Black Britain Writing Back - A conversation with...Jacqueline Roy
A landmark new series of lost or hard-to-find books, now rediscovered, by Black writers who wrote about Black Britain and the diaspora across the last century. Curated and introduced by Bernardine Evaristo. Bernardine is a British writer, she was the first black woman to win the Booker Prize in 2019 - for her eighth book, the novel, Girl,Woman,Other. She wants to bring back into circulation Black British literary history. Until now I've never heard of the chosen writers, and I must say the collection is really special. Happy to add this to our collection of novels and pass down for Sadé and her little brother to read later on.
We had a chance to have a conversation with Jacqueline Roy - Her novel The Fat Lady Sings is featured within the collection, a really deep groundbreaking novel which explores the treatment of Black people suffering mental health in the UK during the 90s. Leading to lack of help and understanding from the institutions.
'This is a novel of daring
- enjoyable, surprising and original.'
Bernardine Evaristo, From The Introduction
You come from a family of creative writers, what age did you start enjoying writing?
My father, Namba Roy, was an artist and writer and he died when I was seven. Everyone was shocked by his death and it was hard, I think, for people to come to terms with the fact that he was at the height of his creative powers when it happened. I remember being told I should follow in his footsteps. I took this very seriously even though I was so young, and I began to write from that age, filling notebooks with stories. I was shy growing up, particularly in my teens, so I found writing much easier and more enjoyable than speaking.
Since publishing your first children's book Soul Daddy, followed by a few more, how was the transition for you to then go on to writing adult novels?
My first two books for children were Soul Daddy followed by Fat Chance. The transition from children’s fiction to writing for adults wasn’t difficult for me because I start with a character and he or she leads the writing. It’s as if that character is urging me to convey their thoughts and feelings, and from there, a plot emerges. In children’s fiction, the structure and the language need to be more accessible than with adult fiction, and the central character needs to be young, but writing is about storytelling and characters first and foremost whether the readers are children or adults.
The Fat Lady Sings is part of the Black Britain: Writing Back Series, how does it feel to have it re-released, and introduced to a new generation of readers?
I feel really honoured to have been chosen for this series and I’m in the company of some amazing writers. It’s been wonderful to think that the book still has a readership. The majority of black writers have struggled to be published over the years. The launch of this series conveys the idea that black writers need to be heard and that our writing has relevance.
Cover Art: Jade Douglas
How important is it for young readers to embrace Black British Writers?
The importance of this can’t be over-emphasised. As a child, I couldn’t find books about the experiences of black people living in Britain so I felt ignored and unimportant. Young black readers need to see themselves at the centre of books; our lives are significant. It’s also important for young white readers to see black characters too as this reflects the diversity of the world we’re living in.
What are you currently reading?
I tend to have more than one book on the go at once. I love Kit de Waal’s writing, particularly My Name Is Leon as it’s such a touching story about a boy who suffers a lot of losses in his life but finds a way forward. Malorie Blackman’s books are always exciting and teach us so much about power and resistance. Endgame, the final part of the Noughts and Crosses series will be out soon and I can’t wait! David Dabydeen’s book, A Harlot’s Progress, which looks at slavery, isn’t easy to read but it’s one of the most powerful and beautifully written novels I have ever come across.
If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why?
Harriet Tubman. I would love to know what gave this woman the courage and strength to fight slavery and to help so many slaves escape to freedom.
Gina Yashere. I love this comedian’s humour and wit. I’m sure her observations would be very entertaining at a dinner party.
Stormzy. His music says so much and I’d like to talk to him about Merky Books, which he founded.
The Fat Lady Sings by Jacqueline Roy | Hamish Hamilton, Black Britain: Writing Back series | Paperback, £8.99
Available to buy here
About the Author
Jacqueline Roy is a dual-heritage author, born in London to a Black Jamaican father and White British mother. In her thirties, she went on to study Bachelors in English, and a Masters in Postcolonial Literatures.Then she became a a lecturer in English, specialising in Black Literature and Culture and Creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University for many years. She is now a full-time writer and has produced fiction for adults and children.
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