Showing posts with label young adult books Jamaica. Show all posts
Showing posts with label young adult books Jamaica. Show all posts

Monday, 31 August 2020

Vibration from Palampalam - A Young Man Makes Life In Jamaica

The beauty of an allegorical story is that it is open to interpretation, you fill in the blanks or undo the mysticism in the search of the underlying point of the story and on the way, make other discoveries.

Vibration from Palampalam A Novel by Dorrell Wilcott published by Arawak publications in 2012, leaves me with the impression that although this book is not an allegory, the author is deliberately misleading the reader by skipping over and around situations that should be important to the story and yet expending description and commentary on seemingly lesser matters. The reader is left wondering about the reason for the deliberate gaps and the mystery behind what was paid careful attention  

The modest 142 pages is an action packed story of the life arc of the protagonist Dalphus Congonza. It starts with his parents' stories and ends with a look at the adult start-up of his progeny.  This completeness of a life story suggests that it is a memoir, but a memoir that does not trust the reader, so while it is not the story of an airbrushed hero, the material feels redacted and so, incomplete.

The foreword by Patrick Bryan is helpful in explaining the protagonist when he says, "First, his ambition is to throw off the scars and the negative features of that childhood, and to succeed in spite of them. Second, and in contraction, some of the values that he disdains and which contributed to the disfunctionality of his family became a part of his own value system."

    "The novel is not preoccupied with race and colour. However, they both have an enormous inflience in shaping the lives of people and contributing to the dysfunction within the Dalphus' family," Bryan says.

Dalphus grew up with minimal education in Palampalam which was supposed to be a frightfully haunted woodland within the rural community of Service. He is the only child in a family where there was no love among its three members. Even though Dalphus caused hurt to his mother early on, it was his childish reaction to her obvious scorn of him. Wilcott says of the mother, "who had seen everything that she disliked about her husband in that little boy." 

The natural environment of rural Jamaica is integrated into the book from beginning to end. Dalphus' father cleared dense woodland and built the family home; as an adult, Dalphus shaped a rocky hilltop overlooking the community of Service, for his own large and splendid house. Woodland was also where his closest friend died. Dalphus made his living from farming the rocky, land, but he did it successfully and managed to pass down the interest in farming to one of his sons.

Relationships between the character and the women in his life are complicated; his mother, lover, wife, mother-in-law, and elder daughter. He knows that he is not excelling in these relationships, but he displays incompetence in how to improve them, and relies on his friend Gus to play the role of conciliator and way-maker.

When he was just about out of his teens, he lived for a few years in Cuba and was able to work hard, take use of opportunities that came his way and save money. He is awkward with women but finds ways to incorporate them in his life. At a bar, Primela admires him and "he declined, almost becoming flustered", then "he looked at her again. The chemistry or whatever they used to call it mixed furiously."  He, quite easily, leaves Primela for Emma, which was a financial arrangement, "Dalphus had hitched a fee simple in Emma's financial empire."

Later back in Service as a married man, his mother-in-law is banned from his home for her destructive slander, and his eldest daughter, the apple of his eye, disappoints when she marries against his wishes.

Dalphus' relationships with men seem steady and true and valuable, aside from Bandy-Leg who tried to take sexual advantage of him as a naive teenager. Gustavius became a lifelong confidante, and wise counsellor for both himself and his wife, the beautiful, educated and unworldly Odagled who defied her family to marry him. 

As a businessman, Dalphus understands and is not held down by society's prejudices that were against him for reasons of his colour and lack of education. He worked around the established religious institution, the police force, financial institutions and even his sometimes coveteous neighbours at Rico's Bar. He rises above those challenging situations and masters them. He also, somehow, becomes reconciled with his father, but did not with this mother. 

Here we arrive at the rock bottom of all of the story of Dalphus: the lack of a loving relationship with his mother, Tantal, which left him stone dead to anticipating and nurturing sensitivity in family and intimate relationships. By the end of the book, however, he is grateful to have actually shared loving moments with his wife and to have experienced love with his children. His children, however, were not a united family, each  one deciding to be set against the ways of the others. Dalphus did nothing to heal the rifts between the siblings, and was a participant by making it obvious that Daphnie was his "chosen one".

Wilcott's choice of what he paid great attention to writing about, was diverse. He set out the matters around the death of Gus in excruciating detail, yet the three marriages in the book were glossed over, or became commentaries on society in general. 

Dalphus witnessed physical violence in his home, as his father beat his mother, and we later learn that his father also regularly beat his longtime lover. These beatings were not described in the book, yet Wilcott did described how his father met retribution, the wounds that he suffered and his long convalescence.   

The writer paid reverence to the very existence of Marcus Garvey who influenced Dalphus' father's philosophy and actions, but he does not go beyond this reverence to actually show the teachings in action, perhaps almost ignoring them. Wilcott also lets us know that Dalphus is distressed that descendants of Africans who were enslaved in the Americas had not built on the successes and sacrifices of the Haitian revolution.

It is a theory of mine that stories of relationships with the protagonist and his or her mother defines many contemporary books by Jamaicans. This book fits into that category. In these stories, the actions of the mother greatly influence the success or failure of the protagonist. Applying this scrutiny to Tantal, the mother of Dalphus, she was ascribed only one action within her true control, her choice of husband Ciezo Congoza. Everything else about Tantal is ascribed to the society in which she lived. Tantal existed as a light-skinned Jamaican who was raised by a snobbish light-skinned Jamaican woman but yet Tantal chose to marry a dark skinned follower of the black liberation teachings of Marcus Garvey. Ciezo Congoza, beat his wife if he felt threatened by her words and also, and separately, neglected her for the more stimulating company of his lover in the town of Service. 

