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Celebrating Jamaican Independence: Sixty (60) years of Jamaican Fiction

Celebrating Sixty Years of Jamaican Fiction
A-dZiko Simba Gegele

A-dZiko Simba Gegele

Lorna Goodison

Lorna Goodison

John Hearne

John Hearne

Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson

Marlon James

Marlon James

Evan Jones

Evan Jones

Perry Henzell

Perry Henzell

A-dZiko Simba Gegele

 

A-Dziko Simba Gegele is a prize winning author whose work has been published in the Caribbean, England and the United States. Her debut novel All Over Again, won the inaugural Burt Award for Caribbean Literature in 2014. Born in England, Ms. Simba Gegele is of Nigerian and Jamaican parentage. She has been living in the Caribbean region since 1992, initially in Montserrat and then Jamaica - now her permanent home. Ms. Simba

Ms. Simba Gegele is also known in some areas of the Caribbean as a storyteller and workshop facilitator, specializing in working with children.

 

https://aalbc.com/authors/author.php?author_name=A-Dziko+Simba+Gegele

 

Lorna Goodison

 

Lorna Goodison is one of the finest Caribbean poets of her generation and lauded as such by Kwame Dawes in the Caribbean Writer: “Superlatives glint all over commentary on Lorna Goodison’s work… she is now one of the greatest!”

Goodison was born in 1947 in Kingston, Jamaica, on the 1st of August – the Jamaican Emancipation Day, on which the abolition of slavery is commemorated. She originally trained to be a painter, and has said that she aims to bring the technique of chiaroscuro to her writing: “All these light images I place in relief to dark historical facts or hold them up as talismans against the sense of hopelessness and despair which can overwhelm us as human beings.” Her work focuses on the struggle and celebration of those living in a country with a tragic history and she has said in interview that she believes the health of Caribbean poetry lies in the hands of its contemporary writers: “They are the ones that have to tell the half that has never been told, and they will tell it”.

Many of Goodison’s poems are about the different roles a woman can play, and one of her best known, ‘For My Mother (May I Inherit Half Her Strength)’, tells how her mother – “a child of the petite bourgeoisie/studying to be a teacher” – fell in love with a working class man who “had nothing but words to woo her.” The couple moved from the lush countryside of Harvey River to a busy street in Kingston, and went on to have nine children, of which Goodison is the eighth. The poem is a celebration of her mother’s remarkable domestic skills, which included making “a garment from a square/in a span that defied time.”

Goodison feels a deep sense of responsibility about the portrayal of her homeland and has said in interview: “If I have an agenda this is it: I want to first of all write in a language that accurately represents the people I write about. I have a great fear of writing as if I’m from middle earth.” She blends Jamaican dialects, or codes, to build up a richness of language which is both sumptuous and graceful. Velma Pollard has said that “the rendering of… complex voices in a single statement by the deft manipulation of lexicon and syntax of the different codes is, I believe, Goodison’s major contribution to Caribbean literature.” Listening to Lorna Goodison’s voice on this Archive recording, we are able to understand immediately how the music and cadences of her language are integral to its meanings.

 

https://poetryarchive.org/poet/lorna-goodison/

 

 

John Hearne

 

Canadian-born writer John Hearne is one of the most celebrated Caribbean novelists of the late twentieth century. His debut novel, Voices Under the Window (1955), set the tone for a further five novels exploring the themes of lost innocence and wasted potential. In particular, Hearne’s work explores the way political changes within a society impact on the lives of individuals and their relationships with others. All six of his “literary” novels have been widely translated. Hearne’s work has also become the subject of a great deal of attention from the academic world, where he is valued as an important chronicler of Jamaican life, culture, and politics. Besides these serious works, Hearne was a popular short story writer and was also joint author with Morris Cargill of three off-beat thrillers published under the name John Morris.

