Rediscover: Andrea Levy
Andrea Levy, a British author of Jamaican descent known for her works about Caribbean immigrants and Jamaican history, died last week at age 62. Levy was the fourth child of a working-class family in London. She studied textile design and worked as a costume assistant for the BBC and the Royal Opera House. Levy claims to have not read a book until age 23, after which she grew infatuated with the craft. When she sought black literature, she discovered almost all of it came from the United States, with little reflecting her own experience. She wrote her first novel, the semi-autobiographical Every Light in the House Burnin', in 1994. Levy also wrote Never Far from Nowhere (1996) and Fruit of the Lemon (1999).
Levy's fourth novel, Small Island (2004), explores the Afro-Caribbean diaspora after World War II, specifically the "Windrush generation" of Commonwealth subjects invited to fill shortages in the British labor market. Small Island won the Orange Prize for Fiction and, a decade later, was voted Best of the Best Orange Prize novels. In 2010, Levy published her fifth and final novel, The Long Song, which chronicles the final years of slavery in Jamaica and was a finalist for the 2010 Man Booker Prize. Small Island and The Long Song are both available from Picador. --Tobias Mutter