Malorie Blackmam OBE
Award winning author and former children’s Laureate
As part of our Black History Month celebrations we will be highlighting contemporary and historic figures, hoping to share characters both familiar and lesser known. Alongside our featured stories, these profiles hope to reinforce the richness of BAME figures throughout history.
“My overall aim is to get more children reading. It's a simple as that.”
Malorie Blackman is one of Britain’s most celebrated authors. She writes about the experience of children and young people with an acute sense of drama and empathy addressing social and racial issues. We’d like to spend a little time sharing some interesting facts about her work and hope you feel inspired to discover more.
Blackman grew up in Clapham, south London born from Barbadian parents. Blackman was such an avid reader at school that is said she devoured all the books in her local library. While at school she wanted to be an English teacher. She excelled in her studies but was told by her careers advisor at school that “black people don’t become teachers” and that she would never pass her English A Level and told her to study Business. She entered university and after one term of a Business degree under her belt, Blackman knew this wasn’t for her. She moved professions and ended up working in technology which, to her surprise, she loved. In the end it was her love of reading and storytelling that won out.
She began writing and releasing novels in the late 80’s and 90s. Being an avid reader as a child she clearly expresses her reasons for wanting to write:
"I wanted to show black children just getting on with their lives, having adventures, and solving their dilemmas, like the characters in all the books I read as a child." [Penguin Archives]
Blackman's first book was a collection of horror and science fiction stories for young adults, published in 1990. She has now written more than 60 children's books, including novels and short story collections, and also television scripts and a stage play.
Her books have been translated to screen, including Pig-Heart Boy on the BBC, and a new TV adaptation of award-winning Noughts & Crosses series. The series explores love, racism and violence and will star, a diehard fan of her work, Stormzy. In her own words Blackman explains the importance of this series.
“My Noughts and Crosses series is the one I get the most letters about. People have said they've been inspired by it, or it's made them think about things that they haven't thought about before - or that they've readjusted their thinking because of the book.” [BBC News]
Noughts & Crosses was original inspired by the tragic murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993. Her current book in this series Cross Fire, was released this year and was inspired by recent events and the rise in hate crimes in the UK and beyond. Twenty years on Blackman expresses a concern about the level of stagnancy in relation to race relations.
“The results of the UK Brexit referendum and the US presidential election in 2016 brought home to me just how potent the politics of fear and division can be.”
With these themes in mind Blackman continues to address contemporary and divisive issues facing young people and the wider world. You can read about her journey to publish this latest work in full here.