The Obamas Announce ‘Blackout’ Netflix TV and Film Adaptation

Written by: Andrea Marks-Joseph

 

With their newly released novel Blackout, six bestselling and award-winning authors “bring the glowing warmth and electricity of Black teen love” to New York City. A summer heatwave results in a power outage during which six teenagers find love and friendship. The charming stories are all set over one evening where the city goes dark, interlinking à la ‘Love Actually’ through a vibrant group of characters. It’s a true celebration of the diversity that is authentic to the city of New York. And with help from none other than the Obamas, all that magic will be brought to our screens: A film and TV event adapted from the Blackout anthology is in development at Netflix!

(Photo of Black Out Co-Authors Nic Stone and Angie Thomas)

The Hollywood Reporter first announced the big news, which was then shared by the novel’s authors on Twitter. This adaptation is the latest venture to come from the producing deal that Barack and Michelle Obama signed with Netflix in May 2018. The specific nature of this “event” is yet to be revealed, with Netflix simply noting that the stories are “being developed concurrently as a TV series and film adaptation. That means that some of the six stories could wind up in the film, while others are in the TV show.” It’s all very exciting and ground-breaking!

As with the anthology novel, each of the on-screen love stories will be written by a different person. The six authors, Dhonielle Clayton (Tiny Pretty Things), Tiffany D. Jackson (Allegedly), Nic Stone (Dear Martin), Angie Thomas (The Hate U Give), Ashley Woodfolk (The Beauty that Remains) and Nicola Yoon (Everything, Everything), will be writing the scripts for their individual adaptations, which is noteworthy as it’s a common occurrence that diverse stories are selected for on-screen release only to be handed over to all-white (usually all-male) writing and producing teams. Each of these authors is beloved in the Young Adult book community, which is celebrating this moment as a milestone for Black authors and Black readers all over the world.

(Photo of Author Dhonielle Clayton)

“The epitome of Black love, Barack Obama and Michelle Obama,” Blackout author Dhonielle Clayton tweeted, “are producing our big love story. I can’t believe it. My heart is so full.” Many of their fellow Young Adult authors shared congratulations and expressed their joy for the future of telling Black stories. Julian Winters (The Summer of Everything) wrote that he “can't even TWEET this without crying. This is so big. Not just for the incredibly talented and fierce [authors of Blackout] but for all the Black teens out there who need to see their love stories matter.”

Blackout was created as an ode to young Black joy, inspired by a combination of the moment when Dhonielle Clayton’s 15-year-old niece asked her “Why don’t the Black girls ever get big love stories? Why are they always the sidekick?” and the overwhelming coverage of police violence against Black people. The existence of this novel, where Black teenagers are at the centre of stories about romantic love, familial love, and self-love cannot be overstated. Written during a pandemic and brimming with hope, Blackout aims to bring readers light at a time when we need it more than ever. The amount of people Blackout will reach with the Obamas’ involvement and Netflix’s global footprint is incredible.

(Photo of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama by Vogue)

It was important to the authors that there was a wide range of representation in this collection, and that the focus was on the lives of Black teenagers. Readers can look forward to meeting queer parents, nonbinary characters, and enjoying two different queer love stories. Best friends get stuck in the New York Public Library, strangers meet in a rideshare situation, high school exes reunite, and there’s even a complicated love triangle. —The authors noted in their delightful Blackout authors’ roundtable discussion on the CBS Morning Show (well worth watching!) that, despite it being a popular YA trope, they haven’t seen a love triangle where a Black girl “gets to choose between two dudes.” We have had Twilight, and The Hunger Games… now we have Blackout.

Blackout is available to purchase from Harper Collins, and at your favourite local or online retailers.

 

Andrea Marks-Joseph is a South African freelance writer and book reviewer. She can be found on Twitter @stargirlriots and at stargirlriots.com