Featured image: Ross Westgate
The Manchester Poetry library hosted its annual ‘Meet the Author’ event series this month, featuring award-winning author and screenwriter Danielle Jawando. Born in Manchester, Jawando is the recipient of multiple literary accolades including the 2023 YA Book Prize for her most recent novel, When Our Worlds Collided.
This year’s event invited guests to join a Q&A panel with Jawando and Dr Ginette Carpenter, a senior lecturer in English at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Becky Swain, director of the Manchester Poetry library said, “It was really important for the poetry library to facilitate Danielle. She is somebody who really cares about developing young people’s imagination and creativity.”
When Our Worlds Collided follows the perspectives of three Black teenagers: Jackson, Chantelle, and Marc, after experiencing the stabbing of 14-year-old Shaq outside the Manchester Arndale shopping centre.
The three teenagers, who all come from very different backgrounds, are brought together through the collective trauma they have witnessed. The author manages to establish a “shared family” relationship dynamic between the post-traumatic experiences of Jackson, Chantelle, and Marc.
The novel tackles contemporary issues, systematic and institutionalised racism surrounding the African diaspora, as well as the perception of ‘Blackness’ in the North.
Jawando explained the inspiration for the book came to her after she heard about an incident involving a young black man who was chased and stabbed. He went from door to door but his calls for help were ignored and he died.
Additional inspiration came from her experience working with kids and the characters are influenced by some of the young people Jawando has worked with: “Children who have lost trust in the institutions and adults who are supposed to look out for them.”
Dr Ginette Carpenter described the work as “a hopeful novel with institutionally embedded issues”. Carpenter also noted that while Jawando doesn’t shy away from the realities of injustice, she also manages to balance this with illuminating optimism and hope.
As a Northerner, it was important for Jawando to set the book in Manchester, as she noted that so many YA novels are set in London and across America. There has also been a recent demand for novels in the UK set outside of London from numerous publishers.
Jawando said, “It’s hard to find novels with Black or diverse characters set in the North.” She added, “It was important for me to write, not only for myself but for my audience as well.”