“Keisha the Sket accidentally decolonised literature.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
In 2005, aged just 13-years-old, the author who at the time was known simply as Jade was gifted a PC for her birthday and began writing Keisha the Sket (originally Keisha Da Sket), before uploading it to a Piczo site. The story follows a sharp, feisty and ambitious Black girl named Keisha living in Hackney, London as she navigates life, sexuality, and power. When her childhood crush, Ricardo finally wins her over Keisha thinks she has it all, power, a love life, and the chance at stability but a whirlwind of choices she is forced to make plus several traumatic moments define the woman Keisha wants to be.
This story of the unforgettable heroine was and still is an exploration of Black, British youth culture that went viral in the early 2000s. Now, fifteen years later, Keisha the Sket is published in print form for the first time by #MerkyBooks, an imprint of Penguin Books.
In this publication of Keisha the Sket, author Jade L.B. – a London-based creative and academic writer exploring Black women and relationships, Black British culture and the working-class experience, and one-half of the Echo Chamber podcast – revisits the work she created between the ages of thirteen and fifteen.
The book opens with an Author’s Note which explains how Keisha first came to be. It also examines Jade’s thoughts on the writing now – as her knowledge has grown – including highlight the internalised misogynoir that impacted Keisha’s sexuality and power in the story, and understanding the meaning of Keisha to Britain, then and also now.
The first part of the book is the preserved ‘OG’ text, that was first published online by the teenaged author. “I hope new readers inquisitively picking up this book use the OG as a portal to access intimate and intricate parts of black girlhood they may not have had the opportunity to witness otherwise,” Jade explains, “For readers familiar with Keisha, I hope you will smile, laugh, cringe and see her anew all these years later, riding each wave of nostalgia the text invokes.”
The OG text is presented in the dialect, slang, and ebonics (with a few words redacted) that those who first read it, back when it broke the internet, will be familiar with.
The text that follows the OG is ‘Keisha revised’ in which Jade revists the character she created, amplifying her voice and story with more depth and background. She also allows Keisha an ending which the ‘OG’ text left on a cliffhanger. This revisted text retains much of the slang and ebonics that are an integral part of Black youth culture in Britain, that spoke to the original readers of Keisha’s story and made them feel seen in literature.
The final section of the book features essays from esteemed contemporary writers Candice Carty-Williams (Sexc), Caleb Femi (Sex and Masculinity in the Endz), Aniefiok Ekpoudom (A Million Footsteps) and Enny (The Blacker the Berry, The Penger the Juice). These writings explore the influence Keisha the (da) Sket had on them and Britain in general.
Candice Carty-Williams’ essay explores the use of ebonics and how it made her feel understood, and also explores the darker topics of Black women’s sexuality, objectification, and power.
“I understood, on reading Keisha the Sket as an adult, that how Keisha is treated by men is a product of how we as Black women understood our capital and our worth when we ourselves were teenagers,” states Candice Carty-Williams.
Caleb Femi’s writing examines sex and masculinity in London (the Endz) and the pressures to conform that are placed on young, Black men in Britain. While Aniefiok Ekpoudom’s essay takes the reader on a journey via music. Enny’s essay does not feature in the uncorrected proof so cannot currently be commented on.
Whether you’re new to Keisha the Sket or reliving the nostalgia of your youth by re-reading her story in print for the first time, it is undeniable that Jade L.B.’s writing can both grip readers and delve into new forms of literary genius, leading the way for other similar works.
Catherine Muxworthy, Booksbirdblog
Added 29th October 2021