Book & Film recommendations from Brian Conaghan for #DiversityMonth

brian-conaghan-c-ben-turner-2015-2Brian Conaghan was born and raised in the Scottish town of Coatbridge but now lives in Dublin. He has a Master of Letters in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow. For many years Brian worked as a teacher and taught in Scotland, Italy and Ireland.

His novels include The Boy Who Made it Rain, When Mr Dog Bites, which was shortlisted for the 2015 Carnegie Medal, and The Bombs That Brought Us Together, published in 2016 to critical acclaim.



Brian Conaghan has selected a few books and films about male friendship and cultural identity (a mix of the themes from his books so far) for Diversity Month.



Me and Ma Gal by Des Dillon
A day in the life of boyhood friendship told with a rambunctious beauty. The themes of dislocation, disenfranchisement and difference are examined in a hard-boiled adroit fashion.

Half-Caste and Other Poems by John Agard
Race and cultural identity is at the heart of this book; it’s what shapes it. Agard celebrates the fertility of human diversity in these witty, compassionate and hopeful poems.

The Weight of Water  by Sarah Crossan
A poetic and meditative story of Polish girl Kasienka’s adjustment to life in England. This verse novel subtly captures the notion of displacement, social seclusion and immigration in a highly crafted and unsentimental manner.



American History X (1998)
An excellent overview of 1980s and 90s race relations in the USA. The film is a fairly graphic and uncompromising investigation into a sub-culture that continues to spout its bile behind symbols of hatred.

The Birth of a Nation (1915 & 2016)
The 2016 film tells an important true story about race and human rights in early America. It can be read as a one-fisted salute to D.W. Griffith’s 1915 movie of the same name, which set out to demonise black people. US President at the time, Woodrow Wilson, loved it, by all accounts.

Do the Right Thing (1989)
This is an ecstatic, riotous masterpiece about race in America where racial prejudices and stereotypes are exposed through a series of minor misunderstandings. The film – a microcosm of American culture – is set on the hottest day of the year in a culturally congested neighbourhood.

Four Lions (2010)
This film – about a group of radicalised young British Muslim men aspiring to be suicide bombers – while being obviously hilarious and satirical does highlight the deep segregation and marginalisation that exist in today’s society between faiths, religions and races.




Fourteen-year-old Charlie Law has lived in Little Town, on the border with Old Country, all his life. He knows the rules: no going out after dark; no drinking; no litter; no fighting. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of the people who run Little Town. When he meets Pavel Duda, a refugee from Old Country, the rules start to get broken. Then the bombs come, and the soldiers from Old Country, and Little Town changes for ever.

Sometimes, to keep the people you love safe, you have to do bad things. As Little Town’s rules crumble, Charlie is sucked into a dangerous game. There’s a gun, and a bad man, and his closest friend, and his dearest enemy.

Charlie Law wants to keep everyone happy, even if it kills him. And maybe it will…

And coming in February 2017

We Come Apart
by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan

Jess would never have looked twice at Nicu if her friends hadn’t left her in the lurch. Nicu is all big eyes and ill-fitting clothes, eager as a puppy, even when they’re picking up litter in the park for community service. He’s so not her type. Appearances matter to Jess. She’s got a lot to hide.

Nicu thinks Jess is beautiful. His dad brought Nicu and his mum here for a better life, but now all they talk about is going back home to find Nicu a wife. The last thing Nicu wants is to get married. He wants to get educated, do better, stay here in England. But his dad’s fists are the most powerful force in Nicu’s life, and in the end, he’ll have to do what his dad wants.

As Nicu and Jess get closer, their secrets come to the surface like bruises. The only safe place they have is with each other. But they can’t be together, forever, and stay safe – can they?


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