Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Reading - Young Heroes of the Caribbean

Chapters of the book Young Heroes of the Caribbean read by the author Gwyneth Harold Davidson.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Moments That Move

Moments That Move

Grade 9 Block was a holiday home
done in the Mediterranean Revival style
It is on the national register of historic places.
….so I recently had the privilege of a paying a short visit to a prestigious private girls’ school in Florida. The school is situated on a repurposed holiday mansion and estate. If there is a school for princesses, this is it. Walking on the grounds feels like a Disney World designed palace. The city is grumbling at the moment as the school is building a modern auditorium, and this has changed the view of the property as seen from the road. 

The school is sponsored by a religious society that supports such private schools all over the world. There are two of these schools in the Caribbean (Cuba and Puerto Rico), and there is one in Guyana.

The school entry examination and interviews are rigourous, so it is expected that the enrolled students will be able to succeed in their studies, and this in turn bolsters the school's Ivy League acceptance rate at the end of Grade 12. These girls get frequent reinforcements that they will, one day, be among the leaders in their chosen fields.

Musical Theatre technique
Aside from the basic subjects that a good secondary school should offer, the curriculum here has three sessions of sport per week, plus dancing. The girls are taught watersports, court sports, and field sports. They are not being trained to become professional athletes, but as rowing and sailing are offered, they could represent their countries in the Olympics, one day.
Across the two years when girls naturally experience the onset of puberty, the school offers privacy to transition into adolescence on a separate campus from the rest of the teen population. On their own campus, the Grade 7 and Grade 8 girls are taught the basic skills of womanhood, and given time to learn about, to respect and to love their natural bodies.

It was a pleasure to see girls walking confidently and purposefully, their short skirts, PE shorts and makeup-free faces revealing toned and healthy bodies.
Way up! Up we deh!
I read notice boards, because this is how you can find out about the agendas and issues inside of an organisation. On one board was a schedule with the days that each registered school group/club is responsible to ensure that The Loggia (a Mediterranean style indoor/outdoor cafe where they eat lunch) is left clean and neat. The note said the students are not expected to clean-up after other children, but they are to ensure that the area was left immaculate after the sanitation crew tidied the area.

I was indeed impressed by what I saw, then there was a small opening which took me back to a great moment of my own school days in Jamaica.
My host explained that the teachers at this school make potentially dull subjects, like history, come alive, and make it meaningful. That comment caused time to collapse, and in full colour and sound, I had returned to a moment that I had not thought about more than two times in the course of more than 33 years.
View from the library, 
St Hugh's High School, Jamaica
The subject was The Age of Enlightenment, and our Grade 9, history teacher, Mrs Coulton had devised a special activity. She divided our class into two groups, one had the task of dramatizing the critical events of the American War of Independence, and another was to undertake the same for the French Revolution. 
The drama teacher was involved as I remember rehearsing in our small drama room called The Barn during regular school hours.

I was cast in the American War of Independence. Sandra Grant, a science brain, assumed the role of producer, director and playwright. The activity activated her leadership desires and energies. She wrote the script, was lead fund raiser for the costumes and props, she designed the costumes, scheduled and directed the rehearsals, and got our team mentally ready for the big day. I wish I could remember who played the role of Paul Revere, but someone, maybe holding a horse head, ran across The Barn shouting her lines: “The British are coming, the British are coming!”
St Hugh's dancers, November 2015
I was a rank and file Redcoat  who was thrilled to be issued with a plyboard shotgun, but I cannot remember my fate. Was I a casualty of cannon fire, lanced by a bayonet, or did I manage to retreat safely to Boston Harbour? Sandra, of course, cast herself as General George Washington. The exercise went splendidly, and I remember it with pride, and with a lot of joy. Perhaps experiences like this have helped me to be comfortable working with purposeful, smart women who offer leadership.  

I recalled a short version of that bit of classroom history to my host who honestly asked me if my school was an international affiliate of this school that I was visiting. 

Well, St Hugh's was also founded by a religious order, and both schools have blue and gold as their colours.  Could it be that my school was also a school for princesses? My host's babyfather says that his daughter's school is really a feminist organisation disguised as a religious school; perhaps it is so.

To the question of affiliation, I replied, “No, St Hugh’s High School is a part of the Jamaican education system and we had really good teachers who were interested in us.”   

Sailing practice lagoon
of the US school. 
We could have this in Jamaica 
if we wanted it.
I am happy that my host's daughter is going to school in this beautiful environment, that nurtures self-confidence, and that values refinement. There are only 20 students in a class, so she is getting support in every aspect of her education. As one of few middle class, dark-skinned black girls in a school with mostly white girls from wealthy families, I observe that her low voice is not because of shyness or insecurity - she is quite clear when she expresses herself - her personality traits happen to include calmness and determination. This girl is doing well in her subjects, she participates in extra activities, and she is comfy in her own skin, among her ponytail swinging friends.
I wish her, and her classmates every success. 

With such support, there is a good chance that these girls will have high expectations of themselves, and they will be selective about their associations and their choices, in Tomorrow Land.


The Florida school libarary
• Two professional, full-time librarians and one archivist.
• On-site and remote access to subject e-databases including: the school's Online Library Catalog; BrainPOP; CIAO; EBSCO Research Databases; Encyclopedia Britannica; Granger’s World of Poetry; Lexis-Nexis Scholastic Edition; NewsBank; Oxford English Dictionary; Oxford Language Dictionaries Online; Oxford Reference Library; Alexander Street Press: Dance in Video, North American Theatre Online, Asian American Drama, Black Drama, North American Indian Drama, North American Women’s Drama, Twentieth Century North American Drama, American History in Video, World History in Video, Latino Literature; ARTStor; JSTOR, Maps 101; Maps as History; Grove Music; Humanities e-Books; Project Muse, Questia; Teaching Books; Visual Thesaurus; Gale Virtual Reference Library; Scientific American digital edition.
• 21,000 books and audio-visual resources.
• Over 60 periodicals and magazines - many in both print and digital format.
• Print and digital newspaper subscriptions including the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald Miami, USA Today, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, New York Review of Books. Access to hundreds of historical newspapers searchable online through the NewsBank database.
High School Library 
Located in the state of the art Library and Science and Technology Building serves as the High School library with quiet rooms for the students and faculty. Students, faculty and staff are surrounded by reading alcoves, hand-stenciled ceilings and the latest technology.
Intermediate School Library
The beautiful paneled room is an elegant and warm place to enjoy reading books and magazines.
Montessori and Primary School Library
Bay window overlooking the pool, provides a cozy atmosphere for our Montessori and Primary students to read and study.  

Thursday, 22 October 2015

A Regal Loss - copyright, trademark and patent your creations

A Regal Loss

Once upon a time there was a biscuit called Regal biscuit. It was a soda biscuit, about the size of a bulla that rose during baking and had a hard, cracked, crust when it was done.

