Showing posts with label Jamaican young adult writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jamaican young adult writing. Show all posts

Thursday, 20 August 2020

Four Novels of Summer - Jamaica

The themes of my four novels of Summer 2020 were again YA and adult novels by Caribbean authors that are set in the Caribbean. The selections were through the Jamaica Library Service and I enjoyed them all in different ways. My secret to enjoying a book is to read with perception so that you can be more aware of the writer's style of storytelling, and the core reason for telling the story at all.

If I were to recommend any or all of these books, it is that they tell stories of good over evil, self forgiveness and the huge potential of the human spirit to guide lives in big and small ways. 

This cluster were all authored by women: three Jamaicans and one writer from Antigua and Barbuda. All settings are, I believe, between the 1990s to the present and the books were published between 2013 and 2019, making them very recent publications. All four books are set in the major urban centres: Jamaica's capital Kingston, Jamaica's major tourism city Montego Bay and the capital of Antigua and Barbuda, St John.

These are the books:

 Musical Youth (2013) by Joanne Hillhouse 

A shy, insecure, young teen develops her confidence and builds true friendships through a youth musical programme with youngsters her age. Through preparations for the final production, she unearths her own family story and has to confront all that it presents. The story integrates the music of the islands and also global pop music in the world of the young people.  

Lest We Find Gold (2019) by Melanie Schwapp  

A woman suffers disappointment in her marriage, but this is directly related to what she learned about man and woman affairs as a child.

I have placed this on my domestic violence and Jamaican mothers shelves because of the ongoing themes that are presented in the books that I read.

This book is firmly set in Jacks Hill and Mona, St Andrew Jamaica, with nostalgic touches on deep rural Jamaica, it also has delicious episodes of food preparation with local ingredients.

Based on the forward and afterward notes, this book connected very closely to the personal life of the author.

Inner City Girl: Other Rivers To Cross (2018) by Colleen Smith Dennis

This is the ongoing story of a young woman who has now completed secondary school and has ambitions to start university. Despite having overcome disadvantages of being born and raised in a deep urban area to a struggling single mother. Through fickle fate, she has tumbled back down the social ladder from where she escaped.

The author plunges the story back in a rough environment of poverty and shows us the pitfalls and the meagre opportunities that must be seized upon as any hope to advance in life.\

The bonds of fast friends, both old and new, and flimsy family more interested in maintaining social standing than family love and care.

The role of the older woman and the reformed man are carefully explored and Kingston city from the waterfront to the hills is the stage.

Tangled Chords (2014) by Brenda Barrett

An energetic episode in the lives of two young people from Montego Bay whose lives have been intertwined since childhood friendship and now, they realise that it has matured to adult love.

The complex nature of power dynamics within families, which extends to domestic employees and also wealthy cliques are explored.

Barrett pays homage to the music of Bob Marley in the hero's band and his mental resilience.

Over time, I have found themes that are very popular to Jamaican, and perhaps Caribbean writers, and these books fit into what I have come to expect and easily find in the set-up of the novel.

The primary theme, by my reading, is the role of the mother. In three of these books, the books start with the mothers having already died, and we are told their flaws as humans and in the role of mother, especially in the area of setting a good example for their daughters. Yes, the protagonists are all young women.

The books use the independent sexual choices of the mothers - not as victims of sexual crimes - as a launch to demonstrate the negative impact of these decisions on the women and their families. So who picks up the slack left by these mothers? Of those three books, it is rural family members or the family domestic staff. 

In the one book where there is a good mother, she is hands-off in child rearing, being more excited and focused on her professional achievements and ensuring that she has a good relationship with her husband and a marriage based on mutual respect and love.

Turning to the father figures: in three of these books, the fathers were prevented by the mothers from being a part of their children's early lives, which definitely had a negative effect on the entire home. 

The Bad Mother is now a common trope for Jamaican literature, which makes me wonder what it says about the society talking to itself through writers. I do wonder how the subject matter in novels is very different from the popular music that we hear, but I have rationalised this down to the gatekeeping. Many of these novelists are self published and self promoted, while the music is produced through a commercial process which is predefined by attributes, the popular ones being: Songs to the long suffering mother, songs for sexy women, songs for gyallis, songs for gangsters, love songs for Jamaica, and songs of divine adoration.  The stories being told by our writers are somewhat different.



Friday, 31 July 2020

A Manuscript - The Amazing Adventures of Maude, a Jamaican Grandmother

There is someone in the family who surprises, who decides to inhabit more good space and give loving support;
Maude decided that this was her.

Read the manuscript at the link below:

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Young Heroes - Inspired by Jamaica's National Heroes

Note to Jamaicans
The dome at the Jamaica 50 Launch
Jamaica House, Kingston October 2011
The stories that are told around the lives of the National Heroes of Jamaica are efforts to put together living histories of times gone by. Many of the stories, however, do not satisfy as they do not advance universal values but rather underscore the survival activities of an oppressed people.

These short fictional pieces offer a different view. They bring forward the national heroes as young people with personalities still being formed. Delivered with action and suspense, each tale highlights one or more of the following themes: Community spirit and service; respectful, god-fearing behaviour; thoughtful action; and a thirst for learning and knowledge. In addition, the words of the National Anthem, or actual words of the heroes themselves, are given life as a phrase is included in each story.

