Channel 4 Learning


Click for home pageMKDBookBoxhome
Picture of Beverley Naidoo Click for author list

Beverley Naidoo was born in South Africa. She grew up under apartheid laws that gave privilege to white children. Black children were sent to separate, inferior schools and their families were told where they could live, work and travel. Apartheid denied all children the right to grow up together with equality, justice and respect.

As a student, Beverley began to question racism and the idea that white people were superior. At 21 she was arrested for taking part in the resistance movement.

In 1965 Beverley came to England. She married another South African exile. Apartheid laws forbade marriage between white and black people and barred them living together with their children in South Africa.

As a child Beverley always loved stories but only started writing when her own children were growing up. Her first book, Journey to Jo'burg, won The Other Award in Britain. It opened a window onto children's struggles under apartheid. In South Africa it was banned until 1991, the year after Nelson Mandela was released from jail. A few years later, when the parents of all South African children had the right to vote for the first time, Nelson Mandela was elected president.

Beverley says she mixes the yeast of imagination with the ingredients of real life for her fiction. For Chain of Fire she had to rely on reports and photos smuggled out of South Africa. But after 26 years she was at last able to return freely to research in the country. No Turning Back and Out of Bounds followed. In all her stories, young characters from different backgrounds face tense conflicts and choices.

Beverley chose London as the setting for her first novel set outside South Africa but the issues are as dramatic. Two refugee children face a terrible personal loss as well as injustice. The Other Side of Truth won her the Carnegie Medal.