In Black and White by Alexandra Wilson

Thank you to Victoria Scales at Octopus Publishing Group for a copy of this recently published paperback book to read and review.


Alexandra Wilson was a teenager when her dear family friend Ayo was stabbed on his way home from football. Ayo’s death changed Alexandra. She felt compelled to enter the legal profession in search of answers. 

As a junior criminal and family law barrister, Alexandra finds herself navigating a world and a set of rules designed by a privileged few. A world in which fellow barristers sigh with relief when a racist judge retires: ‘I’ve got a black kid today and he would have had no hope’. 

In her debut book, In Black and White, Alexandra re-creates the tense courtroom scenes, the heart-breaking meetings with teenage clients, and the moments of frustration and triumph that make up a young barrister’s life. 

Alexandra shows us how it feels to defend someone who hates the colour of your skin, or someone you suspect is guilty. We see what it is like for children coerced into county line drug deals and the damage that can be caused when we criminalise teenagers. 

Alexandra’s account of what she has witnessed as a young mixed-race barrister is in equal parts shocking, compelling, confounding and powerful. 

My thoughts:

This book is a fascinating and thought provoking read, mixing life in modern multi-cultural Britain with the legal profession, full of ancient traditions and rules.

I work with young people via a social mobility charity, who are looking at their future career options, and this book is an excellent introduction to the work and dedication required to become a barrister. It will also be useful to anyone looking at careers in other legal professions, the police and in social work.

This is more than just a book about pursuing a career, it also the personal story of a young woman, who was inspired to study law by a tragic event, and her battles against elitism and racism.

I enjoyed the stories from the court rooms but was horrified to read that in 2020, Alexandra Wilson, dressed smartly for court, was mistaken repeatedly for a defendant.

Alexandra’s book gives the reader a mixture of hope for the future, when people can employ barristers who understand the difficulties faced by ordinary people but you are also left with a sense of frustration at how slowly the legal profession changes and adapts.

This book should be stocked in all secondary school and further education colleges, to inspire students to aim high and to find a career that they will enjoy.

Author Bio:

Alexandra Wilson is a junior barrister. She grew up in Essex and is the eldest of four children. Her mother is White British, her father is Black British and her paternal grandparents were born in Jamaica and came to England as part of the Windrush generation.

Alexandra studied at the University of Oxford and was awarded two prestigious scholarships, enabling her to research the impact of police shootings in the US on young people’s attitudes to the police. She went on to study for a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and her Master of Laws at BPP University in London. Alexandra was awarded the first Queen’s scholarship by the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, a scholarship awarded to students showing exceptional promise in a career at the Bar.

Alongside her paid family and criminal law work, Alexandra helps to facilitate access to justice by providing legal representation for disenfranchised minorities and others on a pro-bono basis. 

Twitter: @EssexBarrister

By Karen K is reading

An avid reader from the age of 4. Love escaping into a good novel after a busy day working with students. Mum of teenagers. Adopter of dogs.

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