Showing posts with label young adult jamaica. Show all posts
Showing posts with label young adult 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


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

A sampler of Jamaican YA novels published between 2000 and 2015

YA Books – Jamaica
A sampler of Jamaican YA novels published between 2000 and 2015

From the land of speed, pulsating rhythms, memorable personalities and contrasting lifestyles it is not unexpected that Young Adult (YA) books by Jamaicans would be stretched beyond ordinary categories such as Romance, Urban, Mystery, and Historical.
This very small sampler of authors and their work includes fantasy worlds that are indeed inspired by the country’s moniker “land of wood and water”; contemporary family life, where deeply entrenched customs still resonate with divisions along colour lines and class divisions; the thrill of young love and the tragedy of experiencing pitiless loss. In the writing, are faith, hopes and dreams that are challenged by the pace of social progress.
The words are fun, funny, heart wrenching, bleak, annoying, heroic, hopeful and altogether another riveting way to appreciate this nation of showstoppers and cultural innovators.

Diana McCaulay

Diana McCaulay is an award winning Jamaican writer and environmental activist.  Learn more about Diana and her writing which includes novels, short stories and newspaper columns.

  A-dZiko Simba Gegele
A-dZiko Simba Gegele is a prize-winning writer whose work has been published in diverse international anthologies, including The Virago Book of Wicked Verse, Iron Balloons: Hit Fiction from Jamaica’s Calabash Writers Workshop and So Much Things to Say: 100 Calabash Poets. Her work has spanned multiple genres including poetry, fiction, and playwriting. She recently completed a residency at the prestigious Yaddo Artists’ Retreat and participated in the Cropper Residency and Calabash Writers Workshops.
Her debut novel All Over Again copped the 2014 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature and has been longlisted on the 2015 International IMPAC Dublin Writing Award.
All Over Again is an exuberantly hilarious novel. It is a charming, enchanting slice of boyhood with a bold narrative style.  This episodic novel, masterfully creates the wonderfully turbulent world of a young boy as he moves from childhood to puberty and battles the incessant needs of his little sister, the demands of his father, the high school bully and the local know-it-all Kenny. ALL OVER AGAIN is a story of growth, loss, love and triumph.

Gwyneth Harold Davidson
Gwyneth Harold is a Jamaican novelist and short story writer, and is an experienced public relations practitioner. She currently specializes in YA realistic literature.
Her manuscript Island of the Lost Boys is listed in the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s (JCDC) 50th Anniversary Speech Anthology.
Her novel Bad Girls in School (2007) Harcourt Education, Caribbean Writers Series is widely read in Jamaica. Harold Davidson’s most recent published novel is Young Heroes of the Caribbean which looks at the contrasting hopes and fears of the parents of a young boy Ramiro just before he enters secondary school, and how that impacts on how they choose to raise him. Embedded in the main story are fictional histories of Jamaica’s seven national heroes as young people.  Young Heroes of the Caribbean  Reviewed by Emma Lewis 
Carol Dunn
Carol Dunn is a Jamaican novelist, educator and public education specialist.
Mountain of  Inheritance, her first novel, was awarded a Gold medal in the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s (JCDC) Creative Writing Competition and it is listed in the JCDC 50th Anniversary Speech Anthology.
Mountain of Inheritance is a saga about two families in rural Jamaica and the deep complexities that underlie a seemingly idyllic setting. It looks frankly, but sympathetically at passion and sexuality, loss and love.  The book was reviewed by the Sunday Gleaner 

Melanie Schwapp
Melanie Schwapp was educated at the University of South Carolina where she majored in Mass Communications. She lives in Kingston, Jamaica with her husband and three children. She considers writing her second nature, the act of joining words together bringing her the greatest sense of peace and fulfillment. Schwapp is the author of a children’s book Lally-May’s Farm Suss and her first novel, Dew Angels.

Dew Angels 
From the day she was born Nola Chambers is rejected by those she should most trust. Born with dark skin into a family that prides themselves on their light complexion, Nola grows up abandoned and perceived as worthless. Deprived of familial love, affection and security, she falls victim to her father’s abusive behaviour and struggles though society’s harsh judgements of her black skin. Trying to overcome the brutalities in her life, Nola meets Dahlia Daley. Their friendship opens another world for Nola, a world of tenderness and compassion, a world where she can rise above prejudices and reveal her true self – a world where love knows no colour.  Dew Angels was reviewed by Sasha Solomon