I have never had it, but in its heyday anyone travelling from Montego Bay knew that a gift of these to people at the end of the journey would bring smiles, and was an example of love-in-action. Legend has it that it was crispy on the outside and buttery soft on the inside and practically melted in the mouth. Absolutely delicious, Jamaicans between age 60 and age 90 say.

Soda biscuit from Martha Stewart Living
It was the kind of food item, like fry fish, that Jamaican people package and carry for loved ones. If you were coming from South St Elizabeth, you travelled with Sugar Loaf pineapple as gifts, if you were coming from Portland you seek out fit Yellow Heart breadfruit, and Montegonians shared Regal biscuit with the world.

When baker Mills died, he carried the recipe with him to higher service. As wonderful a product, famous in the country, great to make up lunch, but the process was never written down.

Pickapeppa sauce has no equal, according to Jamaicans, and although the brand exists, it does not taste the same. I am told that the original recipe died with its creator, Daddy Lin Kee Chow, and those of us who grew up with the original product, aficionados if you were, have sadly turned to other condiments to add the finishing touch to meat or rice and peas. Pickapeppa is no longer a "must have" in those households.

Every now and then, during moments of skylarking, a flavourful debate would start among friends as to who baked the better beef patty. I defend Bruce's on Trafalgar Road, Kingston was the best; others mention the original Bruce's in Cross Roads across from Empire Supermarket; Montegonians will defend their hometown product. With these three out of business now, the it is the time for the second tier to shine. These latter day bakers know they run a patty shop, so wrote down the recipes and focus themselves on building a successful, long term, business.

The skyline over Montego Bay once had a superboard on the Top Road ridge declaring "Red Stripe". It was a tantalizing call to action as the way to quench your adult thirst. Red Stripe beer was a food group to about three generations of Jamaicans. It's popularity has lasted that long partly because, thank goodness, Mr Geddes ensured that Messrs Cotter and Martindale wrote down the recipe, and there is still a brewery and bottling factory employing people on Spanish Town Road.

As much as some of us might lament the sale of the recipe for Tia Maria liqueur by Lascelles deMercado, and our national rums distilled by J Wray and Nephew (under the Appleton, Wray and Nephew and Sangster's brands) to foreign interests, we have to acknowledge that they lasted beyond their creators because somebody has a process written down in a ruled notebook on a shelf, or..... in an Unobtanium safe that can only be opened by retina scan....I don't know if that is how these recordings are handled; I wish to bring home the point it was recorded properly so that it could be replicated for profit.

Gizzarda is a sweet open coconut tart from Jamaica. Delicious with a short shelf life. The one person who understands how to extend the freshness of the product is a woman running a cottage industry in western Jamaica and her product goes to market in the UK. When quizzed about her special process, she says that she has "a way that she boil the sugar".

Even if the creative person does not have any interest in being a part of the greater good and adding to the storehouse of knowledge for mankind, it makes sense for creators to write down how they made their creations. They can be a part of larger enterprises, they can earn money from the patent or the copyright.

You can pull apart an iPhone and see exactly what is there, and then sigh and say that "If only the copyright and patents did not exist, I could do that too".

Replicating innovation in food and drink, without inside knowledge, is nigh impossible. Who knows if the original Pickapeppa had some special ingredient from Inner Mongolia blended with Trelawny molasses at 105 degrees celsius for sixteen minutes?

Soda biscuit from Probonobaker
Maybe Regal biscuits ONLY used buttermilk churned from the milk of cows that were raised on a mash of fresh green cane cuttings and khus khus supplemented by a weekly ration of guinea grass.
In the area of music, a recording of dub is difficult to pull apart and replicate because you just do not know if a piece of audio was originally a car bonnet hit with a zinc spoon then re-recorded at a different speed then overlaid with the hum of a mosquito and mixed down again.

The Regal biscuit is lost to us, but perhaps we can still save other processes. Let's write down "the way she boil the sugar", and by so doing, establish copyright that can be used for long term gain.

Perhaps one day someone might take up the challenge to bake a great soda biscuit at the right price point for the popular market. They could call it Regal to evoke olde time goodness....but they can't call it Royal because the crown (state) has a trademark on that particular name.

Monday, 28 September 2015

My art excursion with 3 boys

Beside George William Gordon in National Heroes Park Kingston, Jamaica

Art excursion with 3 boys

Dedicated to my art teacher, Cheryl Champagnie.

From Thursday, the calls and text messages started coming in to me from my young friend who is nine years old and in Grade 4. His Visual Arts homework was to list occupations in the visual arts, tools of a visual artist, and to give examples of different types of art. My friend knew his limitations, and the text messages were to who he knew could give him help.

When he visited, I set a lightly varnished 35 cm" wooden statue on a table to inspire him to find the right words for the assignment. The artist had chiseled a standing woman balancing a full basket of ground provisions on her head. It had been in the house for more than 50 years and belongs to my mother-in-law who bought it on a cruise ship stop in Haiti. There is a carving of about the same size in my parents' house that was also made in Haiti, but that statue is unvarnished, and the woman is in a squatting pose holding her head. I also own a polished Lignum Vitae carving of a woman, but mine was done here in Jamaica. The figure is bending backwards. Women bearing real and mental burdens, and contorting themselves are all around me.

The following day, I took my friend and two younger boys on an excursion around Kingston to look at statues. My goal was to raise awareness of the materials that make statues and the subjects of the statues. It was the last Sunday in the month, so the National Gallery of Jamaica was open and the boys would have a wider variety of objects to see. I put chilled Capri Sun drinks in my lunch bag, planned a route, and in good spirits we set out at about high noon.

The first object was a great way to introduce the concept of a bust. It is of King Edward VII and he is set on the Half-Way-Tree clock tower facing West. He is a bust on two accounts: the sculpture of him in ceremonial dress ends at his chest, and his face is busted because his nose was smashed off some time ago. The king died in 1910, the bust was installed in 1913 and the inscription says he was called The Peacemaker. Less than a year after that, Jamaican men joined UK forces in the opening stages of the Great War which was from 1914-1918.

The second statue caused unstoppable laughter in the car even before it came into view at the ceremonial entrance of Emancipation Park. I tried to be heard above the glee.
"The people in this statue represent the condition of our enslaved ancestors. They had nothing, but once they had their freedom they set the foundations that built our nation." The boys were looking at the fronts of the naked torsos as I spoke. I drove on another 1.5Km.

"Look to your left," I said, you will see a statue on a building. This kind of statue is called a relief. It is mounted on the wall. What is it about?"
"Adam and Eve!" The answer comes quickly when the design features a man, a woman and a snake beneath a male authority figure. There was a follow up question from a boy. "The Little Theatre" he said, reading the sign on the building. "Is this where they have the Shebada shows?"

