The List by Yomi Adegoke explores justice in the digital age

The List by Yomi Adegoke explores justice in the digital age

by Suswati Basu
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Yomi Adegoke speaks about her new book The List

The Trouble Club hosted another engaging evening featuring journalist Yomi Adegoke, delving into the themes of her new book, “The List.” The event buzzed with excitement as attendees gathered to discuss the intricacies of legal and moral equity in Adegoke’s latest work in the intimate atmosphere of the Conduit.

Eleanor Newton, the event host and director of the club, began by asking Adegoke’s personal experience in choosing the cover design for her book. The transition from pink to lilac, as she revealed, was a conscious decision driven by the desire to ensure the book’s accessibility and inclusivity. She aimed to cater to both genders and address societal norms related to colour associations.

Warning: some spoilers ahead!

Who is The List author Yomi Adegoke?

Yomi Adegoke is a British journalist and author. She studied law at the University of Warwick, but took a year out to found Birthday Magazine, a publication aimed at Black teenage girls. After graduating, she worked as a digital news reporter at ITN and then as an online producer at Channel 4 News. In 2017, she joined The Pool, a women's lifestyle publication, as a senior writer.

In 2018, Adegoke co-authored the book Slay in Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible, which became a bestseller. The book is a collection of essays and interviews about the experiences of Black women in the UK. Slay in Your Lane was shortlisted for British Book Awards Non-Fiction Lifestyle Book of the Year 2019. The author was also awarded the Groucho Maverick and Marie Clare Future Shaper awards. In 2021, she was named on the Forbes 30 under 30 list.

Adegoke is a regular columnist for The Guardian and British Vogue. She is also the former presenter of the Women's Prize for fiction podcast. She is a vocal advocate for diversity and inclusion in the media, and has spoken out against racism and sexism.

What is The List about?

“The List,” penned by the accomplished Yomi Adegoke, thrusts readers into a gripping narrative that delves into the formidable sway of social media and the perilous realm of cancel culture. The story orbits around Ola Olajide, a budding journalist whose impending union with her long-term partner, Michael, promises a blissful future. However, a mere month before their wedding, the digital landscape shudders as a compendium of names, that of men in the UK media ensnared in accusations of sexual misconduct, materializes on Twitter. In a cruel twist, Michael’s name finds itself etched onto this incriminating list, sending Ola’s world hurtling into disarray.

Read: No Offence, But… author Gina Martin on challenging victim blaming

Through the meticulous weaving of its narrative threads, “The List” navigates the intricate maze of #MeToo, cancel culture, and the omnipotent role of social media in our existence. It provokes pertinent inquiries about the gravity of survivors’ stories, the nuances of holding perpetrators accountable, and devising defenses against the treacherous pitfalls of online condemnation.

Commended for its acute timeliness and gravity, “The List” is lauded not only for its topical significance but also for its finely etched characters and a narrative arc rife with suspense. Hailed as “a gripping social media nightmare,” the novel paints a vivid tapestry of the interconnectedness of these movements, intermingled with the indomitable influence of our digital lives.

For those drawn to a literary exploration of the shadowy facets of social media and the unforgiving grip of public shaming, “The List” by Yomi Adegoke beckons.

#MeToo and cancel culture

Adegoke delved into the delicate process of transitioning from nonfiction to fiction. Her debut novel, “The List,” explores the fallout after Michael, a soon-to-be-married man, is anonymously accused of sexual assault through a viral online list. Adegoke explained that her inspiration stemmed from the #MeToo movement and the wave of anonymous lists circulating on social media, calling out various individuals for their alleged wrongdoings. She emphasised her intention to dissect the ethical complexities surrounding such accusations, especially as some accused were assumed to have “done something quite similar,” even if they had not.

“By the nature of appearing on a list like that, It almost doesn’t matter what it says. The reality is anyone, myself, anyone in this room would see that someone is basically grouped in with men that have done, crimes of a sexual nature or physical assault or whatever, and kind of assume that they’ve also done something quite similar.”

Yomi Adegoke

‘I May Destroy You’

Newton and Adegoke delved into the compelling dynamics of the story, notably the looming wedding of Ola and Michael. The author revealed that the initial pacing of the story was different, set over the course of a year, until Adegoke found her stride and incorporated the one-month countdown to the wedding. This change injected urgency into the narrative, heightening the tension as the characters grappled with the accusations. As a result, she infuses humour into the situation by creating a deadline, which she said was inspired by British actress and filmmaker Michaela Coel’s hit TV tragicomedy “I May Destroy You.”

“I think watching shows like Michaela Coel’s ‘I May Destroy You,’ which is about really harrowing subject material, but is absolutely hilarious. I felt like I almost had permission to do that.”

Yomi Adegoke

The decision to alternate between Ola and Michael’s perspectives was pivotal to the novel. Adegoke shared that she initially wrote from Ola’s perspective but later felt that Michael’s voice was essential to offer a multi-dimensional view of the situation. The contrast between the two characters’ reactions, as well as the differences in how their friends supported them, exposed the complexities of human emotions and societal expectations.

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Addressing the racial dimension, Adegoke highlighted the historical baggage that comes with being a Black man facing accusations. She acknowledged the troubling history of Black men disproportionately being presumed guilty in such situations. However, she also questioned the ways in which this history is sometimes co-opted to protect guilty parties. Adegoke compared the treatment of Black men to that of the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till almost 70 years ago, but was careful not to paint everyone in the same light.

“I think it’s about multiple things being true at once, that Black men are disproportionately accused of crimes they didn’t commit, and simultaneously, people use that to exonerate guilty men 100%.”

Yomi Adegoke

Justice in the age of social media

Throughout the conversation, Adegoke tackled the question of justice in the digital age head-on. She skillfully highlighted the dichotomy between exposing abusers and potentially harming the innocent. She left the audience with the realisation that the answer is elusive and context-dependent, mirroring the broader societal debate on the value of exposing misconduct versus protecting the innocent. As a law graduate, Adegoke says the book is fundamentally about the lawlessness of the Internet, which she deemed “the Wild West” because of its unregulated nature, and the ability for any bad faith actors to weaponise it for their own purposes.

It is evident that Yomi Adegoke’s “The List” is more than a novel; it’s a mirror reflecting the complexities of modern justice, ethics, and human behaviour. It is asking ourselves whether we have the ability to balance accountability and presumption of innocence in the era of digital activism.

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