As a child I loved English classics, but when I was 14 or 15 I stumbled across James Baldwin in the library. I think it was Go Tell it on the Mountain. It was a revelation. For the next six years I just read black literature. It was such a marvellous uncovering of books that were mine and my ancestors'. Toni Morrison could do no wrong for me; The Bluest Eye is full of longing and emotion. Recently I loved Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a fabulous first novel with by a 14-year-old Nigerian girl as narrator.
These days I read more non-fiction. I enjoyed Scanty Particulars by Rachel Holmes, which is about Dr James Barry, a 19th-century surgeon, quite a flamboyant character, who had a black manservant and travelled all over the place trying out surgical techniques and getting into scrapes. I'm reading The Unfortunate Colonel Despard, by Mike Jay. Despard was the last man in England to be hung, drawn and quartered. He was a contemporary of Nelson who had a black wife and fought in the Caribbean.
The Night of the Hunter, directed by Charles Laughton in 1955 and seen through the eyes of two children whose father has been imprisoned. It's mesmerising and horrifying; nightmarish in an almost cartoon-like way.
Treat in store
The touring Black Victorians exhibition is at Birmingham museum until April 2. It has the portrait of Mary Seacole from the National Portrait Gallery (pictured), so I won't have to go to London. We should show our black youngsters that we have a history, that our people have contributed to the social fabric.
Best on the web
I found some fascinating sites when I put together a database on black people and science for the Afro-Caribbean Network for Science and Technology. One is Nesta's www.planetscience.org, which has brilliant stuff for children. Another is www.racesci.org: stylish and packed with astonishing information. The database will be up and running on www.ishangohouse. com in the next few weeks.
Paula Edmondson, 42, is a teacher and freelance literacy officer in Birmingham. Details of the exhibition Black Victorians: Black People in British Art, 1800-1900 at www.bmag.org.uk. Interview by Karen Gold