The world is a wonderful place; there is so much beauty and so many good things being done. I’ve seen a lot of this goodness and beauty, but I have also seen much that is ugly. In a lot of my writing I try to explore the darker side of life, or the side that you don’t see on reality TV. It is in these places we can often grow and learn to appreciate the beauty we do see.
The book I wrote for the Read On series, Liam, is based on a real story about a family in Northern Ireland, but as I began to research and write it, I found out that it was in fact the story of many families.
The story that really started me on this creative journey was the story of a white Catholic woman in Belfast who was well respected and well loved in her local community. She fell in love with a black man, but because the people around her would not approve of her relationship, and because she was not married, she would not dare tell anyone she knew. They had a baby son, but the man could not bear having to live a lie, and in the end he left the country. The woman gave the child up for adoption, but she did a deal with the authorities that allowed her to come back and ‘adopt’ the child herself. After adopting the baby boy – instead of being a disgrace – she was now seen a hero and a brave woman for taking in a ‘lonely black child’.
Adoption scenarios often come out of distressing back-stories, though some of the children might not know their own story. Now, by using computers and various agencies, children (and adults) can research their history and find out the truth about their beginnings.
When writing Liam I spoke to a lot of people who were adopted. Many of them went on to find out where they had come from, and sometimes had even met their birth parents. I also spoke to a couple of social workers so that I could get some small details right in the book. I took bits of information from all these people, and then I used my imagination and created Liam.
By Benjamin Zephaniah
Benjamin Zephaniah was born in Birmingham. He started making up poems and performing when he was 5 years old, and he first performed poetry in public when he was 11. His aim was to create poems that were fun but also had a serious message. He has written five major novels and three short novels, including Liam. He has also written seven plays and released many musical recording.
He likes kung-fu, football, collecting old banknotes and running through wild woods and forests.