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Andrea Levy was born on 7 March, 1956 in London to Jamaican parents and worked for a social institution where she suffered racist abuse before discovering the power of books.
She began writing in her mid-30s after enrolling in a creative writing class (which she subsequently stayed on for a further seven years). She has won many awards including the Orange Prize for Fiction for Small Island and The Long Song was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2010, The Long Song is the story of July and her mother Kitty as they suffer and survive the pain of slavery and demonstrate their strength and defiance to come out the other side. It is not Andrea Levy's first look into black history, having gained much acclaim for her debut novel Small Island. This effort is a serious and, at times, harrowing tale that offers an amazing insight into the slave trade, while also developing a story and two characters that are equally beguiling and remarkable.
Adapted for a BBC TV series in 2009, Andrea Levy's Small Island is set in 1948 as England is in the midst of recovering from war. Although Queenie Bligh's conflict has only just begun, as her neighbours do not approve when she agrees to take in Jamaican lodgers. Gilbert Joseph, one of several thousand Jamaican men who joined the RAF to fight against Hitler, remembers a wartime friendship with Queenie and knocks at her door. He and his wife Hortense had longed to leave Jamaica to start a better life in England, but both are shocked at the way they are treated, and how London is not the golden city they thought. Hortense also realises that even Gilbert is not the man she thought he was. The winner of the 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction, Levy's profoundly moving novel handles the weighty themes of empire, prejudice, war and love, with a lightness of touch and a generosity of spirit that challenges and uplifts the reader.