Baroness Lawrence: ‘Education can take you anywhere’

This week on the Women’s Prize podcast Vick Hope is joined by the extraordinary campaigner and author Baroness Doreen Lawrence of Clarendon, OBE. Following the tragic murder of her son Stephen Lawrence, Doreen spent decades campaigning for police reform, culminating in the landmark inquiry that described the Met Police as ‘institutionally racist’. Now Doreen is a passionate advocate for education, devoting herself to supporting young people across the country through the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation, as well as advising parliament on race relations.

Doreen talks to Vick about the books that have given her both courage and escape, as well as reflecting on the inspiring trailblazers behind them, from Maya Angelou to Michelle Obama. Scroll on for a glimpse of Doreen’s essential reading list or listen to the powerful conversation in full here

The Color Purple

A powerful cultural touchstone of modern American literature, The Color Purple depicts the lives of African American women in early twentieth-century rural…

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‘I loved [the character’s] strength. Even though all those things happened to her – her husband beating her – she came out of it and realised her own strength and started making garments and becoming herself … We can learn so much from her.’


The winner of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize and a finalist for the 1987 National Book Award, Beloved remains American novelist Toni Morrison’s…

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‘This is quite a difficult book … I kept coming back to it, trying to understand the deep sense of grief [the character] was feeling. And for her to get that across, we all had to experience it with her.’


In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the…

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‘Education can take you anywhere. And that’s what I think Michelle Obama was trying to say to when she visited a school here during the first trip to the UK … to show the young people there that we can be whatever we want to be given the right opportunity.’

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

The first and best-known of Maya Angelou’s extraordinary seven volumes of autobiography is a testament to the talents and resilience of…

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‘The grace that Maya Angelou has comes through in all her writing, all her poems, because she’s trying to give strength to other women … she’s saying “you can do this.”‘

Waiting to Exhale

The critically acclaimed novel about four women who learn how to carry on while leaning on each other from the…

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‘There are times for us as women where we hold in so much – the struggles we have, bringing our children up, sometimes falling short. You’re constantly holding in, holding in. And eventually you’re able to breathe, you’re able to exhale. And reading this book, that’s what I felt.’

Want the full conversation? Listen to it here >

If you’d like to take a reading cue from more brilliant women campaigners, subscribe to the Women’s Prize podcast where you’ll find conversations with Gina Miller, Scarlett Curtis, Bonnie Greer and many more…

The Women's Prize Podcast

Tune into host Vick Hope and a line-up of incredible guests on our weekly podcast full of unmissable book recommendations.