Born on February 4, 1926, in MontrealQuebecCanada, to Jamaican parents Maurice Vincent and Doris (May) Hearne, John Edgar Caulwell Hearne moved with his family to Jamaica when he was two years old. He was educated at Jamaica College until the age of seventeen, when he left to join the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II, serving as an air gunner from 1943 to 1946. On September 3, 1947, Hearne married Joyce Veitch, but they were divorced a few years later. Also in 1947 he enrolled at the University of EdinburghScotland, graduating with a master’s degree in 1950 before moving to London. He qualified with a teaching diploma from the University of London the same year and became a teacher to support himself while he worked on his first book. He married Leeta Mary Hopkinson on April 12, 1955, and they had two children.

After a decade teaching in London and Paris while he worked on teleplays and novels, Hearne returned to Jamaica in 1962. Hearne’s middle-class Jamaican background became the setting for most of his novels. Only The Sure Salvation (1981), which deals with life on a slave ship, strays from Hearne’s central themes of the individual’s struggle to reconcile his or her identity with the social and political setting. Wilfred Cartey criticizes Hearne for his conservative approach to race and society, noting that he tends to portray those who live in slums as “sordid” and “grasping.” Cartey also points out that Hearne is also skeptical of political activism. Many of Hearne’s apparently idealistic political characters are also ruthless and corrupt.

Hearne’s first novel, Voices Under the Window (1955), is his most celebrated. Set on the island of Cayuna, a fictionalized version of Jamaica, Voices tells the story of Mark Lattimer, a dying man recalling his life as a lawyer, a politician, and a lover. Lattimer, who is of mixed race, also has to deal with his lack of acceptance as either a white or a black person. Apart from The Sure Salvation, all of Hearne’s novels are set on Cayuna and all in some way address the issues of individuals operating against a political background. Stranger at the Gate (1956), for example, is about Communist activist Roy McKenzie. But as his career as a novelist progressed, Hearne became more interested in the personal lives of his characters. This has been seen as a failing of Hearne’s novels written in the late

At A Glance…

Born John Edgar Caulwell Hearne on February 4, 1926, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada; died December 12, 1995; married Joyce Veitch, September 3, 1947 (divorced); married Leeta Mary Hopkinson, April 12, 1955; two children. Education: Jamaica College; Edinburgh University, MA, 1950; University of London, teaching diploma, 1950. Military Service: Air gunner, Royal Air Force, 1943-46. Religion: Christian.

Career: School teacher in London, England, Paris, France, and Jamaica, 1950-59; Government of Jamaica, information officer, 1962; University of the West Indies, Jamaica, resident tutor in extramural studies, 1962-67; University of Leeds, England, visiting Gregory Fellow in Commonwealth Literature, 1967; University of the West Indies, Creative Arts Centre, director, 1968-92; Colgate University, New York, visiting O’Connor Professor in Literature, 1969-70, and visiting professor in literature, 1973.

Memberships: International PEN.

Awards: John Llewelyn Rhys Memorial Prize, for Voices Under the Window, 1956; Institute of Jamaica, Silver Musgrave Medal, 1964.

1950s and early 1960s, including Faces of Love (1957), Autumn Equinox (1959), and Land of the Living (1962).

Hearne became a tutor at the University of the West Indies in 1962 and he was head of the Creative Arts Centre from 1968 until he retired in 1992. He also held visiting professorships at universities in Europe and the United States and published several academic books, including (with Rex Nettleford) Our Heritage (1962) and Testing Democracy Through Elections (1985), a survey of Jamaican politics. He also edited collections of Caribbean short stories and the speeches of Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley. In the late 1960s Hearne embarked on a new writing venture with Morris Cargill. Together they produced three popular novels under the pseudonym John Morris, described by critic Michael Hughes as parodies of the “slick, modern detective novel.”

