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A 21-year-old British university student has landed a million-dollar book deal in the US for her first novel, a high-school thriller that tackles institutionalised racism.

Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, from London, was 19 and studying English, Chinese and anthropology in Aberdeen when she began writing what would become Ace of Spades.

The young adult novel, which follows two black students trying to find out who is spreading damaging rumours about them at their elite private school, was snapped up this week, along with a second novel, by Macmillan in the US for a seven-figure sum. It will be published next June.

Following talented musician Devon and head girl Chiamaka, the only two black students at the overwhelmingly white Niveus Private Academy, Àbíké-Íyímídé’s novel is a thriller. It explores the fallout when gossip about the pair leaves them fighting for their reputations and eventually their lives.

“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.

She landed an agent and a UK book deal with Usborne in 2018, working with her editor on the novel for two years before it was sent out on submission to the US, where Macmillan jumped on it.

“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,” said Àbíké-Íyímídé.

“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,” she added.

For the author, the novel embodies themes that such as homophobia in the black community, institutional racism and the diversity of thought among black people.

Source: The Guardian