Ever heard of the phrase ‘life is not hard; it is complicated’, me neither – but it makes sense whenever I come to think or come across something that seems to complicate life. The issue of race has been one of the complicators of life, no matter which race is in charge. History has mainly reflected what happened when the white race was in charge, and before we could fast forward to a future where the blacks reclaim their power and are fully in charge, Malorie Blackman used her creativity through one of her series of books, Noughts and Crosses, to make us imagine a world of racial oppression against the white race. The narrative is somewhat a synopsis of reversed racism: crosses against noughts – black against white – Africans colonising Europeans.
Written from two perspectives, Callum and Sephy’s, Blackman proves her ingenuity by foregrounding love as an element that binds people together despite their race of social class. Callum (a nought) and Sephy (a cross) have been friends since childhood and they tried to go against all odds as star-crossed lovers to choose each other despite the danger it would pose. But because they live in a world of racism, fear and mounting violence, it was impossible to write a happily ever after. “You’re a Nought and I’m a Cross and there’s nowhere for us to be, nowhere for us to go where we’d be left in peace.”
Throughout the novel, Blackman proves how racism as people, “We’ll always find a way to mess up, doesn’t matter who’s in charge”. And it is the innocent who suffers. In the case of the novel, the stakes were high when Sephy fell pregnant and Callum had to be arrested, accused of rape and faced death as a penalty for allegedly raping Sephy. Sephy, in the end, chose to keep the baby but when the child was born Sephy decided the child would not take her Callum’s surname so that she could grow up without knowing her father’s role.
The Guardian had last month announced the BBC adaptation of Noughts and Crosses drama series, a great diversification of stories for all generations and good content and new voices in history. While this is something to look forward to, bibliophiles could keep themselves busy with the novel because TV content is always diluted anyway. Nothing beats the original story – the raw words of the writer in the novel before it gets to the screen.