Although he is now celebrated as a Caribbean novelist, Hearne was determined not to be labeled as such, preferring instead to see himself as a writer in a much wider tradition. He was heavily influenced by European literature and by the European culture he had experienced as a young man. But he told Wolfgang Binder in 1984: “…it would be idle of me to pretend to be a European writer. I would claim, as I do claim, that I am an American writer. And for me the American experience begins in Alaska and ends in Argentina.”

Many academic articles were published about Hearne and his work in the 1960s and 1970s but his work is best known in Jamaica, where it is sometimes used by the tourist industry to advertise the island. Hearne was awarded the John Llewelyn Rhys Memorial Prize for Voices Under the Window in 1956, and the Silver Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica in 1964. He died in Jamaica on December 12, 1995.

 

https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/historians-and-chronicles/historians-miscellaneous-biographies/john-hearne

 

Perry Henzell

Perry Henzell was a film director and writer. Born in Port Maria, Jamaica on March 7th, 1936, he was married with three children, and died in Treasure Beach, Jamaica on November 30th, 2006. Henzell was a man who exuded an almost supernatural calm; he was always effortlessly congenial company, with a permanent twinkle of humour in his enquiring eyes. Both his parents were of old Caribbean stock, his father managing a sugar estate on the Jamaican north coast, where his only son and two daughters were born. After attending Shrewsbury School and McGill University in Montreal, Perry Henzell became a floor manager for BBC television in London. In 1959, learning that television was about to start up in Jamaica, he returned to the island. There he set up Vista Productions, which over the next decade made hundreds of commercials, honing his directing skills. English commercials directors like Ridley Scott would use Vista’s facilities. By 1969 Henzell was ready to begin filming his first feature. Funded by relatives, as well as by Chris Blackwell, The Harder They Come was not finally completed until 1972, shot at weekends or in one or two-week bursts.

https://africanfilmny.org/directors/perry-henzell/

 

Nalo Hopkinson

 

Nalo Hopkinson (born 20 December 1960) is a Jamaican-born Canadian speculative fiction writer and editor. Her novels (Brown Girl in the Ring, Midnight Robber, The Salt Roads, The New Moon's Arms) and short stories such as those in her collection Skin Folk often draw on Caribbean history and language, and its traditions of oral and written storytelling.

She grew up in Guyana, Trinidad and Canada. She was raised in a literary environment; her mother was a library technician and her father a Guyanese poet, playwright and actor who also taught English and Latin. By virtue of this upbringing, Hopkinson had access to writers like Derek Walcott during her formative years, and could read Kurt Vonnegut's works by the age of six. Hopkinson's writing is influenced by the fairy and folk tales she read at a young age, which included Afro-Caribbean stories like Anansi, as well as Western works like Gulliver's Travels, the Illiad, the Odyssey; she was also known to have read the works of Shakespeare around the time she was reading Homer. Though she lived in Connecticut briefly during her father's tenure at Yale University, Hopkinson has said that the culture shock from her move to Toronto from Guyana at the age of 16 was something "to which [she's] still not fully reconciled". She lived in Toronto from 1977 to 2011 be before moving to Riverside, California where she works as Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside.

As an author, Hopkinson often uses themes of Caribbean folklore, Afro-Caribbean culture and feminism. She is historically conscious and uses knowledge from growing up in Caribbean communities in her writing, including the use of Creole and character backgrounds from Caribbean countries including Trinidad and Jamaica. In addition, Hopkinson consistently writes about subjects including race, class and sexuality. Through her work, particularly in Midnight Robber, Hopkinson addresses differences in cultures as well as social issues such as child and sexual abuse.

Hopkinson was the recipient of the 199 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and the Ontario Arts Council Foundation Award for Emerging Writers. Brown Girl in the Ring was nominated for the Phillip K. Dick Award in 1998, and received the Locus Award for Best First Novel. In 2008 it was a finalist in Canada Reads, produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Midnight Robber was shortlisted for James R. Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award in 2000 and nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2001. Skin Folk received the World Fantasy Award and the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic in 2003. The Salt Roads received the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for positive exploration of queer issues in speculative fiction for 2004, presented at the 2005 Gaylaxicon. It was also nominated for 2004 Nebula Award. In 2008, The New Moon's Arms received the Prix Aurora Award (Canada's reader-voted award for science and fantasy) and the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, making her the first author to receive the Sunburst Award twice. This book was also nominated for the 2007 Nebula Award for Best Novel. 

