Letters to Gil
‘A searing, triumphant story. A testament to the tenacity of the human spirit as well as a beautiful ode to an iconic figure’ IRENOSEN OKOJIE
Letters to Gil is Malik Al Nasir’s profound coming of age memoir – the story of surviving physical and racial abuse and discovering a new sense of self-worth under the wing of the great artist, poet and civil rights activist Gil Scott-Heron.
Born in Liverpool, Malik was taken into care at the age of nine after his seafaring father became paralysed. He would spend his adolescence in a system that proved violent, neglectful, exploitative, traumatising and mired in abuse. Aged eighteen, he emerged semi-literate, penniless with no connections or sense of where he was going – until a chance meeting with Gil Scott-Heron.
Letters to Gil will tell the story of Malik’s empowerment and awakening while mentored by Gil, from his introduction to the legacy of Black history to the development of his voice through poetry and music. Written with lyricism and power, it is a frank and moving memoir, highlighting how institutional racism can debilitate and disadvantage a child, as well as how mentoring, creativity, self-expression and solidarity helped him to uncover his potential.
‘A searing, triumphant story. A testament to the tenacity of the human spirit as well as a beautiful ode to an iconic figure’Irenosen Okojie -
‘An incredible story, one that will have you jaw-dropped in disbelief at the cruelty meted out to Malik as a boy but also uplifted by his courageous, irrepressible exuberance, by his determination to defy the shitty hand he was dealt after he was put into the care system. And at the centre of this remarkable story stands the towering figure of Gil Scott-Heron …This is an intensely powerful and vivid memoir … When a book like Letters to Gil comes along, you are reminded of how indomitable the human spirit can be and how light can emerge from darkness, and joy from pain’Jamie Byng -
‘Letters to Gil [is] part of a growing corpus of Black British memoir that confronts difficult subjects … It is also a tribute to artists who blend creative expression with fearless political commentary, such as the hip-hop artists Mos Def, Nas and the members of Public Enemy. With this brave memoir, Al Nasir can be counted among them’TLS -
‘So compelling … Given the magnetism that he clearly displays I only hope that he will find time to be a new leader for the UK jazz movement … Voices such as his are certainly needed. His story is a wake-up call’Marlbank -
‘Tells the story of his life - including his brutal treatment in care homes as a child -and his friendship with the musician-poet [Gil Scott-Heron]. His candid, eye-opening story includes a joyously uplifting tale of the time he accompanied Scott-Heron to meet Stevie Wonder’Independent, Books of the Month -
‘A harrowing yet ultimately heartening memoir, Letters to Gil transcends the purely personal to make an important contribution to the burgeoning science of public history, championed by the likes of David Olusoga’London Jazz News -
”'Get this book and read it… Superb” - The Grooved Review