These tales will be expanded over time in different media, such as skits that can be read or dramatised by a small group.

Overall however, my goal is that you will enjoy reading these short episodes, and I would love your feedback. They are my creative work and if you would like to reproduce them; we need to discuss it first.



Young Heroes 

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Chance cannot satisfy hope - Eyewitness account of Marcus Garvey

Young Heroes 

Chance cannot satisfy hope - Marcus Garvey

Wildflowers Spanish Town Road Kingston, Jamaica
Wildflowers in the Spanish Town Road median
across from the DC Tavares Finson Market
Portia Simpson Miller Square, (Three Miles)

Marcus closed the gate of his parents' yard and hustled along Market Street. The bag of marbles at the bottom of his capacious shorts pocket clicked softly, keeping time with the pace of his jogging. On any given Saturday afternoon, boys would be gathered at the side of the printery, and if Marcus selected his challengers carefully, he could increase his cache by at least a third. He never left the outcome of anything important, like a game of marbles, to chance.

It was a typically busy afternoon in the market town of St Ann's Bay; and even more so as the harvest season was nearly over and people had money in their pockets. Two ships were at the docks as raw sugar was loaded in their holds while the crew enjoyed a few days in the town. He watched as a loader man hauled fresh fruits and vegetables from a mule-drawn dray parked at the corner with Market Street and took them into a hotel. Marcus paused to allow a drover with a small herd of goats to cross before him - rams were known to buck - and decided that he would stop and buy an othahetie apple at the cart.

A motor vehicle honked incessantly urging the goats to hurry along. The driver did not wait, but instead made a wide arc to negotiate the corner; he could not see the dray in the bend and he could not brake in time. A fender clipped a mule. It reared and kicked the motor vehicle driver in his side, causing him to completely lose control of the vehicle and crash in the wall of a doctor's office. There were ample hands to lift the driver inside for help. The mule looked all right until his driver urged the team forward and it refused to put one its back leg down and pulled its share of the weight limping along on three legs.

"I would have been at that spot a few moments later," Marcus reflected as he looked around at the damage. The crashed car, the limping mule and some wasted vegetables that slid off the cart during the melee.

He was more aware of his safety during the remainder of his walk and was alarmed that the speed of motor vehicles and their lack of agility simply made traffic more dangerous. He could only imagine what the streets of busier places like Montego Bay and Kingston were like.


Marcus had a successful afternoon of marbles and returned home with two heavy pockets. On his return trip he passed the mangled motor vehicle that had been pushed on to an open lot. Later that evening there was the report of a single gunshot; his father, who had been reading the Gleaner, mumbled that it must be the vet putting down the injured mule.

Mr Garvey settled his folded newspaper on a side table as Mrs Garvey came in to serve dinner.

Marcus took up his school slate and started to write. After Church the next day, he was still scribbling and erasing and rewriting on his slate. By afternoon he was satisfied and asked his father to read his thoughts.

After Mr Garvey read the short passage he said, "Interesting son, a real vision into the future. What do you want to do with it?"

"I want to print it and circulate it to the custos, the pastors, the magistrates, the Governor..."

"What about sending it to the Gleaner son? A letter to the Editor."

Marcus got a sheet of clean writing paper, his pen and inkwell and, in his best handwriting, wrote:

The Editor Sir,

The industrious people of St Ann's Bay are suffering from the benefits of mechanical advancement. Motor vehicles can be seen now every single day on our narrow streets, which can barely serve the needs of man and beast, and all too often, it is the reason behind awful carnage where we intended only faster and more efficient transportation.

Only yesterday, the hard labour of an honest farmer was wasted when a motor vehicle critically injured a trusty mule which suffered greatly before it was put down. That farmer may now have to incur debt to replace the mule and perhaps deprive his children, of schooling or his land of expansion for more production. That very same motor car would have killed me. Had my steps been only a few paces faster, I would have been on that spot of disaster.

Chance cannot satisfy hope in this country. We cannot rely on luck, we need to put our God-given intellect to create laws that regulate how motorised vehicles must travel on the roads. These laws should address speed, caution in going around corners and perhaps which roads must be out of bounds to them. With the power of the automobile, must come additional responsibility on the operators; and those drivers will only respond to binding laws.

Marcus was about to sign his name, but at the last moment felt shy, and instead signed it 'A Youth'. He carefully blotted the ink, folded the letter and placed it into an addressed envelope. His father would mail it at the post office while he was at school.

A week later the letter was published and it caused discussion in the marketplace and rum bars of St Ann's Bay. Later that week the Baptist pastor's topic was "The law, God's protection for the people".

Over the next month, other letters showed up on the pages of the Gleaner concerning the issue of traffic. Most were descriptive but a few were sceptical of laws restricting speed and personal freedoms. Others weighed in against those arguments making reference to a new law in England that restricted the speed of locomotives in built up areas; and that it was only a matter of time before regulations came for motor vehicles.

Marcus read them all and only wished that he had signed his full name; but he was also sure that there would be other times and other issues on which he could express his twelve-year-old mind.