Natasha Brown wrote Assembly after winning a London Writers Award for literary fiction in 2019. It is a novella that is also both a prose poem and an incisive examination of how racism is rooted in our very language. Structurally, Assembly is a series of jagged-edged shards that when accumulated form an unhappy mirror in which modern Britain might examine itself. The unnamed protagonist is a black Cambridge-educated City worker recently diagnosed with cancer. Her male colleagues belittle her and her white, aristocratic boyfriend is incapable of seeing her for who she truly is, because he cannot grasp the difference between money (hers, earned) and privilege (his, inherited).
There’s something of Isherwood in Brown’s sparse, illuminating prose. Her detached, ‘unfeeling’ protagonist is a camera, recording, not thinking, as she perceives life as a black woman in a country – not to mention an industry – built for white men. The novella covers two days in her life. Her