Because You Were There : Evocative Semi-Autobiographical Novel Puts Windrush Generation Centre Stage
Joan Lewis’s latest novel, Because You Were There, tells the story of two elderly British women who first met when Tina, a member of the Windrush Generation, was a student at a school for ‘Educationally Subnormal’ pupils, where Felicity worked as a young teacher. With their paths crossing again in 2017, can Tina ever forgive her adopted country for the wrongs she has suffered?
UNITED KINGDOM - Published on 25th April2023, Because You Were There is a poignant and semi-autobiographical novel with female friendship and the feeling of belonging at its heart.
Based on the realities and injustices suffered in the Windrush Deportation Scandal, the author of this eloquently crafted narrative takes much care with her subject matter as she immerses the reader in the details and consequences of the false judgements and gross racial prejudices experienced by Windrush victims.
A standout work of fiction chronicling dark and shameful times in our recent social history, Because You Were There is a novel that will not only prompt incredulity in the reader but will also ensure the stories of real people like Tina and Felicity are never forgotten.
Tina was silent for a second. Then she shut her desk lid with a reverberating slam and stood up.
“You wouldn’t dare,” she challenged. “What about Denise? You’re only getting at me because I’m black.”
Tina, a bright and rebellious ten-year-old from Jamaica, leaves her homeland in 1968 to join her mother in Britain. But instead of receiving a warm welcome, Tina is forced to attend an ESN school, where she is treated as inferior due to her Jamaican heritage. Eventually, in desperation, she writes a cry for help in the form of a poem, giving it to the one teacher she trusts. But her teacher, Felicity, ignores her hidden plea, though as the years go by she remains haunted by the memory of the vulnerable teenager.
Fifty years later, Tina and Felicity cross paths again, and as Felicity grows closer to Tina’s family, she wonders if she will ever be able to make amends for the cruelties that Tina has suffered in the interim.
The author says:
“Because You Were There explores feelings of ‘belonging’ and national identity, and features the gross injustices that were suffered by many members of ‘The Windrush Generation’ in Britain. It demonstrates the importance of family ties and celebrates female friendship and loyalty.
“Readers of Amelia Gentleman’s exposure in The Guardian will be well acquainted with the facts of ‘The Windrush Deportation Scandal,’ but there are many people who are not. Sadly, this scandal continues today with the refusal of the Home Secretary to honour the recommendations of ‘The Williams report.’ I wish to wake people up to some of the injustices that have happened under our watch by creating empathy for its victims through this piece of semi-autobiographical fiction. As a young teacher in an E.S.N. school in seventies Britain, where immigrant Caribbean children were wrongly classified, I witnessed prejudice and the beginnings of this scandal first hand, but like most of us do, I turned away.
“My studies at the Open University later on in my career led me to believe that many pupils with additional needs should be integrated into their local school and taught alongside their fellow pupils. I was actually able to see this put into practice at my last school, when the local E.S.N. school was disbanded. I dream that my novel will help to increase understanding and diversity within our society, and combat prejudice.”
Published by Cranthorpe Millner Publishers, Because You Were There (ISBN:978-1-80378-112-9) is published on 25th April 2023 and is available in paperback (£8.99) and Kindle format.
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About the author:
Joan Lewis says: “I am a retired primary school headteacher, now living in the Languedoc area of France, where I spend my time writing, walking, boating, cooking and keeping abreast of world issues. I have taught in many parts of Britain, including Wales, Western England and Haringey. I hold an advanced diploma in special needs in education and a Masters in Education from The Open University.”