Diane Browne
Diane Brown is an author of children's stories and editor of textbooks. Her stories have been published in the UK, the USA and Jamaica. She is the recipient of a Bronze Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica (2004) and the special prize for the best children's story by the Commonwealth Foundation (2011). 
Island Princess in Brooklyn
Thirteen year old Princess arrives from Jamaica to live with her mother in Brooklyn, New York. How will she ever get accustomed to the many unexpected (and sometimes really weird) experiences in this place far away from her beloved Granny?
Can she settle into her new life, a new school, making new friends, and find a place for herself? Her life is full of anxiety, and surprising twists and turns; but eventually she must decide where friendship, forgiveness and love fit in or be forced to return to Jamaica. How she overcomes the challenges of settling into a new environment, including school, makes an interesting story.  Island Princess in Brooklyn is reviewed byGeoffrey Philp 

Suzanne Francis Brown  
Suzanne Francis-Brown enjoys bringing words and culture to a puzzle-solving party. This Jamaican journalist and editor now works in the area of history and heritage, and brings this combination to her children’s stories as well as non-fiction works.
The Mermaid Escapade
Humans aren’t sure about mermaids and mermaids are definitely wary of humans. Caribbean legend meets youthful adventure as these unlikely allies overcomes their fears and join forces against a sea wizard who’s messing with their water!

Garfield Ellis
Garfield Ellis studied marine engineering, management and public relations in Jamaica and completed his Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Miami, on full scholarship as a James Michener Fellow.
He is a two-time winner of the Una Marson prize for adult literature; in the first instance for his first collection of short stories, Flaming Hearts (pub. 1997). He has twice won the Canute A. Brodhurst prize for fiction (The Caribbean Writer, University of Virgin Islands) 2000 & 2005 and the 1990 Heinemann/Lifestyle short story competition.
Garfield is the author of five published books: Flaming Hearts, Wake Rasta, Such As I Have, For Nothing at All and Till I'm Laid To Rest, Spring 2010. His work has appeared in several international journals, including; Callaloo, Calabash, the Caribbean writer, Obsidian III, Anthurium and Small Axe.
For Nothing At All
Wesley was the bright one, the one out of all of his friends who was going to do well. But as the years passed the friends grew apart, forced by circumstances along dark paths of corruption and death, devotion or madness, leaving their dreams in tatters. When Wes graduated with the best results the school had ever seen, he couldn't get a job. It was the boys who left school before him that seemed to do well with their weed, flashy clothes, guns and new cars. Even so, he seemed like the only one with a chance, not trapped by the system. Until Danny Bruck moved in on him.  Review by Mary Hanna published in the JamaicaGleaner

Roland Watson Grant
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.
Sketcher, the novel was released in May 2013 to critical acclaim and was nominated for an Amazon Rising Star Award that same year. A Turkish version of Sketcher was released in Istanbul in October 2013. The sequel, entitled Skid, was released by Alma Books in June 2014.

Nine-year-old “Skid” Beaumont’s family is stuck in the mud. Following his father’s decision to relocate and build a new home, based on a drunken vision that New Orleans would rapidly expand eastwards into the wetlands as a result of the Seventies oil boom, Skid and his brothers grow up in a swampy area of Louisiana. But the constructions stop short, the dream fizzles out, and the Beaumonts find themselves sinking in a soggy corner of 1980s Cold War America. As things on the home front get more complicated, Skid learns of his mother’s alleged magic powers and vaguely remembers some eerie stories surrounding his elder brother Frico.

These, as well as early events that Skid saw with his own eyes, convince him that Frico has a gift to fix things by simply sketching them. For the next few years, Skid’s self-appointed mission to convince his brother to join him in his lofty plan to change their family’s luck and the world they live in will lead to even more mystery and high drama in the swamp. Atmospheric, uplifting and deeply moving, Sketcher – Roland Watson-Grant’s stunning debut – is a novel about the beauty of life no matter how broken it is.     
Review on Amazon     Review by Annie Paul

Helen Williams
Helen Williams (pen-name Billy Elm) has lived and worked in Jamaica since graduating from Oxford University in the UK. For 38 years she taught all ages of children. Now retired, she has taken up writing for children. Delroy in the Marog Kingdom is her first published novel. Her other publications include a short story “Finding My Roots” in Tony Bradman’s Anthology, All in the Family and Errol’s Taxi a reader in Pearson’s Stepping Stones Series. 
Delroy in the Marog Kingdom  (a Middle School Book)
“If you look into River Mumma’s eyes, something terrible going happen to you.” Too late, Delroy remembers his mother’s warning. Is drowning his fate or is something worse in store? Becoming a marog is only the beginning. The king of these unusual frogs has chosen Delroy to succeed him, but first he must retrieve the king’s magical stone from a venomous snake. Slogging through underground caves and tunnels, Delroy is tempted to give up and wonders whether he will ever return to his former life.   Book Description: