YA Shot is a day-long festival held in Uxbridge, London. The money raised is used to fund author events throughout the year in schools and libraries. YA Shot aims to foster a love of reading and writing, and to help young people aspire to careers in the arts.
I am excited to welcome Patrice Lawrence as part of the YA Shot blog tour. Patrice Lawrence debuted with Orangeboy in 2016. It is the story of Marlon, a boy who finds it increasingly difficult not to get drawn into a world of gangs and crime. The book was a phenomenal success, winning the YA Book Prize and the Waterstones Children’s book prize.
Lawrence followed with Indigo Donut, the story of a young woman searching for her own identity when everyone around her knows the story of how her Dad murdered her mother. Both novels deal with themes of identity and inheritance. This guest post is about the theme of family legacy. Huge thanks to Patrice Lawrence for your time.
From father to daughter and everything in between – Patrice Lawrence
I have no photographs of my father. My parents split up before I was born and my father, Patrick Edward Singh, died in his 40s. I had spent time with him, as a child and as an adult. He was a great reader, anything from ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ to the collected works of the science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov. He was also a musician. I remember his basement flat in Brighton being full of guitars and I knew that he had fronted a band called Eddie and the Black Princes. He loved the provocative wordplay. (The original medieval Black Prince was Edward, son of Edward 111, probably given the name because of his black armour.)
As I grow older, people remark on my resemblance to my mother. I look like her. I have her family name. I share her love of books, art and cake-making. She introduced me to early Depeche Mode, UB40’s brilliant first album and New Order. She has bought my YA books and shipped them off to the family in Trinidad. She has made sure that the booksellers in Haywards Heath Waterstones know that I am local.
Both Marlon in ‘Orangeboy’ and Indigo in ‘Indigo Donut’ are tied to family legacy. Marlon’s connection to his dead father, Jess, is through music and sci fi. He has inherited his father’s vinyl collection of funk and soul. He is named after the actor who played Superman’s dad in the 1978 film. His feelings are punctuated with music and he often articulates his world with the help of Star Trek and The Matrix.
Marlon, like the other two pairs of brothers in ‘Orangeboy’, has inherited loss and revenge. What happens to him is exciting but destructive. It is also viewed through the prism of ‘race’ – how far will he let the past shape the present and his identity as a young, black man in today’s society?
Indigo believes that she has inherited anger. Her father killed her mother and what’s inside him is inside her. It is like a wild animal, roaring up when provoked. She is frightened to let anyone get close. And what else has she inherited? She stares at photos of her mother, trying to trace their resemblance. She can barely remember living with anyone who is related to her. She is not sure how to go forward because she doesn’t understand her past.
It is only when I exceeded the age my father was when he died that I started considering his legacy to me. My father in everything except blood is my stepdad. He has been in my life since I was four and has always called me his daughter. We spent last Christmas together watching Steve McQueen films trying to list the death dates of The Magnificent Seven actors in chronological order. We recalled the joy of holidays spent in his native homeland. I don’t need another father.
Like my characters, like so many young people, I still can’t help asking – ‘who am I?’ Does my hair, my face, my body shape bear any trace of my father’s side? When Bailey, in ‘Indigo Donut’, became a rock god with a room full of guitars, was I thinking about my father? Or my daughter? Did my father’s guitar dudeness bypass me and hit my daughter full force?
Last year, I saw that a retired nurse, one of my parents’ peers had written a history of the Victorian psychiatric hospital where they had worked. I ordered the book out of curiosity. I opened a page at random and there was a photo of my father. Resplendent in a quiff, he was playing his guitar.
Many thanks to Patrice Lawrence for your time. Check out more info about YA Shot and book your tickets here.