When Jade LB was given a laptop for her 13th birthday, she sat in her home in Hackney, north-east London, and began writing a story. Her main character was 17-year-old Keisha, a black girl from inner city London whose life was full of sex, violence and alcoholism.
Jade didn’t have internet at home in 2005, so the storey of “Keisha the Sket” sat dormant on her laptop’s notes page at first.
She published chapters on the social media site Piczo a year later.
The storey, which was almost entirely written in text speak and London slang, began to gain popularity.
During school lunch breaks, students with enough credit on their phones would pass chapters on to one another.
The storey was passed from friendship group to friendship group across London and beyond via BlackBerry messenger, Bluetooth, and MSN.
Keisha’s storey had gone viral before the age of shares, likes, and retweets.
‘It went against the grain’
The desire for new chapters of the storey was so strong that Jade claims she received “threatening messages” urging her to post the next instalment.
It’s now a fully formed book, published by Stormzy’s Penguin Random House branch, Merky Books.
Jade has always kept her identity hidden, but this is the first time she’s spoken out about the writing process.
Jade tells Radio 1 Newsbeat that her candid approach to writing about women’s sexuality “went against the grain.”
“It contradicted what young boys were learning at the time, which was that girls aren’t sexual.”
The storey goes into great detail about Keisha’s first sexual encounters.
It describes her inner turmoil as she develops a sexual appetite but does not want to appear as a “sket” – a slang term for a promiscuous woman – among the boys in her area.
According to Jade, she was writing about “a world [she] was observing.”
‘I felt shame’
But as the storey spread, Jade became increasingly concerned about what she’d written.
“I felt a lot of shame,” she says.
“With guys, in particular, I thought, ‘Oh my god, you know, I’ve written about sex.'”
“[Keisha] is regarded as promiscuous. I assumed it would [appear to be] a reflection of me, and convincing someone otherwise would be difficult.”
Jade stopped telling people she was the author and hoped no one else would bring it up.
However, over the last decade, social media has sporadically turned to the legendary storey.
And Jade would occasionally receive messages from friends informing her that her character was once again trending on Twitter.
She kept a low profile as people speculated online about who was behind their favourite nostalgic storey.
Jade began going to therapy as she grew older.
She went there to figure out why she had kept her connection to the storey hidden for so long.
‘It’s a time capsule’
Finally, she decided she was ready to return to it.
And she was inundated with offers.
Merky Books has now published the book.
It includes a reflective author’s note, the original text speak script from 2005, and a rewrite in standard English.
Jade adds: “Because it’s a time capsule, I wanted to leave it as is. It has sentimental value.”
She hopes that by publishing both versions of the book, it will be “accessible to a much larger number of people.”
When she read back some of the scenes, Jade was “really stunned by [her] apparent savviness.”
In the prologue, Jade writes, “After the gang assault, Keisha effectively returns to some semblance of normalcy.”
“At the time, I didn’t feel particularly acutely aware of these things.”
Jade says she kept the plot line the same because it is based on real-life experiences of young black women.
“That is the truth, and it is what occurs. Girls like me and Keisha bury infractions and move on.”
‘Understanding stories invokes empathy’
Jade has earned two degrees and worked with young women at risk of sexual exploitation over the last ten years.
She is currently a part-time lecturer in African politics at a London university.
“I’ve had so many different experiences that I have a very different understanding of the world of my own girlhood, and of girlhood in general.”
“I felt it was important to retell the storey and add some layering and texture.” “I wrote some things that were bothering me.”
Jade describes herself as a “advocate” for telling stories from “marginalised communities,” something Merky Books takes pride in.
“There is a way that understanding people and understanding people’s stories and where they come from invokes empathy,” she says.