Today marks publication day for Alexandra Wilson’s brilliant memoir, In Black and White: A Young Barrister’s Story of Race and Class in a Broken Justice System (Octopus).
There’s been a serious buzz around this book in the run up to publication. This week, Alexandra has appeared on BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour and has been featured in Grazia Magazine and The Daily Telegraph. She recently spoke about her memoir on ITV news, and an interview and extract from the book were featured in The Sunday Times Magazine.
The book was recently named as “One to Watch” in The Bookseller, and received a glowing review from author Benjamin Zephaniah, who said ‘Raw, ambitious drive, with compassion at its heart, is a rare thing. But here it is. This is the story of a young woman who overcame all the obstacles a very old profession could throw at her, and she survived, with her integrity intact.’
Alexandra has also been named as Barrister of the Week by The Lawyer Magazine, and was awarded “Queen of the Week” by Six the Musical.
Sarah Langford, author of In Your Defence, also gave a fabulous quote: “An inspirational, clear-eyed account of life as a junior barrister is made all the more exceptional by the determination, passion, humanity and drive of its author. Anyone interested in becoming a barrister – or seeing how the law really works – should read it.”
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.
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.