"I do not know if those shows are performed here," I answered.
Shebada is an androgynous character in a popular theatrical production series on the local and diaspora theatre circuit called Bashment Granny. None of the boys have seen the show, but it has been promoted on television for years, so the hilarious exchange:
"So you is a man or a woman?"
"Me deh pon di border line," is well known by Jamaicans.

"Now look to your right across the road", I invited, and gave the description myself, "There is Jesus on the cross."
The cross is flanked by two female figures who will be his mother the Virgin Mary, and his friend Mary Magdalene, and the trio is painted in silver. This marks the graveyard of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, and the schools that they founded and their convent adjoin it.

Then I pulled over to the left curb and invited them to look left again.
"This is the Jamaica Library Service headquarters, and that is the bust of a very famous man who you will hear about one day. He is Mahatma Ghandi. He was famous for being a leader in his country, India, and he wanted change to happen without violence." I left it there and continued on our journey.

"I know the children's hospital," said the Grade 4 boy, the reason for the season.
"You went there when you got sick once?"
It was then that it finally registered with me that he had been coughing since he got in the car. The air conditioning was not that high, just enough to keep us cool. I turned it off and opened the windows to let in natural air. He quietly reversed my actions.

"Now we will see what is probably the most famous statue in Jamaica. I wonder what that is?"
"Bob Marley!"
Then we rounded the corner and there was screaming in the car as the statue appeared. I parked behind it and we all tumbled out and confirmed that the statue was made out of metal. Nothing much more can be said. It is a realistic statue of Bob Marley playing a guitar.

We drove another 4Km where I pulled over to the left curb again. They easily read the name at the base of the statue and it is only now that I realise that I missed an opportunity to introduce the word plinth into their vocabulary.

"In Spanish they call his first name SI'mon. At one time, much of the people of South America were under the rule of others who lived far away. Simon Bolivar was a leader for the liberation of South America. He had many enemies and is life was in danger, so he came here to Jamaica for awhile and wrote some important documents. When he had his forces organised, he went back home and he and his team were successful in gaining independence for the countries listed on the sign. The people of those South American countries were grateful to Jamaica for giving their hero refuge, and they put up this statue to honour the time that he spent here."

"Can we get out?"
So there is joy again to get out and look around a new space.

After a minute, we continue down to the National Gallery some 2Km away, and at the door I gave a briefing beside the statue that is placed on the ground outside. It is of two female figures kneeling. The older seems to be giving guidance, or perhaps gentle correction, to the younger, whose face is slightly turned away from her mentor. The boys were resting their arms on the statue, or knocking to figure out the material it is made from as I issued my commandments.

"Don't run in the building, don't touch anything in the gallery, stay close to me...."
An attendant opens the door and comes out and speaks directly to the boys.
"Don't touch the statue."

I had not thought that a concrete statue at pedestrian level on a the public sidewalk would be off grounds to touch, but that is how it is.

We go inside and the exhibition on is Young Talent 2015. There is general ambivalence for the realistic paintings, and interest in the textile sculpture, photographs on mixed medium and assemblages. Then we go into the Historical Galleries. They put a foot in, then back out and nearly fall down laughing, and seem to me a bit nervous. Having had a recent experience with taking a child to a site of murders and which is presumed haunted, the Rose Hall Great House, I decided to be protective so gathered my arms around them.

"Be calm as you go inside, if you are frightened, just stay close to me and remember, it is not real."

They shrugged me off and went inside the room and squealed and laughed and pointed their fingers and generally made me nervous. Two young men came in and one said, "I feel like doing that myself, but can't because I am not their age; I would look ridiculous."

Inside the room were wooden carvings of human heads by father and son David Miller Senior and David Miller Junior. They are oversized and highly polished and this made a big impact on the boys. I asked them what they thought, but could not get an answer.

At the next collection of statues, the reactions of the boys became even less coherent. It was the wooden carvings by Kapo, an artist who sculpted in wood, was a painter, a spiritual leader, and a man who was very connected to his sensual side. His carvings will fire up some kind of imagination. The piece in the centre of the room is a rooster about 1.5 metres tall.

Our exploration of the gallery allowed us to identify carvings in stone, concrete sculpture, canvas paintings, videos on digital tablets, photography on acrylic , and an iron implement of torture.

The less literal the painting or sculpture depicted reality, the more it seemed to hold the attention of the boys. What they liked they reached out to touch. I also paused to exchange pleasantries with a former schoolmate, who is now an architect and interior designer. She was touring the gallery with her teenage daughter and six-year-old son. He could not resist holding hanging textile art that resembled a ball.

A gallery attendant followed us as discreetly as he could during our time there. I guess he, like myself, had visions of what happened in Taipei when a boy tripped and tore a hole in a 300 year-old painting.

We visited the gift store where my charge covered his nose. The aroma from scented candles and the coffee shop was too much for him.

We then went to the harbourside and they drank Capri Sun. By chance, a commercial jet was taxiing at the Palisadoes airport across the harbour, so they watched it turn, speed up and take off. Two of the three had never seen a takeoff before, and they were thrilled. Then we walked over to the spot where swimmers gather, and they were suitably impressed by boys their age diving off the sea wall into the dark, deep, choppy seawater.

Leaving downtown, I went around Parade, the ring road in the centre of historic downtown, so that they could see the statues of two national heroes, one at the North and the other at the South. I also pointed out the Ward Theatre and said that this is where Shebada had definitely performed. I went to one of those performances and the 800-seat theatre was packed, but I did not stay to the end. It was my second attempt to see that show, the first was at an open-air venue in Portmore which seated about 2,000 patrons, and which also had a capacity crowd that night. My reasons for early departure on both occasions was the behaviour of the audience. I believe that I would not have been able to sit with Shakespeare's patrons when he was alive.

"Why they turn the statue that way with the back?"
I was not sure how to answer why the statue of Queen Victoria has her back to the street, so just gave information that it was a statue of a former queen and that at some time it was decided to turn the statue to face inside the park and not the street. My answer did not satisfy the questioner, but he did not seek to clarify the mystery any further.

During our visit in the gallery, my student repeatedly asked for a statue or a painting of Nanny of the Maroons, Jamaica's only National Hero who is a woman. I did not see any in the gallery, so decided to add the National Heroes Circle to our visit.

The Jamaica Defence Force was in rehearsal for the visit of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, so I entered the park from the North East entrance by the Ministry of Finance and Planning. We passed tombs of former prime ministers and a few other cultural leaders. My charge was coughing, but said that he was comfortable to walk, so I slowed down the others and we visited all of the graves and cenotaphs in the National Heroes Circle enclosure.

He was still disappointed because Nanny was not buried in the park, and the monument to her did not include a physical representation of a woman. He wanted to see a face and an attitude and clothes, perhaps like Bob Marley or Simon Bolivar. A realistic depiction is what he wanted to connect him to his favourite hero.

