A 21-year-old Nigerian girl based in the UK, where she is studying English Literature at a university, has landed a million-dollar book deal in the U.S for her first novel, ‘Ace of Spades’.
Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé was 19 when she began writing what would become ‘Ace of Spades’, a high-school thriller that tackles institutionalized racism.
The book is the story of two black students trying to find out who is spreading damaging rumours about them at their elite private school. The lead characters, Chiamaka and Devon, are in a predominantly white private school, and their tracking the source of the gossip about them later develops into a life-and-death issue.
Already scheduled for publication in 2021 by the UK publishing house Usborne, the book was snapped up this week, along with a second novel, by Macmillan in the US for the seven-figure sum. It will be published there next June.
“I was in my first year at university and I didn’t have many friends because I don’t drink as I’m Muslim, so I’d be in my room trying to figure out what to do. I was watching a lot of TV shows and I binged Gossip Girl in a few days,” Àbíké-Íyímídé told The Guardian UK.
“I loved it so much but I was really sad that there weren’t many people who looked like me in it. I thought it’d be so cool if the shows I grew up with, like Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl, had more black people in them, so I started planning a story. I’d usually do uni during the day, then come home and write until 4 a.m.
“I went to a really working-class school in south London – we all had the same socio-economic background, most of us were black or Asian. So writing was kind of like fantasy, I was trying to imagine what extreme wealth would look like,” said Àbíké-Íyímídé.
Excited about the deal, Àbíké-Íyímídé said she was “grateful for this opportunity to share this story and have others see themselves for the first time in these characters.”
“Macmillan put their money where their mouth is. Often in publishing, a lot of black authors don’t get the support so it was just so lovely to see them not lowball me. They wanted to show they were invested and I really appreciated that.
I was just a broke student writing to make myself some fictional friends. I’d always wanted to be a writer and I thought university was the best time to try new things because after that you have to get a proper job.”