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Childhood and Youth

There are a remarkable number of adult novels and short stories dealing with childhood in Caribbean fiction (though, until recently, Caribbean fiction for children has been nothing like as prolific – the novels of Andrew Salkey (Hurricane, Drought, Earthquake and Riot), Everard Palmer, V.S. Reid, Margaret D’Costa and Michael Anthony being honourable exceptions). From the first third of V.S. Reid’s New Day (1949), George Lamming’s In the Castle of My Skin (1953), Jan Carew’s The Wild Coast (1958), Geoffrey Drayton’s Christopher (1959), Peter Kempadoo’s Guiana Boy (1960), Austin Clarke’s Among Thistles and Thorns (1965) and much of Michael Anthony’s fiction from The Year in San Fernando (1965) onwards, childhood has been an exceptional focus of Caribbean fiction. Classic novels of Caribbean girlhood came with Merle Hodge’s Crick Crack Monkey (1970), Zee Edgell’s Beka Lamb (1982), Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John (1985) and several of Olive Senior’s stories in Summer Lightning (1986).

Whatever its other merits, Caribbean fiction and poetry is still the best source for telling us about children’s play, the experience of school, children’s lore, and the differences that class and ethnic background make to childhoods. Novels have told about about childhoods within mother-headed and patriarchal households, within extended, role-oriented families, within single parent households and within the more role-fluid nuclear families of the Caribbean middle class. They have told us about the gendering of childhood and childhood sexuality.

Yet except for the analysis of individual novels, the recent collection of essays (based on a conference at UWI St Augustine), The Child and the Caribbean Imagination (2012) is correct in noting that the study of childhood, particularly in the literary imagination, has been a very underdeveloped aspect of Caribbean scholarship. Very little has been written to follow up the suggestive treatment of novels of childhood in Ken Ramchand’s The West Indian Novel and Its Background (1970). And good though The Child and the Caribbean Imagination is, with essays such as Sandra Pouchet-Paquet’s “Towards a Poetics of Childhood” (which focuses mainly on autobiographical narratives), Jennifer Rahim’s essay on Michael Anthony, which also sketches a growing body of work that awaits discussion, and Ryan Durgasingh’s essay on the child as a narrative strategy, there is still a large vacant space for further work on the multiplicity of approaches to childhood in Caribbean fiction and poetry.

Whilst Marc Matthews’ poem ‘Small Boys’, in A Season of Sometimes reminds us that childhood is a biological universal as he watches two white boys playing in Brixton and is ‘comforted to know, no matter white, black or brown/ Small boys’ hearts beat to the same drum’, in general, Caribbean imaginative writing focuses on the particular, telling us that there are multiple Caribbean childhoods varying in material and cultural terms, in their duration and their points of passing, their roles, rights and statuses.

 

Childhoods Across Time

Peepal Tree’s list offers access to multiple childhoods from the 1930s childhoods described by Beryl Gilroy in Sunlight and Sweet Water, in Neville Dawes’ stories of a 1930s Jamaica in rural Sturge Town, originally broadcast on the BBC Caribbean Voices programme, and collected for the first time in Fugue and Other Writings (2012); and in Ralph Thompson’s poetry collections The Denting of a Wave and Moving On, and his autobiography Take My Word For It, through to Kwame Dawes’s speculation in A Far Cry from Plymouth Rock (2007) of what diasporic childhoods in 21st century America might be like for his own children. Over that eighty-year period, the contexts of Caribbean childhood have changed, and writers in more recent years have felt able to say more about childhood’s vulnerability to various kinds of abuse, as well as explore the nature of childhood sexuality, though Austin C. Clarke’s novel of 1965, Among Thistles and Thorns, has much to say about neglect, violence and sexual abuse in the life of nine-year-old Milton Sobers.

One observation that arises from thinking about Gilroy’s, Neville Dawes’ and Thompson’s memories and contemporary writing about childhood is that there seems an inverse ratio between physical and mental space. The child of Gilroy’s memories knows little beyond Skeldon village in Berbice in the 1930s, other than its various transient visitors, but those memories point to freedoms that later generations of children might well have lost. She has a grandmother, who rears her, who believes that the child’s best education comes from being taken around with her and being given the space to grow. It is a childhood that is rich in the sights and scents of rural life, of interaction with a range of characterful adults, who are both strongly (and sometimes oddly) individual and rooted in their community roles. In Ralph Thompson’s The Denting of a Wave, poems such as ‘Carpenters’, ‘Ablutions’ and ‘Cycling’, suggest a similar freedom to range about and discover. In Moving On there are vivid glimpses of a prewar Jamaican childhood – of sexual discovery under a billiard table, of the child cocking a snook at the colonial authorities as described in ‘Early Encounter with the British Raj’. And though Gilroy is Afro-Guyanese, and Thompsons a white Jamaican, with all the social and cultural differences that implies, what they both picture are pre second world war childhoods that offered a space for curiosity, where finding out about the world was primarily done through human contact, and not the noisy messages of social media. By contrast, the world of the contemporary child – at least those written about – seems predominantly urban (whether in the Caribbean or the diaspora), and much more confined to domestic space.

