‘LOCKS: A Story Based on True Events’ by Ashleigh Nugent
“1993 was the year that Stephen Lawrence got murdered by racists, and I became an angry Black lad with a ‘chip on his shoulder’.”
Aeon is a mixed-race teenager from an English suburb. He is desperate to be understand the Black identity foisted on him by racist police, teachers, and ‘friends’. For want of Black role models, Aeon has immersed himself in gangsta rap, he’s trying to grow dreadlocks, and he’s bought himself some big red boots.
And now he’s in Jamaica.
Within days of being in Jamaica, Aeon has been mugged and stabbed, arrested and banged up.
Aeon has to fight for survival, fight for respect, and fight for his big red boots. And he has to fight for his identity because, here, Aeon is the White boy.
In some ways, it can be difficult for a privileged, white, liberal, middle class man to review a novel like this, (not that it’s ever stopped those of us from that category sharing our tuppence’s worth, it has to be said).
Presumably, the starting point is to acknowledge that I have never shared the awful experiences of racism which are shown in this wonderful novel by Ashleigh Nugent. You find yourself saying, “It wasn’t that bad then was it?” and, one suspects that the answer is, “Yeap! And worse…” To not know that is to come face to face with privilege, race and class in the UK of the 90s.
For those of us who have that good fortune, it is the Liverpool-based reminiscences which punch hardest. Nugent has crafted a narrative which jumps between his memory of growing up as a mixed race boy in Liverpool and the disorientating “foreignness” of his trip to Jamaica.
The division for our lead character, Aeon, between being the “white” man in his father’s homeland and the “black” man in his own homeland.
There are also some rather charming narrative passages where Aeon narrates his own Joseph Campbell ‘Hero’s Journey’ as taught to him by a primary teacher.
This novel enjoys blurring fact and fiction, memoir and fable. It is a sensory journey through a vividly reproduced Caribbean experience filled with the shockingly mundane reality of violence, the paranoia of mixing drugs and alcohol and the stress which comes with trying to find an identity – something which all teenagers remember.
I must be of a similar age to the character of Aeon (and, by extension, Nugent), perhaps a few years younger. But I remember that explosion of gangsta rap, the visceral thrill of hearing oppression articulated and a lid being lifted on a life you didn’t know existed.
Aeon is captivated and tries to live the life. It is well worth your time finding out whether he makes it out the other side.
Orders also available from: www.newsfromnowhere.org.uk
Author Bio –
Ashleigh Nugent has been published in academic journals, poetry anthologies, and magazines. His latest work, ‘LOCKS’, is based on a true story: the time he spent his 17th birthday in a Jamaican detention centre.
‘LOCKS’ won the 2013 Commonword Memoir Competition and has had excerpts published by Writing on the Wall and in bido lito magazine.
Ashleigh’s one-man-show, based on ‘LOCKS’, has won support from SLATE / Eclipse Theatre, and won a bursary from Live Theatre, Newcastle. The show has received rave audience reviews following showings in theatres and prisons throughout the UK.
Ashleigh is also a director at RiseUp CiC, where he uses his own life experience, writing, and performance to support prisoners and inspire change.
Social Media Links –
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/LocksBook
Twitter – @LocksBook
Instagram – @locksbook
Youtube Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8TVrX7J2j4