It was a couple of weeks ago, whilst surfing the Internet that I came across the book Almost British, by Olivea M. Ebanks.
Having read a little about it, I thought it would be a good read and tried to get hold of a copy. However, I couldn’t on Amazon or at Waterstones although it is listed with both – I thought… I’ve never heard of this author and her books are selling like umbrellas, on a rainy London day!
Intrigued, I searched the web further to see if there was anywhere else I could get a copy of Olivea’s book, and came across a newspaper article that told me why I couldn’t get hold of one… there is an injunction against Ms Ebanks’ by her employer, with regards to further publication.
Naturally, this made me more curious and with the perseverance I have when ‘all does not seem okay’ – I continued to search for a copy of this banned book – Ms Ebanks prevented from publishing it further that is.
My determination paid-off and a week Saturday gone, I received my copy of Almost British – a signed collector’s one too!
It was 11-days ago, that I started to read Olivea’s book – a memoir of her experiences of racism within Her Majesty’s Prison Service and how she took it to court for discrimination – and yesterday some 431-pages later, I completed it – cover to cover!
I honestly cannot remember the last time, I read a book so intensely and within such a short period and I read many stuff.
Almost British is infectious, and only now can I fully appreciate why Olivea’s employer didn’t want ‘anyone’ getting hold of a copy of her book and the information within it getting out. I just couldn’t put it down, it is gripping.
What’s all the fuss about?
Olivea Ebanks was a senior public servant for HM Prison Service, up until 2010 and held several different roles within the organisation helping both offenders and staff alike up-and-down the country with development.
Despite being a highly intelligent person (clear from her book), a high-achiever and an all-round good performer, Olivea experienced racism ironically not from prisoners but from the so-called leaders of the prison service. You couldn’t make it up.
Almost British is not a ‘poor me’ story, but a detailed account of a black woman’s journey in her fight for justice against those who are no longer ‘overtly’ racist, but covert and underground, providing excellent examples. Olivea also writes about the ill-health with depression her detrimental treatment caused her, and her faith in God which kept her going as well as the love of her mum and husband Rudy.
This book could be anybody’s story about fighting injustice and wrongs, whether black, white, gay or straight – as essentially it is a challenge against the establishment and élite, when things are clearly not right or indeed fair.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) who have banned Olivea’s book, which she self-published at the end of last year, states that Almost British is both ‘unbalanced’ and ‘misleading’. Having read the book, two things that are clear is that Almost British is neither of these.
If anything, Ms Ebanks has been over-generous, balanced and non-misleading despite the adversity she has endured at the hands of her former senior colleagues and employer. It could have been a book full of ‘bitterness’, but it simply is not.
Britain, as I recall is a democratic society and if Almost British is as the MoJ say it is, should allow the reader to make up his or her own mind. If Olivea’s book was unbalanced and misleading, she wouldn’t be the first and definitely not the last either, to write in this way. But a fact is a fact, it is not.
I’ve learned of late, when powerful institutions and more importantly public ones tell us we can’t read a book and actually prevent us from reading it and forming our own opinions, something is clearly wrong.
‘Alarm bells’ should be ringing, as if they came from Big Ben itself which happens to be next to you. They rang loudly in my ears.
My ‘View from the Bottom’…
Reading Olivea’s book, took me through many emotions… anger, frustration, disappointment, sadness, understanding, hope and joy. I kid you not, at one point as I read the last few chapters in a coffee shop, I started to shake. Now, this could have been due to the rain and cold weather, but I’m of the view it was the book!
Strangely, Almost British reads overwhelmingly as if I had written it myself or that it was written ‘personally’ for me. Olivea’s experience parallels that of my own as a public servant, bringing to an abrupt end my 10-year public service career.
Olivea uses words and describes situations, that I use and have experienced and the only thing (that I know) we have in common, is the colour of our skin.
Reading Almost British, has been a surreal experience for me.
Next month, I start my 30-day (6-week) court case in my fight for justice for what I believe the treatment I have suffered has been both harmful to me and unlawful.
I believe in myself and understand right and wrong, and like Olivea I have gone through my own experiences with the love and support of My Husband and the inspiration of My Mum. These two special people, happen to be white too, not that it should matter.
Like Olivea, I too was raised a good person and learned to respect others – but, challenge all that is wrong and unjustified.
Sometimes, although we may not want to do it, we have to stand-up for ourselves. Unless those who cause us harm and misery see the error of their ways, then things will never change and these people and indeed organisations will continue to mistreat and walk over people.
I have no children, but do love and adore my many nieces and nephews who are of all colours (white, black, pink, brown and in-between) and have to make sure that I do my bit where I can, for their future to be both ‘fairer’ and ‘equal’.
Anything less, would be wrong of me.
Max rating: 5/5 *****
As I have stated, I have never read a more ‘balanced’ and ‘non-misleading’ real-life story in such a long time, and at such speed. Olivea should be proud at all she has achieved, not just for writing her book and actually publishing it herself, but for surviving.
We all have people who inspire us, and a lot of mine are no longer here on earth like my beautiful mum, Martin Luther King, Jr., JFK and Gandhi. However, there are a few living people who inspire me… My Husband, Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela. I can now add Olivea M. Ebanks to this list.
I don’t as a norm use foul-language in my everyday vocabulary, and I know Ms Ebanks has a strong faith… but, she had the balls to take on the system when it was clearly wrong, and won – yes, WON! For those who knock her, a win is a win and this is what she did, WIN!
In my writing, I often comment that I’m in no way an activist of any sort and that remains – my idea of ‘activism’ is refusing to do housework when Alex asks (I say NO to manual labour!). That said, we all should speak-up when we know something to be wrong, and more so when the truth has been spoken or in this case ‘written’.
I’ve never met Ms Ebanks and don’t know her, but she has done something wonderful and should know that eventually ‘the truth always gets out, it’s inevitable’. Olivea has played her part and done what was needed, and it is now up to others like myself to encourage those who believe in fairness and equality whatever their race or faith and so forth, to find a copy of her book and read it.
Judge for yourself her story, and whether it is unbalanced and misleading. That’s what I have done.
Towards the end of her book, Olivea gives great ‘food for thought’ having experienced what she has. I was inspired to read that when others have done us injustice, waiting for apologies and for that fact ‘justice’, makes us dependent and at the mercy of others! How true?
Olivea writes that rather than pursue ‘inclusion’ i.e. us wanting or needing to fit in (as comes naturally to most of us), we should be pursuing ‘achievement’. This made me think, that sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you try to fit-in with others and be a team-player and so on, you will never be ‘one of them’. The sooner we understand this, the better for us.
I love that the ‘strongest’ word (possibly) in Olivea’s book is ‘retaliation’ and she doesn’t mean fighting back either! She says that the best retaliation to any form of prejudice or discrimination is… success. As simple as that – priceless.
We all know our own capabilities and limits, yet we often wait for others to approve these and accept us. As Ms Ebanks puts it… expect less from others and more from ourselves.
My brother recently told me… Better to fight on your feet, rather than your knees.
This has been a SPECIAL ‘View from the Bottom’ where Olivea M. Ebanks was… Almost British!
UPDATE: The book, can be bought via Minkah Justice on Amazon or by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Take care, Max x
Live Healthy, Laugh Often & Love Yourself!
Published by My Mum. Copyright © Kevin Maxwell Film, Media & Performance 2011.