 

Childhoods and Class

But the worlds that Gilroy and Thompson describe are different, and Thompson acknowledges this in his later verse-novel, View from Mount Diablo (2003). Here, the childhood lives of Adam, the privileged white boy and Nathan, his black comrade in arms, cross the boundaries of race and class, but by adolescence Adam’s privileged schooling and Nathan’s position as yard boy carry them in wholly opposite directions – until they meet again in later life in a dramatic and tragic way. This is by no means a situation confined to white and black, or to the distant past. In Brian Meeks’s Paint the Town Red (2003), set in 1970s Jamaica, young Mikey Johnson’s childhood friendship with Carl, the son of his mother’s helper, has to negotiate differences in colour and class that threaten at times their mutual passion for football. These experiences constitute the beginnings of Mikey’s growth towards political radicalism.

The class divisions brought about by a sharply stratified school system are feelingly observed in Jan Shinebourne’s The Last English Plantation (1988), in a scene when June Lehall visits her old school friend, Ralph Bridglall. She has just won a scholarship to Berbice High; he faces a life of hard labour in the sugarcane fields. She meets him in her school uniform, which he teases her about, then responds to her jibe that he too is wearing a uniform – his canecutter’s rags – by saying, “Uniform? Dis? Hmp! Dis in’ uniform, girl, dis me grave I wearin’, me coffin. Dis is wha’ we gon all end up in, good Guiana mud…” Some childhoods end much earlier and more abruptly than others.

Frequently, it is around a parental sense of class and cultural proprieties that family conflict occurs, as it does between June Lehall and her mother, Lucille, who, though herself Indian, is determined that her daughter will not become a “coolie woman”. Thus, the forbidding of children from association with their unsuitable peers is a frequently met theme. In Paint the Town Red, there is a tension between the boy Mikey’s desire to roam with his new friend Carl and his mother’s anxiety to keep him under control. In Garth St Omer’s J--, Black Bam and the Masqueraders (1971), it is one of the distinguishing points between the two Breville brothers that whilst conformist Paul looks for approval amongst his socially favoured peers, the rebellious Peter refuses to keep away from the young “wharf rats” of the docks even at the price of whippings from their father. A variation of the theme is found in Harischandra Khemraj’s Cosmic Dance (1994) where the injunction is about not playing with African Guyanese children.

So, whatever the commonalties, Caribbean writing has been clear about the differences that class makes to the experience of childhood.

 

Childhoods and Place

Jan Carew’s The Wild Coast (1958), amongst other themes, has a powerful focus on the way a change of place shapes the life of the child who is its main character. Hector Bradshaw is sent away from Georgetown to the remote village of Tarlogie on the Corentyne, not only because he is sickly child, but because his bullying father sees no good in him, and his Aunt wants to keep him away from the “ragged, loud-mouthed urchins” from the “nigger-yard”. He is sent into the care of Sister Smart who for all her limitations, recognises that Hector needs protection for his hypersensitive spirit to grow, because “You spirit don’t ever burst from inside you and fill the space outside you.” Hector has lived in his head, in books, and it is the tutelage of Doorne the hunter and the wild coast around him that teaches the boy to start living in his body. This goes along with the other learning that Hector must do to challenge the class and racial arrogance of his father and aunt in their mulatto brownness and their contempt for black people.

It is in its focus on the body that The Wild Coast connects most closely to a novel rarely thought of as a novel of childhood, V.S. Reid’s New Day (1949), where the first book about the Morant Bay rebellion is told through the voice of eight-year-old Johnny Campbell. Here, though, the pattern is one of unlearning, since whilst when the boy is rooted in the world of rural Salt Savannah his perceptions and his mode of telling connects the nature within and without through the medium of his body, later, after his family is forced to leave Salt Savannah, and he leaves childhood behind and becomes a middle-aged businessman in Kingston, his intimacy with the natural world retreats into folksy cliché.

