New on the PaperTigers site is an interview with Na’ima B. Robert, in which I asked her lots of questions about her latest YA novel Black Sheep (Janetta Otter-Barry Books, Frances Lincoln, 2013).
Set in London, Black Sheep follows the Romeo-and-Juliet-like relationship of teens Misha, a privately-educated “posh” girl, and Dwayne, a gang member living on a housing estate in Brixton. Na’ima is perceptive in portraying the deep-down vulnerability of teenagers, no matter how much bravado they show in facing day-to-day challenges – and no matter how much that bravado itself precipitates consequences that risk spiralling out of control. Black Sheep is a real page-turner and should come with a warning that once started, it’s almost impossible to get anything else done!
When I asked Na’ima about her recent school visits in the UK, it was great to hear the impact Black Sheep has had:
I visited a Catholic school in North London and, apparently, the class that had been assigned the book was so into it, that they told the other classes, who begged to be assigned it as well. They totally identified with the characters and there was a sense of amazement that this life – urban, Black British life – had been portrayed in a book. We had some great re-enactments and readings together and they created portfolios that included illustrations, trailers, letters and character profiles. It was a wonderful experience and it was duplicated in the classes in a different school that read Far from Home.