The Marcus Garvey tomb, which has a bust and a recognisable likeness of Marcus Garvey, was a highlight of the visit, and, with no prompting from me, they individually venerated him.

The final tomb we visited was Norman Manley's which is outfitted with relief statues made out of bronze. One of the reliefs has a human head above a slim, elongated, naked female chest, and at the bottom are three human heads. The metal is of course dull from exposure to the elements except for the perky, almost pointed, breasts which are shiny. Tentatively at first, checking in with me with a glance, hands reached out and did their bit to keep the twins polished.

We left thirsty and I stopped by the vendor at the West side of the park to get us some coconut water. The boy from the country and I were happy to drink straight from the nut, the other two remained in the car thirsty, not caring at all to partake of that insipid drink; I relented and they got Pepsi that released a glacier of drink when they were opened. We were all refreshed in our own way.

What were the lessons learned in two and a half hours? We had no discussions about the subject matter of statues. We did not describe the works that we saw. They asked no questions about the time period in which the art was done or the names of the artists who imagined them.
As the adult, I hope that the small wooden carvings, including women at work and the oversize heads awaken ideas about loveliness. I hope that they will remember the name Mahatma Ghandi and Jesus Christ and be encouraged that peace and non-violence are high values that they too can adopt. I hope that the heroic stance of Simon Bolivar brings forward thoughts of friendship, and that leadership is about service. I hope that the statue called Redemption Song, and the tomb of Marcus Garvey and the monument to Nanny and the other heroes will build self-confidence. I hope that the peacemaker king with no nose, and a queen with her back to the street awakens a general curiosity about the world around us.

Whatever may be our individual memories of that day, I can say with confidence that we had an afternoon enjoying each other's company sightseeing our capital city.

This is a short story about my life, and it is moments like these that inspire my writing of novels.

For my books and ebooks please visit:

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Shylock reprised as a Rastaman in a Jamaican school production of The Merchant of Venice

Shakespeare 400 schools production Jamaica

Shylock reprised as a Rastaman in a Jamaican school production of the Merchant of Venice

A version of this article was originally published on Sept 21, 2015 Facebook page of St Hugh's High School (Jamaica)
During Portia’s major speech in court,  Niyabinghi drumming beat softly, quickening or slowing as she said, "The quality of mercy is not strain'd, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes."
The heartbeat drumming stops when the Bobo Dread Shylock, raises his knife to extract his pound of flesh from businessman Antonio who failed to make good as guarantor, after his friend Bassiano could not repay his business loan. This was to be sweet revenge for Shylock, because Antonio was a high society socialite who used to berate the Rastaman.
This staging of The Merchant Of Venice by the St Hugh’s High School and Kingston College theatre group at the finals of the JN Shakespeare Schools' Championship held on September 19 at the Little Theatre in Kingston, Jamaica earned them the runner-up position. Some theatre goers touted the production as a "fantastic" school production which "should have been the one to represent Jamaica" but the entry lost valuable points as it was longer than the stipulated 30-minute duration.
The competition was won by Campion College troupe which, under the direction of Damion Radcliffe, staged a tough, gun-slinging, inner-city adaptation of Macbeth. The three witches are modern-day hairdressers who are a natural oracle, and a storehouse of the vibes of a community. That production will represent Jamaica in London during the March 2016, activities to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare.
Directed by theatre practitioner Akeem Mignott, the St Hugh’s/KC group used the Kingston Harbour business area as its “Venice”, as the competition guidelines directed the productions to use local settings.
Mignott guided the group to do just that as they infused Jamaican cultural expressions including reggae, dancehall, Junkunu, Rastafari and the Kingston Harbour merchant culture into the production.
Shylock was a wealthy moneylending Bubbo Dread whose business was Shylock’s Broom Enterprise and Small Business Loans, so every reference to “Jew” was replaced by “Rasta”. This certainly can give pause to thinking about the unfairness of racial profiling.
Suitors for the hand of Portia had to enter the Miss Jamaica Hand In Marriage Casket Competition, and her choice of husband, Bassiano, won.
The language throughout the play was William Shakespeare’s, but the accents were Jamaican. Portia's Jamaican accent as the lady of the house was different from her maid Nerissa’s Jamaican accent.
The use of Jamaican culture was superb. The first act used a colourful Junkunnu parade with music dating to the 1800s, and traditional masquerade characters of Set Girl, Pitchy Patchy and Devil to highlight important aspects of Shylock’s schemes and wishes.
The play opened to a few bars from Damion Marley's 2005 reggae hit Welcome to Jamrock. When Bassiano won Portia's hand in marriage the popular 2015 dancehall Intoxxicated riddim was the soundtrack. This could be a reference to Chris Martin's version I'm A Big Deal, or Dexta Daps' 7Eleven, depending on your perspective....
The audience was thrilled at several points during the show. After Portia's brilliant deception as the Doctor of the Law who saved her husband Bassiano, and his friend Antonio from ruin, the happy group took a selfie to celebrate their legal victory, and this had the audience in stitches.
A total of 17 schools staged productions for the championships; the five others that made the finals were: Wolmers (Taming of the Shrew); American International School of Kingston (Henry V); Waterford High (Midsummer Night’s Dream); Glenmuir (Othello); Ardenne (Macbeth).
The championships were sponsored by financial conglomerate  Jamaica National Building Society Foundation, and education advocate in the city of London, Dr Tony Sewell, through his UK charity, Generating Genius.  Dr Sewell noted that the longstanding culture of keen school competitions in Jamaica provided a great platform for a Shakespeare championships. 
Richard Blackford Paintings

Saturday, 22 August 2015

10+ Must Read Jamaican Books - Non-fiction edition (a little diversion)

This list is just for fun in case someone asks me, "What ten books could give me a good idea about Jamaica?"

So here are ten non-fiction books that were written by Jamaicans, and or published in Jamaica, that I have some knowledge about by either reading them or because I have read a review about them.

First off, here are some lists made by others:
Top Ten Caribbean Non-Fiction Books - Bookophilia book store
Antonio McKoy's list of books every Jamaican must read
Top 5 Jamaica Best Jamaican Cookbooks

There are many lovely looking books, but I am not in a position to recommend.

There are many lovely books. I tend to read exhibition catalogues from the National Gallery of Jamaica.

Plants and Animals
There are many books on birds and plants and most of them from bookstores will give a reasonable idea of the variety.

Picture Books

Beautiful Jamaica -originally by Evon Blake 

First published in 1970, I place this as the standard for picture books about Jamaica. It informs in a number of subject areas including history, attractions, society, government and outstanding citizens. The cover of the first edition featured a photo portrait of a young woman and baby. The fashion of the woman with a headscarf tied in a Caribbean style suggests that she is a rural resident. The mother was replaced with beauty queens portraying charm and fun. The 2011 edition features a fashion photo of a model proposing a come-hither mood. Blake died in the 1980s. He was a journalist, publisher and writer of fiction.