Dalphus was the victim of his mother's frustration about her husband and she transferred her prejudices to him, nurturing attitudes that would influence him to behave that he was better than, and different from the other children in Service. It also gave him resilience when facing prejudices against him and allowed him to simply walk over them towards his personal goals.

Many more ideas are not fully set out in the story leaving them open to interpret the true weight that they have on the protagonist, or not. Given the openness of this, readers will find it interesting to meander with Dalphus through his life in a Jamaica of once upon a time, but perhaps, still here with us.


For more discussion on mothers in books by Jamaicans, visit this link to another page on my blog


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.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Young Adult Literature (Jamaica) Readers at 2015 Auntie Roachie Festival / 2PM, Monday, August 3, 2015

Young Adult Literature (Jamaica) Readers at
2015 Auntie Roachie Festival /2PM,  Monday, August 3

Kingston, July 31, 2015
The Young Adult (YA) Readers Hangout at the JCDC Independence Village will present three award winning Jamaican authors in the Young Adult (YA) book segment of the Auntie Roachie Film, Television and Literary festival which will be held on Monday August 3  between 2PM and 2:20PM.

Featured readers will be author of Bad Girls in School and Young Heroes of the Caribbean, Gwyneth Harold Davidson, the author of Inner City Girl and The Salt Loses Her Savor, Colleen Smith Dennis and the author of two novels Sketcher and Skid, Roland Watson Grant.

The YA Readers Hangout will be open all six days of the Independence Village, noon to midnight, August 1 to 6.

The booth will have Jamaican YA fiction books on display for browsing. Literary festival collaborator, Gwyneth Harold Davidson, will be on hand to share her thoughts on Jamaican YA books that she has read, and which are available in print or e-book editions.

Festival goers who play chess and who enjoy pen and paper activities are invited to drop in, and hang out at the YA Readers booth.

YA books are considered to be fiction and non-fiction books that are marketed to adolescents. YA books include well-known classics, as well as contemporary books and the themes identify with coming-of-age issues. YA books can be found across several genres including romance, fantasy, graphic contemporary and historical fiction, and literature.

The JCDC Independence Fair will feature daily and nightly entertainment for the family including music performances, exhibitions, craft fair and Jamaican food and drink. There is no cover charge to enter the fair before 5PM.

Author Profiles
YA Readers for the 2015 Auntie Roachie Film, TV and Literary Festival

A former English teacher and current advertising copywriter and creative director for over a decade, Roland Watson-Grant insists that he started his literary career writing thirty-second short stories for radio and television in his native Jamaica. In 2011, he ventured to put his characters out onto the world stage. That same year, his short story, Sketcher, was named an International Prize Winner in the Annual Lightship Literary Prizes held in Hull, England. Another short fiction entry, Home Run, was long-listed in the competition.

A live reading at the Lightship Awards ceremony in the fall of 2011, attracted a London Publisher and in February 2012, Roland was offered a book deal to turn Sketcher into a full-length novel of the same name. Sketcher, the novel was released in May 2013 to critical acclaim and was nominated for an Amazon Rising Star Award that same year. The novel has received several accolades: Times of London called Roland Watson-Grant’s debut: “A wonderfully joyous, eccentric first novel”; Bookseller Magazine described it as “a tragicomic tour de force”; and the Spectator referred to Sketcher as “most original by a mile”.

A Turkish version of Sketcher was released in Istanbul in October 2013. The sequel, entitled Skid, WAS released by Alma Books in June 2014. Roland appeared at the Two Seasons Talking Trees Literary Fiesta held in Treasure Beach in February 2012; and the Kingston Edition in February 2014.

Colleen Smith-Dennis was born in the parish of St. Elizabeth. She attended the Maggotty High School and graduated in the late seventies. After completing one year Youth Service, she attended the Bethlehem Moravian Teachers College where she specialized in the teaching of English Language at the secondary level. She later enrolled in the University of the West Indies where she completed a certificate and a honours degree, again in the field of the teaching of English.

 In 2006 she completed her Masters in Education in the same area again at the University of the West Indies. Currently, she is a teacher of English at a high School in St. Andrew.
Published by LMH Publishing in Kingston, her YA novel, Inner City Girl was nominated for the 2011 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her other novels are For Her Son and The Salt Loses Her Savor.

Gwyneth Harold is a Jamaican novelist, short story writer and public relations practitioner. Her work in the YA genre has been for printed books, online books, newspaper series and radio series. She is also a collaborator of the Two Seasons Talking Trees Literary Fiesta that is held in Treasure Beach Jamaica.

Harold Davidson’s manuscript for Secret Identities of the Rio Minho received the JCDC 2002 Award of Merit for Novel; and her short story collection Here and Elsewhere won the Una Marson Book Prize 2001 for Collection of Short Stories. In 2007, her novel Bad Girls in School was short Listed for Vic Reid Prize for children 2007, and was published by Pearson in that year.

Harold Davidson’s adventure series Fly Guy ran in the Gleaner’s Youth Link and is also a four-part audio drama series that is freely available on YouTube.

Her contemporary novel with historical stories, Young Heroes of the Caribbean was independently published in 2014. Historical fiction stories from the novel were used in the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) radio series Young Heroes, which was aired in 2014 as a part of the organisation’s 50th anniversary celebrations.