2020 was a strange year. With the whole world caught up in a pandemic, there was the time and opportunity to witness the murder and consequences of a black man by a police officer in the USA. There was nothing unusual in his death, so many black people died in similar circumstances every day, but this particular death shook the world. Video after video showed the horror of it. There were protests and the world was able to watch. George Floyd became the symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement, although it has been going for a long time. 'Taking the knee' was - and still is - a sign of solidarity with people of colour.
Through all of this, Floyd has become more of an image than a human being. We know of his criminal past and drug use (the police used this in their defence) but little else. This book attempts to change that. It is written by two American journalists who use their reporting skills to dig out and interview the many people who knew George and his family, and to produce a comprehensive account of the man, his ambitions, achievements and the ramifications of his death.
The book is divided into three sections that give a detailed account of his life before, during and after his death. There is no doubt that Floyd was a victim of poverty and prejudice, the conditions of his upbringing are truly shocking. Equally, through perhaps a few too many interviews, he was also very popular and aimed to better himself.
Samuels and Olorunnipa include the history of black people in the USA and modern day challenges, such as the lack of funding for housing and education. It is very grim reading.
An important and structured book that offers a tiny glint of hope that the world may be turning, ever so slightly, into a better one. Perhaps the death of George Floyd will be a catalyst. Recommended reading.
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Published by Random House UK Transworld Publishers on 19 May 2022.
Advanced review copy supplied by the publisher.