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



    Friday, 14 August 2015

    YA Readers Booth at the JCDC 2015 Independence Village

    YA Readers Booth at the JCDC 2015 Independence Village

    Six days at the Independence Village of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), was a big haul for a single person with books to sell, but I am interested in building recognition of books written for the YA genre in Jamaica, so I jumped in with both feet!

    The craft vendor set-up at the JCDC property on Hope Road was appropriate for my purposes, and I also accepted the unannounced changes to the layout, as I understood that there was unmet demand for booth spaces by sellers. My booth was called YA Readers Hangout and my immediate neighbours were Trelawny based jewellery craftsman Maxine Stoney, and the Rasta Art fashion jewellery seller.

    As was expected, the days with the greatest number of visitors were the two public holidays that started and closed the fair: August 1 and August 6. On those days, fair-goers seemed more inclined to include buying things as a part of their event experience.

    The spirit of the fair was to allow people to celebrate the the culinary and performing arts of Jamaica, and interspersed with that were discussions, children's rides and domino games. Public sector agencies were invited to provide services and to promote awareness of issues.

    A book and reading atmosphere, this was not, so the plan to hold the attention of YA readers was going to require effort. The other challenge was that the festival goers were in large part mature adults walking as couples, or groups of friends, or with young children. From my experience, the event did not attract groups of teen and young adults in general. The World Reggae Dance Competition did have the greatest share of the young adult audience. That night also had the largest audience out of all six nights, and the patrons were more interested in chatting with their friends and watching the show than browsing and spending.

    I needed a booth that had variety, It did not seem the best approach, to me, to offer only my books, but to also showcase other books in the genre. I selected a dozen books from my personal collection and had them on display and invited discussions about them.

    My other approach was to have activities to attract persons to linger, and from there have conversations that would lead to greater awareness of YA books, and my book in particular. I selected the game of chess and adult colouring papers, and both earned the attention of patrons across all ages. Thanks to the Jamaica Chess Federation there always seems to be a young person with an interest in the game just around the corner. The board was in use whenever the breeze allowed me to set the pieces up. Inviting persons to colour was met with guffaws and scepticism, but once they were seated, the average person stayed and coloured for about half an hour. I had free wifi, but no one expressed an interest, so was happy that I did not set up a video monitor as I usually do. I also had materials on the Two Seasons Talking Trees Literary Fiesta, of which I am a collaborator, and the Two Seasons Guest HouseTwo Seasons Guest House, which sponsors the event.

    The main benefit of being a part of the event was media coverage, as I was offered the marvellous opportunity to coordinate the 20 minute YA segment of the Auntie Roachie Literary, TV and Film Festival. The festival lasted about five hours and was coordinated by publisher Tanya Batson Savage and PR and theatre practitioner Scarlett Beharie. The two other writers who graciously gave their time were Colleen Smith Dennis and Roland Watson-Grant. The Daily Gleaner, the Jamaica Observer , Petchary blog and published articles and there was also an interview on CVM at Sunrise (start at 59mins), a national morning television programme. Emma Lewis published an article on the Jamaica Gleaner blog about the readings at the festival, and the YA booth was covered by Tallwah Magazine and JIS television.

    Media coverage of the event opened the door for some B2B as having listened to the readers, a local publisher is now actively seeking YA scripts written by Jamaicans.

    On the matter of sales, I deliberately set a competitive price of $500 and sold 20 copies over the six days. My neighbours did much better with their goods. More than half of the books were sold to persons who I knew, and who wanted to support my efforts in a tangible way. I am grateful to them, many were past students of St Hugh's High School (Fidelitas!).

    The profile of the average visitor was revealed in the types of questions that were asked at the booth. Most asked about books about the history and culture of Jamaica, and so were happy to take brochures on Two Seasons Guest House.

    There were also lovely moments when teenage girls asked about the romance books and book covers that were on display. I had two or three boys stopped to read. One of them had beat me at chess earlier and then spent about 30 minutes reading until his mother pulled him away. He is going into Grade 8 at JC. Also, secondary school teachers wanted more information on the books to support teaching of CSEC Theatre Arts and English Literature. A teacher of English from Birmingham UK with Jamaican heritage, said that most of her students were first or second generation immigrants from Pakistan, and she was interested in books that would expand her own students' knowledge of the world. One man also spent about an hour trying to convince me to edit his - as yet unwritten - non-fiction manuscript.

    My disappointment is that I did not encounter one person who identified himself or herself as a librarian. Libraries are still important in the Caribbean, as many students have to use library resources to attain their education goals. I was placed across the aisle from the Jamaica Library Service which had a double booth, and do believe that they should have planned activities in their expansive area.

    For an international audience, my selection of YA books at the event would have been ridiculously tame. I believe that this is an area that will expand over time as more writers publish their work and associate it with the genre. I already see the kind of writing that is on Goodreads by self-published Jamaican writers and supported by Goodreads readers. My decision, up to this point, is to write and read books that allow readers to be connected to issues that have resonance with history and contemporary society.

    I am grateful that I got the opportunity to participate in the 2015 Independence Village. This should inform future activities.

    Grace accompanied me on this episode.  On the first day I left the booth unattended and a mighty wind tore through city Kingston. I steeled myself to face disaster, but in my absence another booth holder dived on my table, saving my teapot of crayons, and us all from a shower of chinaware splinters.

    Although I planned to fly solo, I got days of help from my in-law Claudette Hobbins; festival collaborator and proprietor of the Two Seasons Guest House Christine Marrett, PR comrade-in-arms Alethia Lambert and husband Chuck.

    Monday, 3 August 2015

    First Two Days - YA Readers Hangout at the Independence Village
    August 1 and 2
    August 3, 2015
    The first two days at the YA Readers Hangout, August 1 and 2 in the JCDC Independence Village were indeed pleasant. The patrons who stopped were open to participating in conversations and basically having a good time. This included books and reading that was offered at the booth.

    I laid out a dozen or so fiction and poetry books, about four books were published in the 1960s, but most were published in the 2000s. The book with the overwhelming number of queries was The Boy Next Door by Mandisa Parnell. The book is a contemporary teenage romance.

    As the booth holder, I played about eight games of chess with young adults, teens and two children over the first two days. I am not a practiced player and did not learn strategy, but am tenacious, so it was mentally exhausting.

    Inviting persons to do adult colouring certainly got a few guffaws, but also some interested participants, so while I played chess with one young man in his early 20s, his friend peaceably coloured an illustration of an Amerindian girl. I had more boys and men colouring than girls and women.

    The aim of the booth is to promote the concept of Jamaican Young Adult books by engaging people in discussions and activities, and sell my novel, Young Heroes of the Caribbean.