Later novels that locate childhood growth within change of place include Jacqueline Bishop’s The River’s Song (2007). Here Gloria, growing up in a Kingston tenement yard, and struggling to make sense of the sharp divergences between this world and that of the elite high school to which she wins a scholarship, is able to recover some sense of rootedness through the summer holidays she spends with her grandmother in rural Portland, a place of stable family networks and a continuity of traditions.

 

Childhoods, Ethnicity and Culture

The shift of place may be no more than half-a-dozen miles – the journey Puran makes from oxcart to Tunapuna Junction and from thence to school in Port of Spain. In Ismith Khan’s story ‘Puran, Puran’ in A Day in the Country (1994, but probably written in the 1960s) the differences between the worlds of village Indian life and urban Creole Trinidad are such that there can be no balancing act. For Puran, the pulls of family and village are too great, so he refuses to return to school in Port of Spain when his science teacher’s aggressive, mechanistic rationalism forces him to choose between embracing a Eurocentric education and its material rewards, and having to deny the richly imaginative world of the Hindu Gods and the loving closeness of his parents, even if this means a life in the canefields. That kind of choice is echoed in inverted form in Raymond Ramcharitar’s verse autobiography, Here (2013) where the protagonist is only too eager to leave behind the plains of Caroni and, like Jude the Obscure, journey to the city where knowledge is to be found.

The contradictions between the world of family and the wider society are perhaps most powerfully experienced (and expressed) by writers growing up in the Caribbean Hindu or Muslim world (as for instance in Ismith Khan’s The Jumbie Bird). Lakshmi Persaud’s Butterfly in the Wind (1990) and Sasenarine Persaud’s Dear Death (1989) both focus on a child growing up between the values of their Caribbean Hindu families and those of a culturally Eurocentric school system. For the young Kamla in Butterfly in the Wind, there are from early on sharp contrasts between the child’s safe refuges and private spaces in the family compound, and the darker challenges of the world outside, particularly the violence and repressions of colonial schooling. Later Kamla is distressed by the clash between her feeling of security within her temple-going, but open-minded family and the harsh exclusiveness of the nuns at her Roman Catholic school, who tell her that as a heathen she is destined for hell. In Dear Death, Dalip looks back at the childhood experiences that have left him forever divided in consciousness between the Hindu world view he has absorbed from his pious mother and what he has leant from a Westernised Georgetown education, including the liberating experience of reading D.H. Lawrence, though Dalip also recognises that as a child he never really got to grips with the fact that the contradictions were not merely between his family and the world outside, but within it, between his religiously observant mother and his beef-eating, heavy-drinking father.

Whilst the autobiographical characters of Butterfly in the Wind and Dear Death both ultimately hold onto the core of what they have drawn from their families, other novels portray childhood as a preparation for leaving behind almost everything to do with the family and its culture. In Peter Kempadoo’s Guyana Boy, Lilboy not only discovers the differences between his inner family world and the outer social world (as the child of a gardener at the Manager’s Big House on a sugar estate he is brought face to face with the realities of race and class – such as in the vividly described purgatory of the manager’s wife’s Christmas parties), but he also learns that childhood is a preparation for a departure from what was, to what must be. At the end of the novel, Lilboy turns his back on his family to take the bus to Georgetown and we are left without any comforting sense that Lilboy has taken his childhood with him. And yet, if one looks backward from that point of departure, Kempadoo’s portrayal of Lilboy’s childhood is far from bleak. There are the shrimping expeditions with his beloved grandparents, the freedoms of boyhood play with his friends, and though there are tensions in his family between his mother’s urge for respectability and his father’s determination to enjoy life to the full, Lilboy’s upbringin is a loving and secure.

By contrast, in Shinebourne’s earlier novel, Timepiece, when Sandra Yansen leaves Pheasant village to work as a journalist in the competitive, dog-eat-dog world of Georgetown, she consciously tries to hold onto the values of the village, (and particularly those of her father, Ben) with its feelings of community, of the solidarity between women who are her mother’s friends. There is a recognition in both Shinebourne’s novels that modernity can’t be avoided, but they also suggest that the positive values learnt in childhood can carried forward into adult life.

The clash between family ethnicity and culture and the outside world is by no means an exclusive feature of Indo-Caribbean writing. In Kwame Dawes’s collection of poems, Progeny of Air, the sections that deal with a schooling at Jamaica College are about an education into a complex racial awareness. The ‘I’ is a child whose African origins are mocked by other black Jamaicans (except Rastafarians) and a Black child who, along with the other Black boys, becomes sharply conscious of his different relationship to Caribbean history from the white boys in his class. In his more recent autobiographical work, A Far Cry from Plymouth Rock, there is a more extensive description of what it meant to be an African child, born in Ghana, growing up in 1960s Jamaica, and having to confront the cultural prejudices and ignorance that many Jamaicans still had about Africa, and the kind of strategies that as a boy he adopted to deal with the absurdities that confronted him.

