What do you get when you live in Liverpool, have a Black father and a White mother in 1993? Unrelenting racial abuse, injustice, stereotyping and a vast heritage that isn’t tapped in to.
Locks gives us the character of Aeon-a 16 year old boy with parents of different colour, and his cousin Increase- his 24 year old Black cousin. The pair take a trip to Jamaica so that Aeon can discover his fathers heritage, learn about Black culture and embrace his colour. Increase isn’t so keen to explore this side of himself as he sadly lost his father in the 1981 riots. As a reader we’re soon introduced the two sides of Jamaica; the picturesque, happy tourist side, and the deprived shanty-town-like side which the tourists are told to keep away from at all costs.
Unfortunately, from early on in his arrival, Aeon isn’t seen as an exploring teenage boy whose eager to see his heritage, but is in fact seen as a White tourist and soon he falls victim to a horrific mugging, receives a stab wound as a memento and is thrown in to prison. This is when Increase is tracked down for some money owed by his younger cousin. Frightening stuff.
Sadly this isn’t Aeon’s first time on the wrong side of the law, and when he’s bailed and back with Increase, it becomes clear that the only way home is quickly but illegally.
It’s a fantastic and hard-hitting read, which is made all the more impactful by the fact that it’s based on true events experienced by Nugent himself. And what must be taken in to consideration at all times, is that 1993 is the year of the murder of Stephen Lawrence which really hit home the horrific hidden depths of racism and stereotyping that people of colour face even to this day (sadly, we are learning more and more that ethnic minorities are still being targeted with violence and horrific abuse along with LGBTQ communities, religious practices and anyone deemed “different” by society).
There is some light-heartedness added with memories of a favourite teacher (Miss Elwyn) talking about hero’s and how they start and go through their journeys. Which left me as a reader with a fond warmth for an inspiring teacher, who seems to have had a great impact on Aeon.
There were a lot of intense moments that found me feeling frustrated, angry and scared for Aeon and Increase, but I also found myself having a little giggle to myself and shaking my head at some of their antics and situations (I feel any parent reading this would likely be similar!) but this book was a huge enlightenment and should be used as an education tool in schools, colleges and communities worldwide-its a valuable resource and insight in to the injustices people have thrown at them every day. I was deeply impacted by this book and I firmly believe it’s one title everyone should read this year.
About the Author
Ashleigh Nugent left school with no qualifications and a diagnosis of ADHD, he also had three arrests before his seventeenth birthday and was released each time without charge. He cites himself as being angry, Feeling that he was a victim of racism and hating all authority.
It was at the age of sixteen Nugent went to Jamaica in search of belonging and identity; sadly he was the victim of a stabbing and mugging, and held prisoner. A year later, back in England an arrest for threatening behaviour with a knife followed.
Nugent had a lengthy criminal record by the time he turned 21 and little hope with lots of anxiety; this was the driving point behind Rise Up. Now Nugent has a 1st class degree, teaching qualifications and uses his experiences and knowledge to empower and support others.