Noughts and Crosses

What if White people were not at the top of the world? What if Black people were governing? What if the actual situation was different? Malorie Blackman has decided to show us that precise situation when she wrote Noughts and Crosses. Let’s imagine. African people had colonised European territories, rather than the other way. What will happen? 

A forbidden love story 

I first encountered Noughts and Crosses about 13 years ago. I was a teenager at that time and of course, I was interested in love stories. Malorie Blackman’s novel is an interracial relationship in a black supremacist version of England. Their world, technologically at least, is similar to the one we live in today: about the same jobs, the same type of government etc. But there is one key difference: equality between races is lacking and there aren’t many laws or constitutions to protect from discrimination. 

I found two different « races »: The Crosses, dark-skinned people who are dominating the world. They are wealthy, their jobs are among the most important one, their children have the opportunity to go to the best schools. The Noughts, lighter-skinned people, are the poorer and usually doing manual labour. They may be servants to Crosses. At least, they are under the Crosses’ domination. 

In that parallel universe, Sephy, a Cross girl, falls in love with Callum, a Noughts boy. They used to play together when Jasmine, Sephy’s mother, employed Meggie McGregor, Callum’s mother, as a nanny. Callum and Sephy’s relationship has te be confidential, as such interracial friendships are frowned upon by society. However, love is more powerful than everything else, and the two protagonists go further in their romance: they have a child together. 

There are five books in the series: Noughts and Crosses, Knife Edge, Checkmate, Double Cross and Crossfire. Each book reflects a particular feeling experienced by characters: love, anger, hope. They are written from two different perspectives -Callum’s and Sephy’s. They live the same things, but their intertwined worlds never actually meet. 

A book to think of our proper lives

The more I was reading, the more I was thinking about my « white privileges ». I am a white girl and I never realised that it was a privilege. Nevertheless, because I was materialising Sephy’s life -as a girl, it was easier for me- I also noticed that, in our society, it was a chance to be white. 

To my mind, there is nothing more powerful than a book or a story to learn things or to be mindful of something. At the precise moment, I thought « what if I was a white-skinned girl in a dark-skinned world ? » I am sure that now, 13 years after, I cannot be racist, maybe because, to a certain extent, I « experienced » – or at least- I understand. 

A TV show has been released last year because the story is very powerful and helpful mostly for white people, young people including for black people. On 5 November 2019 BBC News included Noughts & Crosses on its list of the 100 most influential novels. Good choice! Noughts and Crosses have to read by a lot of young people. It may help everybody understand the other way. 

No doubt that Noughts and Crosses is one of the best books I have read in as much as it is a book that changed my mind forever. I grew up thank to it and became more aware of some terrible things.

Chloé LOURENÇO