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.