Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Jamaican Authors

Every since I got back from the Calabash Literary Festival, I've been obsessed with Jamaica. I've pledged allegiance to this tiny Jamaican restaurant near my house, chatted up any and every person I meet with a connection to Jamaica and read as many books by Jamaican authors as possible.

I finished She's Gone by Kwame Dawes as soon as I returned from Calabash. As one of the Calabash founders, I felt I owed it to him to read his book first. Next, I devoured Andrea Levy's , Fruit of the Lemon. Levy was born in London to Jamaican parents and writes about the Jamaican experience abroad. I loved this book because the main character, also a Jamaican born in London to Jamaican parents, struggles with an identity crisis, namely, trying to figure out what it means to be Black in a mostly White world.

Currently I am reading The Pirate's Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson. It's a fabulous tale based on a real-life incident that took place in Jamaica in 1946 involving American movie star, Errol Flynn. Loving it.

I think the reason I'm so attracted to Jamaican authors, besides their fantastic storytelling abilities, is that the meltingpot theme is so present in their work, whether the story takes place at home or abroad. So I'm just going to keep on reading my Jamaican authors and if anyone has a suggestion on who I should read next, send me a note.

BTW, Malcolm Gladwell and Zadie Smith. Did you know they were Jamaican?



glamah16 said...

All the diffent races and influences in the Caribbean fasinate me.Not famialir with Jamaican authors work, but love he food and drink. I just made a batch of Mauby and will enjoy over the next few days. Now I just need one of the books you mentioned to really set the mood.

Mango Mama said...

I, too, loved Fruit of the Lemon. It's definitely one of my favorites. Nope, I had no idea Malcolm Gladwell was Jamaican.

Yvonne said...

I did know Smith and Gladwell were Jamaican! I believe she's got a lovely piece about writing in the current issue of The Believer. I love Gladwell's The Tipping Point to pieces, and am always astonished when he talks about how his life changed when he let his hair grow out and people realized he--gasp!--was a person of some color. As my mom used to say, nappiness will out! ;-> I think one of my favorite Jamaican meltingpot books is Wide Saragasso Sea. It's an acquired taste, but as a HUGE Jane Eyre fan, I gave this sort of prequel about the 'half-caste,' Jamaican, first Mrs. Rochester some love, and it was well worth the effort. The first half of the book is set in Jamaica, but the heroine slowly morphs into the 'madwoman in the attic' we know from Jane Eyre in part two, which is set in Dominica. Wide Sargasso Sea is definitely, definitely My American Meltingpot and Jamaica-friendly if you haven't cracked its pages yet!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I agree with Yvonne, I loved Wide Saragasso Sea!! The movie was okay.

Yes I knew Zadie and Malcolm were island folks. I really enjoyed Fruit of the Lemon. Her first book a Small Island is on my list of books to read. I have heard great things about it.

Not Jamaican but Dominican did you read The Brief Wondrous of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz?

aicha said...

i have to co-sign yvonne's comment on wide sargasso sea. jean rhys is amazing.

michelle cliff is another 'og' JA scribe. no telephone to heaven is the best.

and i know you said jamaican, but st. lucian playwright and poet, derek walcott is my favorite caribbean writer . . . similar to wide sargasso sea, he turns shakespeare's caliban and daniel defoe's man friday into lead characters in his work. he also won a nobel prize for literature . . . not a stop you should miss on your journey through caribbean literature.

Me said...

Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I can't wait to read Wide Sargasso Sea. I'll add it to my list.


Anonymous said...

Anthony Winkler's "The Duppy" is a great read as well as his other books, and all the other books by Andrea Levy. Orlando Patterson is also one to know.

Richie Drenz said...

I am a Jamaican author, I am new and aspire to be one of the best selling author from my country. I read this blog and realised that you have a love for Jamaican authorship. I have a ten part free excerpt of my book Climaxes, My True Sex Story here and would love for you to take a read sometime wen its convenient with you, its not much so it wont take much of your time really, if you think its any good at all you can host the excerpts on your blog if you find it fitting. I do hope you find the reading worth your while and maybe your best Jamaican reading.

Richie Drenz

Lady Antoinette said...

Great blog!
Might I suggest you add The Jamerican by J.J. Gumbs to your reading list? The jamerican is the moniker for Jamaicans raised in the U.S. or who have dual identity. The book is refreshing, very contemporary, and the protagonist is someone with whom we can all identify.
Happy Reading!
-lady antoinette