Wednesday, November 12, 2008

NOUGHTS AND CROSSES: A Look at Class and Race for UK Teens

Malorie Blackman

In today's Guardian, prolific UK author Malorie Blackman discusses the challenges faced by authors of color writing for young readers:
"Through my whole writing career it seems people have always been criticising me for not tackling racism. But things like even having black characters on covers when I first started was a bit of a political statement, because I've had more than one bookseller say to me 'that book would sell better if you didn't put black people on the cover'."
For years she wrote children's books that had "nothing to do with race," where the characters "just happened to be black," but her YA trilogy NOUGHTS AND CROSSES explores power dynamics by creating an alternate Britain where black Crosses dominate the white noughts:
"I wanted to play with people's preconceptions," she says, pointing to a scene where a nought child cuts herself and is forced to use a glaringly obvious brown plaster, because there are no pink ones available (an event which happened to Blackman, in reverse, as a child). "If you're the majority you don't necessarily see it because you don't need to see it and that's what I wanted to explore by turning the tables."
The book's been adapted as a script for the theater by the Royal Shakespeare Company (poster from the play below) -- an intense Romeo and Juliet story that might be a good choice for high school productions this side of the ocean.



4 comments:

TadMack said...

I was surprised to read Charlotte (Charlotte's Library) saying that she had a copy of this book in her library in Rhode Island, and that the cover didn't lend itself to explaining the plot. Nobody's ever checked it out of her library, and if I were in the U.S., I'd be all over it (as it is, I'm looking for it here, of course).

Thanks for the heads-up about the dramatized version.

Nacie said...

This is really interesting, and the picture of the two faces with bandaids a the bottom of your post is very thought provoking. You're right, the majority tends not to pay attention to the small ways it exerts that power of mass. Thanks for getting the word on this out there!

Sarah Rettger said...

TadMack, I think the cover here is from the UK edition - at least, when I follow Mitali's link to TSTSNBN, the book is available only through resellers. I think this one is the US edition. We don't have it in my store, so I have no idea how well it's been selling.

holly cupala said...

I'm very interested to read this book. Thank you for the heads-up, Mitali.