In this clip, Andrea Levy talks about her mother, Amy, who was a teacher from the middle classes in Jamaica. In 1948 she joined her husband, Winston, in Britain. Andrea reflects on the ways that race and class intersected for her mother. She describes how Amy viewed English people while she lived in Jamaica, versus the startling reality of how she was perceived and treated as a Black Jamaican woman in England.
In Levy’s novel Small Island, Hortense’s failure to get a teaching job in England was based on Amy’s experience. When she arrived, Amy had to take in sewing for a living until she obtained a British teaching qualification.
Andrea Levy’s Authors’ Lives interview
In 2014, author Andrea Levy (1956–2019) recorded her life story in an interview with Sarah O’Reilly as part of the National Life Stories’ project, Authors’ Lives. Authors’ Lives collects in-depth interviews with leading authors working in Britain today.
Containing 14 hours of material, the interview covers an expanse of topics ranging from Levy’s reflections on her childhood and parents, through to her journey to become a writer, the genesis of novels such as Small Island and The Long Song, and her experiences as an author who explored what it was to be Black and British.