Jamaica By Air by Robert Davis
A bird's eye view of Paradise.
These beauty photos were not taken by an unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) nor from a specialist camera mounted on an airplane. This is Davis snapping away while harnessed to a helicopter.
Mr Davis lives and works as an academic in Jamaica.
Published in 2010

The Book Amen by Jacqueline Young
Carol Stone, Devon Dick, Hazel Bennett and Philip Sherlock have said in their books that the Christian religion is important to institutions in Jamaica.  The 2011 census of the Statistical Institute says that 21.3% of respondents did not have a religious affiliation, it was reported as 5% ten years before. I still place this book on the list as the government and education institutions of Jamaica still actively practice Christian traditions, and non-adherents still use religious institutions for landmark life events such as blessings for babies, weddings and funerals. Young, a former airline executive and businesswoman lives in Jamaica.
Published 2012

Changemakers, 101 Jamaican Men by artistic photographs by Peter Ferguson
Commercial photographer Peter Ferguson completed an ambitious task that captured Jamaica's male leaders in politics, business, culture and sports.

Published 2009


The Power and the Glory by Michael Grant and Hubert Lawrence
This could also qualify as a picture book, but it is foremost a book with information.
Jamaica in World Athletics, from WW11 to the Diamond League Era.
Mr Grant is a writer and publisher; Mr Lawrence is a sports journalist. Both men live and work in Jamaica.
Published 2012


Statistical Institute of Jamaica Population and Housing Census 2011
For a birds eye view on key indicators. STATIN is a government agency.

Natural Hazards Atlas by Rafi Ahmad and Parris Lyew-Ayee
Updated and expanded from Ahmad's original book.
This will give an idea of the environmental challenges being faced by the country. Mr Ahmad and Dr Lyew-Ayee both live and do their research in Jamaica.
Published in 2015


Class, State and Democracy in Jamaica by Carl Stone
Professor Stone was a leading academic who lived and worked in Jamaica.
Published in the 1970s

Popular Music

Reggae Routes, the Story of Jamaican Music - authors Kevin Obrien Chang and Wayne Chen
Obrien Chang and Chen are both businessmen who live in Jamaica.
Published in 1998

Inna di Dancehall by Donna Hope
Popular culture and the politics of identity in Jamaica. Dr Hope is a leading academic in the field of culture who lives in Jamaica.
Published in 2001

Dancehall: fom Slave Ship to Ghetto by Sonjah Stanley Niaah
Dr Stanley Niiah is a leading academic in the field of culture who lives in Jamaica.
Published in 2010


The Maroon Story by Bev Carey
The authentic history of the Maroons in the history of Jamaica 1490 - 1880. This book was written by a Maroon descendant.
Published 1997.

Portland, The Other Jamaica: Dreamers, Schemers and Crusaders - Ken Roueche
Simply written book that captures some major eras of Jamaica from the view of the parish of Portland: enslavement, Maroon wars, sugar cane, banana, tourism, road to independence, outstanding citizens. This book does not capture modern urban matters. This book was written by a Canadian.
Published 2011

Dying To Better Themselves - Olive Senior
The story of West Indians and the building of the Panama Canal. Olive Senior is a Jamaican writer who lives in Canada.
Published 2014

Home Away from Home by Laxmi Mansingh and Ajai Mansingh 
150 years of Indian presence in Jamaica. A Mansingh is a leading medical practitioner who lives in Jamaica.
Published 1999

The Shopkeepers by Ray Chen OD
Commemorating 150 years of the Chinese in Jamaica 1854 to 2004. Chen is a respected photographer who lives and works in Jamaica.
This is a collection of memoirs.
Published 2005

The Island of One People - by Marilyn Delevante and Anthony Alberga 
An account of the history of the Jews of Jamaica. There are other books, but Delevante and her family have lived and been actively involved in Jamaica for generations, so I am placing this book on my list.
Published 2007


The Cross and the Machete by Devon Dick
The Native Baptists of Jamaica; Identity, Ministry and Legacy. Rev Dick is a leader in the Jamaica Baptist Union.
Published in 2010

Church and Culture by Roderick Hewitt
This is an academic work that considers the move from Christianity from Eurocentric to its many manifestations today in Jamaica, showing the relevance of this religion to the prevailing culture and society. Rev Hewitt is a leader in the Methodist communion who is an academic in South Africa.
Published in 2013

I will review this list occasionally.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

10+ Caribbean Books That I Would Consider a Must Read "Homework"

10+ Caribbean Books That I Would Consider a Must Read

A teacher of teachers gave me an "assignment" to list ten books in English that were written by Caribbean authors that I would consider to be must reads. I thought that it would be fun so asked some friends who enjoyed reading for their views, and came up with this article. The list is longer than ten books and does not include books for children, but YA books are here.

I decided that by the end of reading all of these books, the reader would have a good grasp of the English speaking Caribbean society today. The list includes books that give an idea of our history through the eyes of our historians, will talk about the assimilation of the West Indian in the UK and North America and will be enjoyable because of the mastery of the language.

I had to get help for this project as I have not read enough books.  This list excludes books by Jamaicans as I had done a list of  must-read Jamaican writers a few days ago to get me warmed-up for this undertaking.

Categories of Books
Poetry anthologies and children books are not included in this list because I do not want to diminish their relevance. The books on this list are in the categories of non-fiction, novel, memoir / autobiography / biography and short story collection.

These are the broad themes that I found that I recognised: Migration and Culture Clash; Society and History; matters related to Home and the Family; and musings on the general human condition which I call What Is Man? I hope to more neatly define this last category as time goes by.

Migration/ Culture Clash Issues
So many of the books are about the hero coming to terms with migrating to another country; or matters that have to do with the meeting of cultures that have stark differences. This is the central theme of books by Samuel Selvon, George Lamming, Brathwaite, Clarke, Lovelace, and Conde. In most of them the protagonists are boys or young men. This is not so with Danicat, who is said to write about daughters and mothers. The defining books here, I would say, were set in the period between the 1930s and the 1970s.

Society and History
CLR James stands tall in his cutting commentary on history and society. His two books on this list were published in the 1950s. The Black Jacobins put forward a non-European view on the motivations and actions of the belligerents of the Haitian Revolution; and Beyond a Boundary is about the game of cricket and its role in British West Indian society.  Kincaid scraped off the fa├žade  of her own home country in the book A Small Place. I had been told that it was banned in that country, but quite easily bought a copy from a bookstore in the capital. A different view of history was also undertaken by Eric Williams in the 1940s, when he set down a scholarly view on the reasons for the demise of slavery, that view has become a cornerstone of Caribbean identity. Williams was a politician and became the first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. Historian Walter Rodney wrote How Europe Underdeveloped Africa in the 1970s, which became a foundation for discussions on how and why economic development lags across the African continent.