In 2020, Hopkinson was named the 37th Damon Knight Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nalo_Hopkinson

https://www.nalohopkinson.com/

 

 

Marlon James

 

 

Marlon James was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1970. He graduated from the University of the West Indies in 1991 with a degree in Language and Literature, and from Wilkes University in Pennsylvania in 2006 with a Masters in creative writing. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota and teaches English and creative writing at Macalaster College. In 2018 Marlon James received an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. In April 2019 he was named one of Times Magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2019 in the Pioneers category.

He won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for A Brief History of Seven Killings, making him the first Jamaican author to take home the U.K.'s most prestigious literary award. In the work, James combines masterful storytelling with brilliant skill at characterization and an eye for detail to forge a bold novel of dazzling ambition and scope. He explores Jamaican history through the perspectives of multiple narrators and genres: the political thriller, the oral biography, and the classic whodunit confront the untold history of Jamaica in the 1970's, with excursions to the assassination attempt on reggae musician Bob Marley, as well as the country's own clandestine battles during the cold war. James cites influences as diverse as Greek tragedy, William Faulkner, the LA crime novelist James Ellroy, Shakespeare, Batman and the X-Men. Writing for the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani said of A Brief History of Seven Killings, "It's epic in every sense of that word: sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal and dizzyingly complex. It's also raw, dense, violent, scalding, darkly comic, exhilarating and exhausting - a testament to Mr. James's vaulting ambition and prodigious talent."  In addition to the Man Booker Prize, A Brief History of Seven Killings won the American Book Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Prize, the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the Minnesota Book Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. 

Marlon James' first novel, John Crow's Devil, tells the story of a biblical struggle in a remote Jamaican village in the 1950s. Though rejected 78 times before being accepted for publication, John Crow's Devil went on to become a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, as well as a New York Times Editor's Choice. His second novel, The Book of Night Women, is about a slave women's revolt on a Jamaican plantation in the early 19th century. The work won the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Minnesota Book Award, and was a finalist for the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award in fiction, as well as an NAACP Image Award. His best-selling book, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, is the first in the Dark Star Trilogy, a fantasy series set in African legend. Black Leopard, Red Wolf received the Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction from the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, the 2020 Locus Award for Horror, was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award in the Fiction category, and was named one of the Washington Post's 10 Best Books of 2019. The second book in the trilogy, Moon Witch, Spider King, was an instant New York Times bestseller.

James' short fiction and nonfiction have been anthologized in Bronx Noir, The Book of Men: Eighty Writers on How to Be a Man and elsewhere, and have appeared in Esquire, Granta, Harper's, The Caribbean Review of Books and other publications. His widely read essay, "From Jamaica to Minnesota to Myself," appeared in the New York Times Magazine. In early 2016 his viral video Are you racist? 'No' isn't a good enough answer received millions of hits. James hosts a popular podcast about literature with Jake Morissey called Marlon and Jake Read Dead People. Marlon James will write and executive produce Get Millie Back a 6-part crime drama set in Jamaica for movie channel HBO and the UK's Channel 4.

 

https://www.barclayagency.com/speakers/marlon-james

 

 

Evan Jones

Evan Jones (born 29 December 1927) is a Jamaican poet, playwright and screenwriter based in Britain. He was educated in Jamaica, the United States and England. Jones taught at schools in the United States before moving to England in 1956 and beginning a career as a writer. He wrote the scripts for the feature films King and Country, Modesty Blaise, Funeral in Berlin, Wake in Fright, and several television plays.

https://dbpedia.org/page/Evan_Jones_(writer)