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 Colour Purple by Alice Walker

The Colour Purple

by Alice Walker

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‘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.’


by Toni Morrison

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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.’


by Michelle Obama

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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 by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

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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

by Terry McMillan

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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…