 

Childhoods and Migration

For the young Josèphe in Myriam Chancy’s The Scorpion’s Claw, set in the 1990s, the difficulties of resolving the differences between the culture of home and the culture of global modernity is made even more acute by the fact that, as a child she lives, quite literally, in two worlds at once. During the school terms she is sent to Canada; holidays she spends in Haiti at her grandmother’s house. In the process, Haiti becomes progressively more difficult to come to terms with and her move to Canada, with all the grief of loss that this involves, becomes the only way of resolving her divisions. The Haiti of childhood has to be internalised through the process of writing. Only thus can Josèphe move forward. As for Josèphe, the move away from the Caribbean is evidently not one that children had much say in, a theme explored in Curdella Forbes’ story “Maconé, Maconé or Of Age and Innocence” in A Permanent Freedom (2008), about the very young and the very old struggling to adapt to migration from Jamaica to Maryland.

If migration poses particular difficulties for the child, being left behind has posed even more. The phenomenon of the child or children left behind with relatives or foster carers whilst their parent(s) left for “foreign” is an experience recorded by Edgar Nkosi White in Deported to Paradise (referenced above) and explored quite beautifully by Valda Jackson in her story, “An Age of Reason (Coming Here)” in Closure: Contemporary Black British Short Stories (2015). For the three sisters who remain behind with grandparents who can barely cope because other members of the family also leave their children with them, there is an eventual arrival of ease when the family reunites, but it is also clear that the experience has shaped how each sister relates to the others – in the way the eldest is forced into forceripe maternal responsibilities for the younger children, for instance – that will never change. The same theme is treated both fictively and in memoir form in Jacqueline Bishop’s The Gymnast and Other Positions (2105), and in Donna-Aza Weir-Soley’s poetry collection, First Rain (2006) there are several poems that speak to a childhood feelings of abandonment, in poems such as “Story for Mama Daisy”, “Outside Child”, “Criolla de Dis/Possessed” and “Confessions of a Restavec”. The titling of the last poem, with its reference to the dire position of the fostered child/virtual slave in Haiti, reminds that it wasn’t just separation that can mark the life of the child left behind but exploitation and cruelty. Josèphe, in Myriam Chancy’s, The Scorpion’s Claw, for all her difficulties over cultural identity, has been a privileged child. It is only as a young woman that she begins to recognise how unaware she has been of the sharp inequalities within her extended family, and how she has participated in the exploitation of her distant cousin, Alphonse, the ‘restavec’, virtual slave, in her uncle’s house. This recognition so assails her with guilt that it threatens to destroy the balance of her life. Only by writing, and by inventing, through a belated act of empathetic imagination, the stories of those such as Alphonse does she begin to recover equilibrium. This is also the pattern of Ian McDonald’s classic novel of a privileged white Trinidadian childhood, The Hummingbird Tree, and its portrayal of the relationship between Alan Holmes and Kaiser and Jaillin, two Indian children whose parents work on the nearby estate. It is only as an adult that Alan Holmes begins to recognise how privileged he has been and how cravenly he betrayed his friendship with Kaiser and Jaillin.

 

Childhoods, Space and Gender

Whatever the contexts of race and class, whilst most narratives point to childhood as period of mixed freedom and constraint, they do so in ways that point to how gendered childhood is. For all children there are constraints. In ‘Big People Story’ in High House and Radio Rooplall Monar focuses on the world of childhood in Annandale village at a time when all the adults are aunty and uncle and ‘small bottle neva mix with big bottle’ on pains of a box around the ears, but small boys are inexorably drawn to the dangerous observation of adult scandals. He writes (grossly) of the immense appetite of small boys and their delight in wedding feasts and of the child’s growing awareness of difference: in this case between Hindus and Muslims. But that spacial freedom is not only finite but relative, available almost exclusively to boys. In Big Bye’s childhood in Monar’s Janjhat, the absence of parents at work on the distant canefields leaves him free to roam with other boys, to have a Tom Sawyerish period of free association of getting up to mischief with his peers. In contrast, childhoods for girls are much more likely to be marked by social constriction. Data’s life, before marriage to Big Bye is one that almost wholly bound to the family home, especially when she is taken out of school as soon as her breasts begin to bud.

