My inspiration: Malorie Blackman
As this week is Black Inclusion Week, I’m devoting this article to a Black British author Malorie Blackman - who I consider an enormous inspiration.
Malorie Blackman is a children’s and young adult book author who also writes for television. She was born in London in 1962, and her parents both originated from Barbados.
Her father was strict with her pronunciation, policing her to speak with a well-spoken Received Pronunciation (RP) accent. He did this because he believed it allowed them to better fit in with society. Blackman often rebelled against this by specifically using Bajan slang to wind him up.
Growing up as an immigrant myself, I can see where he is coming from, but I admire Blackman for rebelling against it. My parents to this day have a very rough grip of English, and it often winds me up when they mispronounce words - sometimes intentionally. As a child, my primary school taught me to speak ‘proper’ English, and I begrudgingly find myself policing my parents’ pronunciation for more or less the same reason: I don’t want us to stand out as immigrants. As such, I wholeheartedly respect Blackman, and many other people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, for her confidence and persistence in staying true to her cultural identity - instead of fitting in out of fear, like I often feel compelled to.
It’s not just Blackman’s backstory that inspires me - it’s also her literary career. Malorie held the position of Children’s Laureate from 2013 to 2015. She’s written for Doctor Who, and her novel New Windmills Spring sold out within a week of publishing. Her Naughts and Crosses series, which explores the social issue of racism in a dystopian setting, is critically-acclaimed.
Blackman’s writing process starts out with a story arc before creating any major characters. She’ll then go deep into their personality, detailing everything about them as if they are living people. Her characters often take her in unexpected directions as she plans her stories, which she says make the process exciting. As an amateur writer myself, I closely relate to this sort of process.
For the most part, she chooses to write for children and young adults from a feeling of responsibility. As a child, Blackman read stories that always lacked Black protagonists and as such, she writes stories that fill in this gap. Blackman’s narratives present characters as authentic, emotional beings with relatable hopes and dreams, rather than tokenistic characters who exist to fill a diversity quota. Creating stories for generations to come in order to fill the lacking roster of representation she faced growing up, is something I one day hope to fulfil myself as a writer.