cover image Sufferah: The Memoir of a Brixton Reggae-Head

Sufferah: The Memoir of a Brixton Reggae-Head

Alex Wheatle. Akashic, $26.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-63614-093-3

Novelist Wheatle (Brixton Rock) considers in this inspiring autobiography how reggae music helped him endure childhood abuse and connect with his heritage. Born in 1963 South London to unmarried Jamaican couple Almira and Alfred, Wheatle was left with his father after his mother opted to return to her husband and children in Jamaica. Unequipped to parent on his own, Alfred put Wheatle in the care of the state before he was two years old, commencing a series of Dickensian stays in abusive children’s homes and social services hostels until he was 18. Wheatle’s primary solace was reggae music—particularly the works of Bob Marley, George Isaacs, and Sugar Minott—which helped him ward off “ever-present” loneliness, even as he remained unaware of his Jamaican parentage. After he was thrown in jail for participating in the 1981 Brixton race riots, Wheatle was encouraged by his cellmate to “know who he is and where he stands in the struggle,” and eventually tracked down his family. His journey from orphan to self-possessed storyteller is by turns gripping and heartbreaking. Photos. Agent: Laura Susjin, Susjin Agency. (July)