This list does not have non-fiction books that explore the relationship between the Caribbean and Asian states. This gap is barely addressed with the inclusion of VS Naipaul whose books slightly address his Indo identity and matters related to his boyhood society. His later works departed from this and became travel writing and observances about other societies. I have none of his travel writings on this list as I have not completed reading any of them so cannot add it on my own word, and no-one recommended any of them to me, although I am pretty sure they are worthy of inclusion.

The Home
Disconnection and rejection from those who you love is the sad theme, beautifully told, in Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea, and in the book Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid. The home is also discussed in coming of age novels by Anthony and Hodges.

What is Man?
Walcott uses mythology and folklore styles to deliver stories about the "state of man", he does this with Dreams on Monkey Mountain and Ti Jean and His Brothers. Internal tension on the matters of sexuality -  and perhaps other topics -  mark the work of Mittelholzer in A Day At The Office - which the writer  Geoffrey Philip describes as unrequited love - and also in his other book My And Bones, My Flute.

I am sneaking in the memoir Ten Days Among The Benedictine Monks by Ralph Gonsalves which shows the thinking of the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines as he prepares himself for re-election.

I will have to read more to find where other writers are brilliantly writing on other themes.
Before I get into my list, set out below are other lists that include Caribbean books.

The Routlidge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature by Michael Bucknor PhD

Geoffrey Philp's Top Ten Caribbean Novels (published in 2007)

Bookophilia's Top Ten Caribbean Books to read in 2015 (a book store)

Best Of Trinidad Dot Com - Best Trinidad Writers

The Telegraph Newspaper 100 novels everyone must read. Caribbean author at #79 and #67

Novel Niche recommends six Caribbean novels

CaribLit 10 Caribbean Books to read in the summer of 2014

List Challenge has a list of popular Caribbean books

Library Thing - Book Awards 13 best Caribbean novels

Large Up Dot Com - Top Five Caribbean novels to read in Summer (2015)

AFTER 2000

Non Fiction

Ralph Gonsalves - memoir
Diary of a Prime Minister: Ten Days Among the Benedictine Monks

Maryse Conde - memoir (lives in USA)
Tales from the Heart: True Stories from My Childhood

Austin Clarke - novel (lives in Canada)
The Polished Hoe

BETWEEN 1962 AND 2000

Non Fiction

Walter Rodney - commentary
How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

Jamaica Kincaid - commentary
A Small Place

Austin Clarke - memoir (lives in Canada)
Growing Up Stupid Under the Union Jack


Jean Rhys - novel (lived in UK)
Wide Sargasso Sea

Jamaica Kincaid - novel (lives in USA)
Annie John

Earl Lovelace - novel
Dragon's Can't Dance

Michael Anthony - novel
  1. Green Days By The River
  2. The Year in San Fernando

Merl Hodge - novel
Crick, Crack Monkey

Edwidge Danticat - novel (lives in USA)
  1. The Farming of Bones
  2. Breath, Eyes, Memory
  3. The Dew Breaker

VS Naipaul - novel (lives in UK)

  1. A Bend In The River
  2. Mimic Men


Derek Walcott - play (lived in USA and UK)
Dream on Monkey Mountain


Non Fiction

Eric Williams - commentary
Capitalism and Slavery

CLR James - commentary (lived in USA) His work was influenced by E Williams.
  1. Beyond a Boundary
  2. The Black Jacobins


Samuel Selvon - novel (lived in UK)
  1. A Brighter Sun
  2. Moses Ascending

George Lamming - novel (lived in UK)
  1. In the Castle of My Skin
  2. The Emigrants

VS Naipaul - novel (lives in UK)
  1. A Home for Mr Biswas
  2. Miguel Street
  3. The Mystic Masseur
ER Brathwaite - novel (lived in UK)
To Sir With Love

Edgar Mittelholzer - novel (lived in the UK and Canada)
  1. My Bones and My Flute
  2. A Morning At The Office


Derek Walcott - play (lived in USA and UK)
  1. Ti Jean and His Brothers


Sunday, 16 August 2015

10+ Jamaican Books That I Would Consider a Must Read - Fiction Edition


An educator of educators challenged me to name my Top 10 Must Read Caribbean Books. I am not a reading or library professional, so by asking me, she is reaching out to the man-in-the-street.

When I thought about the task, my mind did a black, green and gold switch, and I decided that it would be fun to do a list of 10+ Must Read Jamaican Books first, and decided to limit it to the formats of novel, short story, and memoir/ autobiography/biography.

I have not included children's books/ YA I my list as this activity is just for fun, I do not want to be frivolous with those important genres in this article.

Lists can be useless, but they can also be useful - it depends on your interests and what you might already know. The most passionate lists and rankings that I have heard are in the realm of sports, where fans debate who is the best and/or the greatest of an era, or indeed of all time. There is usually no agreement among the discussants, but arguing around the matter brings a general awareness of what people care about.

Mr Owen Gleiberman in a BBC World interview about a ranking "What is the greatest US movie of all time" that was posted online on July 23, 2015 said "people's ideas of greatness is about what people's passions are."

In sports, we oftentimes hear about contemporary athletes being declared as the greatest or the best over athletes of some time ago. So on the KLAS ESPN Sports Radio FM89 programme Sports Desk with Orville Higgings, he will say that Sir Donald Bradman was the greatest sportsman of all time based on his stats and listeners will go apoplectic and declare that Michael Jordan or Usain Bolt were greater athletes. These discussions are not really so in the realm of the arts, it is said that "time sanctifies".

There is a common area, however between creative work and sports. In sports the discussion sometimes turns on which was the best and also greatest team that played in a particular era, and many will safely say, and not be admonished in the West Indies, that the performance of the West Indies cricket team under Sir Clive Lloyd in the 70s and 80s is still unmatched. The same may be argued that the body of work of a group of creative people during a particular era - call them a team - made a far greater impact than any single writer or painter or film maker of that era. In other words, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It may be argued that the books of Caribbean writers from the self-rule/independence era of the 1930s to 1960s found great resonance in the region more than any other era.

I approached creating this list acknowledging a few things that have shaped me, and that will affect how I read books. These are labels that I do not mind giving myself. I have a faith-based orientation, I am cis-woman, have not rebelled my education in a religious girls school, matters of the home and the family define my activities, and have lived most of my life happily in the Caribbean. 

Having sharpened my mental pencil and licked the point, I decided that my list will have books that meet the following criteria:
  1. I must have read the book;
  2. I appreciate the craftsmanship in the writing, and the art of storytelling;
  3. Book illuminates an aspect of Jamaican society and lifestyle.
The Most Hon Marcus Mosiah Garvey, National Hero
The Caribbean's most far-reaching philosopher, Marcus Garvey, is sadly not on my list of authors to read. Garvey was a journalist, the publisher of an international newspaper and author of books on his philosophy, and he had an anthology of poems. He delivered speeches across three continents over a span of about 30 years. He is revered in Jamaica where there is general agreement that his teachings of self reliance, and self pride to persons of African descent, should be infused in school curricula from early childhood through to tertiary education.

