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Sabrina Mahfouz: ‘Oppressive systems can destroy young people’s lives’

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With an adaptation of Noughts and Crosses set to tour the UK and her anthology of Muslim writing picked for Emma Watson’s book club, the prolific British writer is as busy as ever. Here she talks about race, class and motherhood

Sabrina Mahfouz remembers the first time she felt “mixed race” in the eyes of the world. She was 14 and applying for Saturday jobs in London when an apparent problem with her identity was pointed out to her. Until then, she had felt happily British, and happily Egyptian, with Guyanese heritage thrown in.

“People I went to see for jobs would show shock at the disparity between my face and the name on my CV. They’d say: “I expected you to be a lot more foreign.” It’s that moment, as a teenager, when you first realise the difference between all that you are and how the world sees you.”

I wanted to be a spy – or anything else that was exciting and took me to different places

I wanted to focus on these two characters and how oppressive systems can destroy and determine people's lives from a young age

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