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In her mid-twenties she did work for a social institution that included dealing with racist attacks. She also worked part-time in the BBC costume department, while starting a graphic design company with her husband Bill Mayblin. During this time she experienced a form of awakening to her identity concerning both her gender and her race. She also became aware of the power of books and began to read “excessively”: it was easy enough to find literature by black writers from the United States, but she could find very little literature from black writers in the United Kingdom.
Levy began writing only in her mid-thirties, but she attracted attention immediately with her first novel, the semi-autobiographical Every Light in the House Burnin'. Her fourth novel, Small Island (2004), won three prestigious awards: Whitbread Book of the Year, the Orange Prize for Fiction, and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. It has since been made into a television drama, which was broadcast by the BBC in December 2009. Her fifth novel, The Long Song, won the 2011 Walter Scott Prize and was short-listed for the 2010 Man Booker Prize.
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