7thMarch 1956- 14thFebruary 2019
The Jamaican British author Andrea Levy died on the 14th February 2019, aged 62, after living with cancer for several years. Praised as the “Chronicler of the Windrush generation”, Levy’s works explored the experiences of Jamaican British people, and provided a voice for millions.
Levy’s writing career began first as a hobby, before she published three novels in 1990s truly launching her career. Her fourth novel, Small Island, earned Levy a spot amongst the literary greats, and established her as one of Britain’s best-loved voices. Yet, she was familiar with her lack of recognition, like so many black writers Levy was all too aware of marginalisation, joking in 1999 that publishers simply didn’t know what to do with her writing.
Levy was born in London in 1956 to parents who were part of the boom in immigration that shaped postwar Britain, her father arriving in the UK on the Empire Windrush in 1948 and her mother following shortly afterwards. She grew up on a council estate in Highbury, north London, and went on to study Textiles at Middlesex Polytechnic. In a number of interviews with The Guardian Levy discussed the internalised racism of her youth, and the rude and sudden awakening of her own racial identity she experienced as part of her work at an Islington sex education project. This change in perspective led Levy to produce some of the most important novels for the Jamaican British identity in recent history.
Andrea Levy was deeply loved, and will be remembered for her generous, gentle and affectionate manner, as well as her raucous and playful humour; but it is her novels, and the work she did for equality that will stand the test of time.
Written by Esmé Bonner, taken from the writings of Gary Younge and Richard Lea