Title: Hello Mum
Author: Bernardine Evaristo
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Paperback|96 pages
Hello Mum is the letter of 14 year old Jerome to his mum. In this letter he attempts to outline what life growing up as a black teenager on a council estate in London is like. Although the book is short, not even 100 pages, it packs a real punch and it paints a life dominated by knife crime, drug dealing and an unjust and problematic police system. He attempts to explain how these unfortunate circumstances led up to a certain event that is not revealed until the end of the book, although it is quite foreseeable.
Being written in an engaging way, the story portrays a child growing up in a disadvantaged area, in a bedroom the size of a cupboard, having to watch every penny. Obviously he is looking for protection only members of gangs seem to be able to provide, which inevitably forces him to join certain groups. Although the world is mostly against and he is constantly discriminated based on skin colour, he remains a good and loving person, but he lacks direction. Bernardine Evaristo perfectly captures a multi ethnic dimension in her book, offering the reader sort of an insight into the life of a black family suffering because of domestic violence, an unjust education system, toxic masculinity and poverty.
As about my rating, I cannot give it five stars, I feel, that although the book is offering a look at the inner city through the eyes of Jerome, the participant, it lacks emotion. I was expecting it to be emotionally written throughout the story. However, I can completely understand why it is so considering the story is told by a 14 year old boy who grows up thinking expressing your emotions is ‘unmanly’ and a sign of weakness. The ending is foreseeable, which kind of made everything less tragic, but it still is indeed a powerful story inspired by reality. In case you decide on reading the book I advise you to not read the blurb. I recommend the book to anyone and everyone as it stands as a reminder and proof of the unfair, racist and dreadful world we live in.