His brilliance in writing, I think, was very well delivered in short phrases.
Examples are:

"If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won even before you have started."

"Liberate the minds of men and ultimately you will liberate the bodies of men."
"Up you mighty race, accomplish what you will"
"We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind"; which directly influenced international reggae songwriter and performer Bob Marley to write "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds"
The writings of Marcus Garvey have directly inspired the emergence of the Rastafarian religion and reggae music.The reason why I have not read Garvey is that I found that his extended works were not enjoyable to read. He is not on this list because not one of my advisors nominated him.

Garvey would have been a winner in the age of micro blogging on sites like Twitter; and a genius for photo sites where image is important on places like Instagram. For the longer format, we probably need a New International Revised Version of some of his famous books.

Having done the list, here is a summary of themes that are explored in the books that I have selected. I accept that this list does not adequately cover the complete Jamaican experience, and I have to read more. I have included photos of cover art if I liked it and thought that the art matched the text. I am surprised that Nalo Hopkinson has not been suggested and she probably should be as she has written several books in the genre of speculative fiction (sci-fi/fantasy).

  1. Impact of prevailing economic systems, the family, and religion in pre and also post independent Jamaica;
  2. The point of view of a young person making his or her way in the world;
  3. Injustice and prejudice wherever it exists (rural vs urban; differences in social status; differences in shades of skin; what religion tells us is right and wrong).

10 + Must Read Jamaican Books
(Short Story Collection/ Novel/ Biography Autobiography and Memoirs)

Autobiography and Memoir
It Can Be Done by Professor, the Hon Henry Lowe
I needed to read this book as research for a project, and bought it at Pelican Publishers which is the Dr Lowe's publishing house. This book is not a trial over troubles story, it shows the effect of good nurturing of the human soul. Dr Lowe's love of life is an optimistic voice throughout. He traces his story as a resident of Kingston, so we get to see it from about the 50s to the 2000s.

Drumblair and Slipstream by Rachel Manley
I bought Slipstream from Sangsters Bookstore for what felt like a princely sum shortly after it became available. It was getting major publicity at the time. For me, it was worth the read on two points: the writing was gently entrancing and the story was interesting as the memoir opens up the private lives of persons who were political leaders of Jamaica. The book deepened my overall appreciation for the history of the country at the turning point of independence. A few years later I read Drumblair which was in my father's collection.

Whispering Death by Michael Holding
This book was a gift from my husband to his father and so it is in the family home. This is about growing up in cricket. I am not a fan of the game, but the respect and love of Holding for the game of cricket shone through, and the writing made it a pleasure to read. This book records an important part of Caribbean sporting history as it details emotions and actions on the matter of the temptation to play cricket in South Africa during the era of apartheid. The book carries beautiful insights on trust, team building, determination and honour. It will not tell you the difference between a leg-break and an off-spin.

From Harvey River by Lorna Goodison
This is a poetic biography of the parents of Lorna Goodison that I believe that I bought from Bookland on Knutsford Blvd. I enjoyed the book because of Goodison's mastery of the language, and it is really even better when read aloud.

Jane and Louisa Will Soon Come Home by Erna Brodber
I read this as a teenager during a holiday period, another find in father's collection. I did not understand it then, but the language style opened up new and unforgettable ways to read English and to understand rural Jamaican society before the age of the Internet.

The Painted Canoe by Anthony Winkler
I bought this from the second hand section of Readers Bookstore in Hi Lo plaza, in Matilda's Corner. Thank goodness for that store as I found many treasures there, including this book. This story is beautifully written with unusual characters and full of pathos. I read it in my 20s and again in my 40s and it gave me the same level of satisfaction on both occasions.

The True History of Paradise by Margaret Cezair Thompson
I got this as a gift and was a bit overwhelmed with the scope of history and the detailing of the characters. These matters make it absolutely worthy of being on a must read list. The structure of the book and the language is sophisticated, and it attempts to harness multiple perspectives between the covers.

Stone Haven by Evan Jones
Bought second hand from Readers Bookstore, Matilda's Corner. This book can be placed in the memoir section as it is the story of the author's mother in Jamaica. I have this on my list because it presents the legacy of the remnants of plantation society and a dominant single religion. Some will not like this book on a must read list because the perspective is is that of the overlord and not the peasant.

 Waiting in Vain by Colin Channer
I bought this book from a Sangster store and from the opening pages it was a breath of fresh air from what I had been reading before. It brought adventure, style romance and gave a lot of joyful love to black women. This is not a book about the burdens we carry from history and the trials of modern day society. Channer was also the first writer whose work became popular and loved because he invoked reggae music into cosmopolitan writing. For these reasons, this book is on my list.

Dew Angels by Melanie Schwapp
I bought this from Schwapp herself after I carried her book in my unnamed 2013 Kingston Book Fair booth. Anyone who saw the book and had read it gave it high laud and honour. I enjoyed the read and admire the structure and the writing of the book. Schwapp brought a well-known story of triumph over hardship into the realm of art, handle it with dignity, and give it a satisfying ending. I also loved how she gave garden plants meaning and a place in the story.

The Mountain of Inheritance by Carol Dunn
I bought this from Dunn after I carried her book in my 2015 Kingston Book Fair booth, which was the first time that the YA Readers booth was open. This is a true family saga and, again with sophistication, the characters are lovingly detailed and the dialogue and writing are skillfully handled. This book brings in sickening realities of family life and the decisions that parents make. It spans pre and post independent Jamaica and puts up for examination, the role of religion. I enjoyed the read.

Turn Back Blow by Roger Williams
I call this my wild card choice. I laughed out loud as I read this and detained my husband to listen to me read sections to him. This book may not be a national hit because Jamaicans are not natural animal lovers, and most of the dialogue is among wild and domesticated animals who are trying to survive the carelessness and cruelty of humans. What makes this book special is that indeed all the animals can be found right where the story is situated, on the banks of the Rio Cobre in St Catherine. I also really liked the real boy at the centre of the story. I bought this as an e-book on Amazon in 2015 after reading a Gleaner newspaper article that the book got Turn Back Blow from the Ministry of Education.

Short Story Collection
Fear of Stones by Kei Miller
I bought this book in Matilda's Corner from Bookophilia. It does not explicitly name the matter of sexual orientation, but much of the book very lightly alludes to and explores thoughts and behaviours that are related to this topic. As can be expected, the writing of Miller provokes attention, and his writing is a memorable pleasure.

Wake Rasta and Other Stories by Garfield Ellis
Ellis is the only former mariner who I know who is a writer, and that unique perspective gives him a place in my list. Ellis' stories are lively and enjoyable, even when they are detailing a horrible situation. I think that I bought this book at an early Calabash International Literary Festival.



