Advent Calendar – Day 13 – Orphans and Care Experience in fiction: Brixton Rock by Alex Wheatle
Set against the backdrop of the Brixton race riots in London in the 1980s, this novel tells a story of overcoming obstacles from a teen’s perspective. Brenton Brown, is just 16 years old. He’s mixed race and has lived in a children’s home since birth where he has been haunted by the absence of his mother.
Brenton was abandoned and has never known love. The home he grew up in was brutal and abusive. Understandably Brenton finds it hard to trust anybody. Working out who you are when you don’t have a family sees the narrative follow his struggle for identity. Through it all though Brenton is determined to pursue education and recognize his true self in the midst of chaos.
Complications arise, however, when he finally meets his mother and then falls dangerously in love with his half-sister – a relatively well known phenomena for children who have not been brought up together. At the same time, killer Terry Flynn attacks Brenton and scars him for life. Brenton vows revenge which leads to an explosive climax set against the backdrop of 1980s Brixton with its street life, music and humour.
Brenton, like many young people who leave care, struggles to find work, pay bills, eat and generally survive day to day life. That he does this at 16 years old is nothing short of a miracle.
Brixton Rock (1999) is published by Arcadia Books