Five books that celebrate community
Published on: 21 November 2022
My Dad is Definitely Not a Crime Lord author Ben Davis shares his thoughts about how important community is – and his favourite books that celebrate the people around us.
Unless you live on the moon (and if you do, congratulations on getting WiFi up there), you are part of a community. In fact, you probably belong to lots of communities. There’s your street, your town, your school, your football team, your book club. The idea of community is one I’ve always found interesting, which is why I decided to write a book about it.
My favourite thing about the title of my book, My Dad is Definitely Not a Crime Lord, is that it is a blatant lie. The basic premise of the story is that Damian’s dad is in a crime gang, agrees to testify against his former colleagues and is moved with his family to a new area, where they have to take on new identities.
This is particularly difficult for Damian, now Finn, who is adapting to living in a poky flat, sharing a bedroom with his younger sister, on an estate where his family name means nothing to the various dangerous characters that call it home.
Soon, Damian discovers that Dad hasn’t necessarily left his criminal ways behind.
But as I’ve already said, the main theme of the book isn’t crime. What this book is really about is community.
Back when Damian and his family lived in a nice house, they were hermetically sealed from the outside world, and didn’t have to see the consequences of Dad’s actions; the actions that gave them such a comfortable lifestyle. Now, on the Ampleforth estate, the consequences are too clear: people shoplifting because they gave their last money to loan sharks, for instance. The culture of fear, silence and intimidation that follows when a crime gang seizes control of an area. Damian, well Finn, can no longer ignore it.
What he can also no longer ignore is how isolated he once was. His old house was gated-off from the rest of their affluent street. Now, he can hear his neighbour’s TV through the wall, and everyone knows everyone’s business. This is more like the environment I grew up in, and is something I see a lot in my day job as a postman. Often, people who aren’t necessarily the most wealthy have the strongest sense of community. When various things go wrong in the book (I won’t reveal what they are because *spoilers*) the community bands together to help out and support each other.
One of the key points I wanted to get across in this book is that we are all part of a wider community, no matter who we are or how much money we have, and our actions have consequences in that community. It is up to us whether our actions are positive or negative.
Here are five of my favourite books that celebrate community:
A lovely picture book about celebrations that include light across lots of different communities.
Rick is a book about a straight child who wants to understand the LGBT+ community more, so joins the Rainbow Alliance at his school. It leads to better friendships, and a better understanding of a member of his own family.
This book takes a look at the biggest community we know: the community of Earth.
An inspiring story about standing up for your community.
Matthew is trapped in his room by his OCD and watches the residents of his street from the window. I love the depiction of the neighbours in this.
My Dad is Definitely Not a Crime Lord by Ben Davis is available now.