How Malorie Blackman's Noughts & Crosses Changed My Life.

 Image from stage adaptation of  Naughts and Crosses  by the Royal Shakespare Company, 2008

Image from stage adaptation of Naughts and Crosses by the Royal Shakespare Company, 2008

I didn't realise I had been yearning for this novel until I read it.

 

I first heard about Malorie Blackman's Noughts & Crosses from a friend of mine, when I was in Year 8. As soon as she gave me a brief rundown of the plot, a Romeo & Juliet inspired tale, with the history of race flipped on its head--where black people had gained advantage over white people, and made white people their slaves--I was intrigued. I needed to see for myself if it was just as good as she said it was.  And she kindly lent me her copy. 

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The story follows Persephone 'Sephy' Hadley who is a Cross (black) and the daughter of powerful senior politician Kamal Hadley, as well as her best friend Callum McGregor a nought (white).  

This was the first time I had ever read a book with a black female protagonist.

Being twelve and in love with books, I had never felt that I was lacking in finding a connection to the characters I read while reading my favourite books. I immediately connected to Harry Potter's Hermione Granger, though she was portrayed by the very white Emma Watson in the film adaptations; I equally loved the tenacious and lively new-kid-in-school Leslie Burke in Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia.  

After seeing a black girl, Sephy, as one of the main protagonists--not just the best friend or love interest, but driving her own story--I realised that this was a novel I had been yearning for years. Yet it didn't fully hit me until after I had read it. 

This particular quote stuck with me:  

I used to comfort myself with the belief that it was only certain individuals and their peculiar notions that spoilt things for the rest of us. But how many individuals does it take before it’s not the individuals who are prejudiced but society itself?

This made me start to honestly think about the society I was living in. This was the first time that fiction had ever posed questions about race and racial equality and also in a way that was easily digestible.  

Malorie Blackman, at the beginning of the novel writes,  

Noughts & Crosses was quite simply a book I had to write, a story I had to tell.
 Image from stage adaptation of  Naughts and Crosses  by the Royal Shakespare Company, 2008

Image from stage adaptation of Naughts and Crosses by the Royal Shakespare Company, 2008

Blackman's novel showed me that a girl who had the same hair and skin colour as me could helm a book series; this was an idea that hadn't even been a thought of mine before. 

When I look back at that time in my life, I realise that I was reading stories which supported similar protagonists. Noughts & Crosses opened my eyes and showed me that there is and should be more diversity in children's and young adult literature.

Every person's point of view should be told and I thank Malorie Blackman for candidly presenting this to me, at such a young age, when I was just starting to think about what kind of writer I wanted to be, but more importantly what kind of a reader I wanted to be. 


by Daniella Ferguson-Djaba