not have his own personal passport, but had travelled over here with his mother, on hers. It was not a legal requirement then but Leonard, like thousands of others today, is deemed illegal with no automatic right of abode.