ANDREA LEVY

CHAMPIONS

Award-winning novelist Andrea Levy continues to provide an evocative picture of black Britons and their links with the Caribbean following the arrival of the Empire Windrush

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Writing came relatively late for novelist Andrea Levy. After working for the BBC costume department and then setting up a graphic design company with her husband, she began attending creative writing classes at London’s City Lit institute in her thirties.

Her father had been a passenger on the MV Empire Windrush and she wanted to write stories about the experiences of black Britons, and of the historical bonds between Britai n and the Caribbean.

In her first three books, she discussed the problems faced by black British-born children like herself. Every Light in the House Burning (1994) is the semi-autobiographical story of a Jamaican family living in north London in the 1960s. Never Far From Nowhere (1996) is about two sisters who have very different experiences of growing up in London during the 1970s. In Fruit of the Lemon (1999), a young black woman visits Jamaica after a nervous breakdown and discovers her unknown personal history.

Her best-selling Small Island (2004) explored the experiences of her father’s generation – those who returned to Britain after serving in the RAF during WWII. It discusses the adjustments that Jamaicans and white British people had to make during the era of post-war Caribbean migration, and how they found ways of learning to live together.

Small Island won three prestigious book awards: the Whitbread Book of the Year; the Orange Prize for Fiction, and the Commonwealth Writer’ Prize. It was also made into a BBC two-part television drama, broadcast in December 1999. It is due to be staged in 2019.

Levy’s fifth novel The Long Song (2010) is set in Jamaica during the last years of slavery and the period immediately after emancipation. The story is narrated by July, a former enslaved worker who looks back on her long eventful life. The novel won Andrea the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize.

In 2014, Levy published Six Stories and an Essay, exploring Andrea’s cultural heritage and what inspires her to write. Her latest book, Uriah’s War is a short story to mark the centenary of WWI and tells the story of two Jamaican men caught up in the conflict.

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