Voices Under The Window - John Hearne
I bought this book at the 2005 staging of the Calabash International Literary Festival that was held in Treasure Beach. The tension in this novel is unrelenting as it deals with rising social discontent that leads to violence on a couple who believe that their social standing is enough defence. This book delivers masterly writing to tell of how social inequalities and perceived injustice can lead to anarchy. I had this book on display at the YA Readers Hangout in the 2015 Independence Village and one reader dismissed Hearne as being a colonial apologist. I have to read the book again with this in mind. Wikipedia says that Hearne was a white Jamaican. I saw him many times on the UWI, Mona campus in the 70s and 80s and he did not look like a white person to me. I remember him favouring the fashion of blue jeans and boots, and he smoked a pipe. If this is not the same person, I hope that someone will correct me.

I discovered this in my father's collection on a summer day between Grade 12 and Grade 13 and fell down a rabbit hole into back-a-wall. The language and the story is terribly beautiful. This book presents the starkest view of depraved urban poverty in Jamaica through the eyes of persons from differing backgrounds. Many Jamaican authors seem compelled to approach storytelling with protagonists from different social settings.

Song for Mumu by Lindsay Barrett 1960
A most unusual book. I first heard of it when I met the author's son, writer A Igoni Barrett who travelled from Nigeria to read at the Two Seasons Talking Trees Literary Fiesta in 2011. The Librarian of the National Library of Jamaica said it was one of the best books that she had read, so on her recommendation I bought a hardcopy through Amazon. Parts of the novel are written in the style of a saga poem, and parts are written as if it is a chorus of a Greek tragedy. Sensual pleasures drive this story. The characters deeply enjoy lovemaking in the paradise of the Jamaican countryside. Tragedy is never far as it shows unprepared innocence, yearning for enlightenment, colliding with unconcerned worldliness. The high style of writing sits so naturally with the speech and lifestyle of the poor rural folk, that this gives it a place in the Jamaican oeuvre, for me.

A Brief History of Seven Killings 2014
This novel is written in the English language as spoken on the streets of Kingston. It is a graphic novel where the attempt on the life of a celebrity forms the fulcrum around which insights into organised crime and one unconnected young woman are revealed. Contains expletives that will be offensive to many persons, and also and graphic descriptions of manslaughter, gay sex and drug use. The book won the 2015 Man Booker book prize

END OF MY LIST - Three books on this list were written by past students of St Andrew High School. The school seemed to have had a strong English Language department between the 60s and 80s. I hope that it still does.

Here is a top 12 list published by The Gleaner in 2015

Gleaner list of children's books. Article published in 2014

Helen Williams lists books for children ages 8 - 14 by Jamaican authors

Hazel Campbell lists Jamaican books for children

European blog about the best Jamaican writers

Popular Jamaican books as listed on Goodreads

Here is a list of Jamaican YA books

Geoffrey Philp's list of poetry books by Jamaicans

To help this list along, I asked other readers about books that they would have on their lists and I have set them out below. If a book appeared on my list, I excluded it. All of the respondents are Jamaicans living in Jamaica and they are currently between the ages of 40 and 50. Any artwork placed is just because I liked it.  This list includes books for tweens and teens as so many persons had them near the top of books that they enjoyed for the sheer pleasure of reading.

"Editorial Board" of this list:
PR Practitioners K Cadien, A Lambert, C Taylor, M McDonnough, M Thomas, C Benjamin, Lois Grant
Atty-at-law J Wilcott 
HR Practitioners T MacMillan Spencer, M McDonald
English Teacher A Davidson
Corporate Services Director S Wright
Policy Analyst P Wadsworth


Non Fiction / Philosophy

The Most Hon Michael Manley - philosophy
  1. Up The Down Escalator
  2. The Politics of Change
  3. A History of West Indies Cricket
Professor Patrick E Bryan - commentary
Edward Seaga and the Challenges of Modern Jamaica

Professor the Hon Mervyn Morris - literary criticism
  1. Making West Indian Literature
  2. Miss Lou: Louise Bennett and Jamaican Culture
Malcolm Gladwell - inspirational (I think that this author is more recognised as Canadian rather than Jamaican, but we latch on to him)
The Tipping Point

David Buckley
The Right To Be Proud: Selected Jamaican Heritage Sites

Autobiography/ Memoir
Morris Cargill - memoir
Jamaica Farewell

Judith Falloon Reid
Here is One Hundred Dollars, Go Buy Yourself a Life

Sonia King
Jacket or Full Suit? Paternity Testing from a Jamaican
Claude McKay - memoir (lived in the USA)
A Long Way From Home

Children's Literature (secondary school)

Cyril  Everard Palmer - children's literature (quite a bit of his work was written in Canada)
  1. My Father Sun Sun Johnson
  2. Man from Jamaica Hills, Elkanah Rhule
  3. A Cow Called Boy
  4. The Cloud With A Silver Lining
  5. The Wooing of Beppo Tate
Jean DaCosta - children's literature

  1. Sprat Morrison
  2. Escape to Last Man's Peak
Victor Stafford Reid - children's literature
  1. Peter of Mount Ephraim
  2. Sixty Five
Andrea Levy - novel (I think this author is more recognised as British rather than Jamaican, but all of her books are about Jamaica and they are so good that we are latching on to her)
Small Island

Anthony Winkler - novel (now living in the USA)
The Lunatic
The Great Yacht Race

Duane Blake - novel (not living in Jamaica)
Shower Posse

Garfield Ellis - novel (now living in Canada)
For Nothing At All 

Pamela K Marshall (living in the USA)
Barrel Child 

Kei Miller - novel (now living in the UK)
Last Warner Woman

Patricia Powell - novel (now living in the USA)
  1. Me Dying Trial
  2. The Pagoda
Margaret Cezair Thompson - novel (now living in the USA)
The Pirate's Daughter

Ezekel Alan - novel (now living in Asia)
Disposable People

Marlon James - novel (now living in the USA)
  1. John Crow's Devil
  2. A Brief History of Seven Killings
  3. The Book of the Night Women
Olive Senior - novel (now living in Canada)
Dancing Lessons

Leone Ross - novel (now living in the UK)
  1. All The Blood is Red
  2. Orange Laughter
Erna Brodber

Kerry Young

Michael Thelwell
The Harder They Come

Short Story
Olive Senior - short story  (now living in Canada)
Summer Lightning and Other Stories

Veronica Carnegie
The Tie Came Back

Trevor Rhone - play

  1. Smile Orange
  2. Old Story Time
Dennis Scott
An Echo In The Bone



Claude McKay - novel  (migrated to the USA)
Banana Bottom

Herbert G de Lisser - novel

  1. Jane's Career
  2. The White Witch of Rose Hall

Roger Mais - novel
Brother Man

Claude McKay - poetry (lived in the USA)
Home to Harlem