Chair of East London Humanists Paul Kaufman introduces prize-winning author Yvvette Edwards, who will be speaking about how she discovered writing – and humanism – at the group’s July meeting
Yvvette grew up in Hackney and continues to live in east London with her family. First finding publishing success in her forties, Yvvette will talk about her books, her background and her long journey to becoming a professional writer.
“I never seriously believed I could make a living from writing. I never met anyone who did till after my first novel was published. I wrote because I enjoyed it and found the process cathartic. It was my refuge throughout my formative years and into my adulthood. I wrote about whatever caught my attention. Then, in the run-up to my 40th birthday, I found myself thinking about my life. The only thing I really wanted to do was write. I decided it was time to either focus on building a practical and realistic career, or do the writing properly so that, maybe, I could earn a living from it. I reduced my hours at work, wrote A Cupboard Full of Coats, and edited it myself. The rest is history,” said Yvvette.
A Cupboard Full of Coats made a big literary impact and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. It went on to garner numerous other nominations and prizes.
Yvvette’s second novel, The Mother, has been described as ‘stunning’ and ‘masterful.’ It follows the trial of a 16-year-old boy who is stabbed and killed by another 16-year-old boy. The narrator is the victim’s mum.
“A couple of things happened that escalated my interest in young people and violence. I wanted to have a better understanding of how a child could so easily write off another person’s life and, in the process, write off their own. It’s a regular starting point for me as a writer, a subject I’m interested in and questions I do not have answers to that I cannot switch off from till I have explored them further,” said Yvvette.
“I am particularly interested in fully-fleshed female and Afro-Caribbean characters, perhaps because I am a woman and my family are from the Caribbean, and too often they are presented as tropes and stereotypes. If I have a purpose as a writer, maybe it’s stripping that back to reveal the humans beneath, giving a true voice to people we do not hear enough from – if at all – in modern literature.”
The event will be chaired by East London Humanist member, and long-standing friend of Yvvette, Olcay Aniker. Olcay explains: “Yvvette hadn’t thought of herself as a humanist until she was invited to speak, but as someone with a non-religious, ethical outlook, realises that this probably best describes her beliefs. She says jokingly that this is the first event where she will ‘come out’ as a humanist.”
Yvvette Edwards will be speaking at Wanstead Library on 11 July from 7.30pm (free; doors open at 7pm). For more information, visit wnstd.com/elh