Known as Diran Adebayo, Oludiran Adebayo was born in north London in 1968 to Nigerian parents. He is the acclaimed author of Some Kind of Black (1996) and My Once Upon a Time (2000). Adebayo won a scholarship to Malvern College and then read Law at Oxford. Thereafter he began working as a journalist, writing for newspapers like The Voice and The Daily Express, and for BBC TV and London Weekend Television (LWT). In 2006 he was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and since 2015 he has worked as a lecturer in Creative Writing at Kingston University, London.
Adebayo’s stylish, hedonistic prose is tempered by a sensitive, self-critical intelligence that stops it growing tired, or superficial. His sharp eye for current trends and fashions – speech patterns, dress, drugs, music, turns of phrase – make him what one critic calls “the leading writer of the Now Generation”.
Adebayo’s 1996 debut novel Some Kind of Black was heralded as signalling the rise of a new generation of Black British authors whose work was simultaneously self-critical and critical of the society in which it was incubated. The novel portrays a fictional alter-ego of the author in a shadowy coming-of-age tale set in the protagonist’s sex and drugs-fuelled youth in Oxford and London. Zadie Smith has praised Adebayo’s work for its self-aware portrayal of the flawed human condition, while other critics have suggested that it does not go far enough to interrogate the tensions between different Black British identities that the novel raises at its outset. Adebayo’s work is crucially influenced by black-on-black gang violence and racial politics. Some Kind of Black won the inaugural SAGA prize, the Writers Guild of Great Britain’s New Writer of the Year Award, a Betty Trask Award, and The Authors’ Club’s ‘Best First Novel’ award. It was long-listed for the Booker Prize and has since become a Virago Modern Classic.
His second novel My Once Upon a Time traces an ambiguously named detective, Boy, as he seeks out an abstract concept (love) for a mysterious client. This novel deploys magical realist techniques to explore black masculinity and relationships. Adebayo’s more recent work as an essayist concentrates on providing social commentary on race in Britain and he is also currently writing a sport-accented memoir.
—Chelsea Haith, 2019
Cite this: Haith, Chelsea. “Diran Adebayo.” Postcolonial Writers Make Worlds, 2019, https://writersmakeworlds.com/diran-adebayo/. Accessed 15 October 2019.