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Telling the untold stories: celebrating Andrea Levy  

This image is a picture of author Andrea Levy.
26/02/2019

Photo credit: http://www.andrealevy.co.uk/ 

You may have recently heard of writer Andrea Levy’s death on Valentine’s Day 2019. Her most famous novel was Small Island, published in 2004 (and later made into an excellent miniseries by the BBC).

Small Island tells the story of two couples, Hortense & Gilbert, and Queenie & Bernard. Queenie meets Gilbert and his friend Michael when she opens her house to WW2 servicemen, and, unlike most who did so, does not turn away a couple of black soldiers when they come to her door. After the war, Gilbert returns to Queenie’s house with his wife, Hortense, who has recently arrived from Jamaica. Hortense and Gilbert’s adjustment to life in post-war England (rations and racism, with a side order of true kindness in some places) is interwoven with Queenie’s struggles helping her husband, Bernard, return to civilian life with his own traumatic war memories. The novel celebrates the courage and determination of the Windrush generation, and shows how lives become intertwined in unexpected ways due to love, devotion, and circumstance.

Levy said in a 2004 interview with Caribbean Beat that she wanted to give greater prominence to untold stories. She added, “If every writer in Britain were to write about the war years there would still be stories to be told, and none of us would have come close to what really happened. It was such an amazing schism in the middle of a century. And Caribbean people got left out of the telling of that story, so I am attempting to put them back into it. But I am not telling it from only a Jamaican point of view. I want to tell stories from the black and white experience. It is a shared history."

This quote makes some interesting links to OPL’s Black History Month celebrations, particularly the book launch for Cecil Foster’s “They Call Me George: The Untold Story of Black Train Porters and the Birth of Modern Canada”. At this event, Foster re-iterated how many untold stories there are, particularly those relating to the complexity of the Black experience in Canada, and urged a young woman in the audience who is interested in journalism to seek out these stories. With Levy’s death, it’s a good reminder to all of us to seek out these stories, and open ourselves to learning about histories we haven’t always been exposed to.

Small Island was featured several years ago in a staff-created reading list called “If you liked The Book of Negroes.” Have a look, below!

 

The Book of Negroes by OttawaReads

#staffpicks #coupsdecoeur #fiction #romans #nonfiction #documentaires

Comments

Small Island is one of my favourite books. So sad to lose her. Thanks for the mention on OPL site
Carole Yeaman

Small Island is one of my favourite books. So sad to lose her. Thanks for the mention on OPL site
Carole Yeaman

Small Island is one of my favourite books. So sad to lose her. Thanks for the mention on OPL site
Carole Yeaman

Small Island is one of my favourite books. So sad to lose her. Thanks for the mention on OPL site
Carole Yeaman

Small Island is one of my favourite books. So sad to lose her. Thanks for the mention on OPL site
Carole Yeaman