In June 2021, a contemporary thriller mixed heart-pounding suspense and relevant social commentary to unravel the struggles of two students against an anonymous bully. Set in an elite high school, this debut follows two Black teens as they are taunted, their secrets spilled by an anonymous texter determined for ruination. With a backdrop of dark academia and drama, the author truly created a page-turner full of mystery and intrigue in the midst of complex social dynamics. Pitched as Gossip Girl meets Get Out meets One of Us is Lying, this young adult fiction centres Black queer kids and highlights institutional racism, classism, and microaggressions. No wonder Roseanne A. Brown, New York Times bestselling author of A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, praised it as a book that “perfectly captures the strength and resilience it takes to survive the visceral terror of being a Black person trying to thrive in a society designed to destroy you.” Needless to say, it’s a pleasure to feature Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé— the author of Ace of Spades— on this blog today! To view more such posts by Muslim authors, make sure to check out this collaboration, Muslim Musings, spanning over Ramadan 2022. This blog post may contain affiliate links. To know more about them, please read my disclaimer.
Q/A with Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé on her debut thriller featuring Black queer teens and crafting a YA fiction with social themes like institutional racism.
Starting with the introductions, would you like to help our readers know more about your debut novel, Ace of Spades, yourself, and the weather where you are?
Hello! My name is Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé and I’m the author of Ace of Spades, a YA Thriller about the only Black students at an all-white private school who despite being very different, are forced to work together to take down an anonymous bully called Aces before things get deadly. I currently live in London – although I spent the last few years of my life completing an undergraduate degree in Scotland – and the weather in London right now is very inconsistent. It was snowing last week, raining over the weekend and now it’s really warm. Very typical English weather.
This YA thriller is recommended as Gossip Girl meets Get Out meets One of Us is Lying, which sounds absolutely perfect for what it is: secrets unravelling in an elite school. How did you make this genre of Dark Academia—which is otherwise extremely eurocentric—yours?
I simply just drew from my experiences in academia as a Black person. I don’t think I was really thinking much about the eurocentricity of the genre / aesthetic, and more so about the things I wanted to critique in academia as well as in dark academia, and I wanted to do so in a way that would be accessible. Something I often think of when I am faced with people who challenge the efforts to diversify the genre, is the simple question of “If dark academia is meant to be about the darkness of academia… What is darker than structural/institutional racism?”
Clearly, Ace of Spades is about institutional racism, classism in a private high school, and homophobia in the Black community. What inspired you to craft something with these themes?
I was inspired heavily by my experiences at University and wanted to unpack a lot of the problems I was facing. Writing Ace of Spades for me was like a long self-therapy session, and in the end I wanted my story to be something that could speak to Black teenagers going through similar things and/or Black teenagers who want to understand the world more and the systems we come up against every day.
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light.
Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can’t escape the spotlight when his private photos go public. Head girl Chiamaka isn’t afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power.
Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they’re planning much more than a high-school game.
For a tale told through the only two Black students in an elite school, crafting these characters must have been an experience. Who, Chiamaka or Devon, was more personal to you as the creator of them?
I think they were both equally personal to me. I don’t think I am exactly like either Chiamaka or Devon, but there are aspects of my life that can be seen in both of their stories. With Chiamaka it’s her queerness and her ethnicity. With Devon, it’s his queerness and socioeconomic status.
It’s easy to understand why readers loved Ace of Spades—it had been on the New York Times bestseller list for an entire month! How excited were you? Any thoughts on what you expected readers to take away from it?
I was so excited to learn that Ace of Spades had resonated with so many people. I really never expected the book to take off this way and I am very grateful. I think the major thing I’d want readers to take away from the book is to question all of the institutions we have been told to trust our entire lives.
With your debut published now, what have you learned ever since that first step you took towards writing stories or getting them on shelves?
I have learned to “let go and let God” as my mother always says, which essentially means to let go of all the things I can’t control and to focus on the things I can. Leaving the rest to God or the universe or whatever you believe in.
This was a great chat! But before letting you go, would you like to share what you’ve been working on nowadays; any stories we should be excited for after Ace of Spades has already won our hearts? Or maybe something you enjoyed reading recently?
I am working on a lot of cool things right now, all of which I can’t really talk about yet – hopefully I can someday soon though. Right now I am reading The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas and I am obsessed. It comes out this year!
Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is the instant New York Times, international bestselling and award-winning author of Ace of Spades. She is an avid tea drinker, a collector of strange mugs and a recent graduate from a university in the Scottish Highlands where she studied English Literature. When she isn’t spinning dark tales, Faridah can be found examining the deeper meanings in Disney channel original movies. You can find her at www.faridahabikeiyimede.com or @faridahlikestea on Twitter or @faridahlikestea on Instagram!
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Everything stated in this post is independent of any compensation, and the author’s answers and thoughts are solely their opinion; the formatting was done by the blogger but no changes were made in text.