In several novels the spatial constraints experienced by girls is balanced by the portrayal of an inner imaginative freedom that finds its own means of expression. In Denise Harris’s Web of Secrets, Margaret’s life is entirely bound by the confines of her middle-class Georgetown household full of adult and elderly relatives. It is not so much that Margaret is closely supervised, but because she needs to create mental space for herself and to discover what the adults are concealing from her that she increases her confinement by hiding in cupboards and under beds. Sometimes, as in the childhood described in Lakshmi Persaud’s Butterfly in the Wind there is balance between close supervision outside the family, but a protected space within the family compound, where Kamla finds considerable imaginative freedom for herself.

 

Childhood and the Impulse to Look Back

As for writers anywhere, Caribbean writing is marked by the autobiographical impulse to return to childhood to explore the forking paths, crossroads and cul-de-sacs of the growth to individual personhood. For instance, in Cecil Gray’s The Woolgatherer and in Ian McDonald’s Between Silence and Silence there is a looking back to those vital influences, those points of recognition in the life of the child they were when they glean some sense of the person they have become. Gray writes movingly in a number of poems of childhood humiliation in his knowledge of his household’s extreme poverty and of the salvation he found through the library and the kindly intercession of teachers like the Misses Norman and Miss Maingot, who offer him liberation through the world of books. (The Woolgatherer also contains some of the very best Caribbean poems celebrating children’s play: ‘Spinning Tops’ ‘Skaters’.) These memories never leave Gray, and the poems he writes about his experiences as a teacher show deep insight into both the vulnerabilities and the potentialities of childhood. In Between Silence and Silence, Ian McDonald writes about discovering a writer’s making-shaping vision through a variety of childhood experiences, such as his luminous poem ‘Spinster Ganteaume and the Birth of Poetry’. These are not just the memories of writers who emerged at the point when Caribbean writing was still inventing itself. Several of the poems in Ishion Hutchinson’s Far District (2007), such as “Branch of Shrieking”, part of the “Far Journey” sequence, explore the gap between the child’s village life and the world he is beginning to discover in the library “smacked between the barracks and the rum bars”.

Childhood is also returned to in more therapeutic ways, as a means of understanding the crises of adult life. For instance, in Beryl Gilroy’s In Praise of Love and Children (1996), Melda revisits the memories of her childhood when the unexplained intensity of her experiences as a fosterer of damaged children brings about her own breakdown. Her recall of her own buried suffering as an emotionally abused ‘outside’ child, and her more positive memories of the collective mothering she received from the women of the yard, both contribute to her psychic recovery.

In Anthony Kellman’s The Houses of Alphonso (2004), there is a similar pattern, when to save himself from an adult life of evasion and nomadic running away, Alphonso Hutson has to return both to the Barbados of his childhood, and to the memories of his childhood and adolescence that he has suppressed: the snobbish feelings about his parents that education has given him, the shame of a hidden-away disabled brother and a drug-induced adolescent breakdown.

There are undoubtedly writers who feel a special affinity to childhood, who continue to see the child living on in the adult. Beryl Gilroy’s work, beginning with Sunlight and Sweet Water, is full of an educator’s consciousness of the lifelong impact of childhood experiences. In both the poetry and fiction of Geoffrey Philp there is a strongly developed sense of the child living on in the man (see for example his story ‘Softers’ in Uncle Obadiah and the Alien (1997)). In Philp’s frequent return to particular kinds of childhood experience, one senses the coming together of this need and the desire to portray aspects of childhood that are recognisably Caribbean in their lineaments. Philp returns, on a number of occasions, to the theme of errant fathering and disputed paternity and their consequence for the child. In ‘My Brother’s Keeper’, Paul, aka ‘Umpire’ has to deal with the news of his father’s sudden death in disreputable circumstances in the USA and the fact that his father’s outside child is coming to live with him and his mother like a cuckoo in the nest in Jamaica. In Benjamin, My Son (2003), part of the reason Jason Lumley has run away from Jamaica to Miami is to escape from his childhood memories of his relations with his stepfather and his half-brother. His return for his stepfather’s funeral becomes the means for dealing with the turbulence of his childhood and adolescence. Elsewhere in his poetry, Philps has written movingly of the memories of childhood beatings and the effort needed in adult life to come to terms with that pain. Such acts of exposure require courage, and it is possible to see in the work of Kwame Dawes, for example, a constant deepening and more naked truth-telling concerning the nature of childhood and adolescent experience and its continuing meaning. Between Progeny of Air (1994) and Impossible Flying (2007), there is a peeling away of layers of self-protection. What has previously been dealt with obliquely, transmuted into objectified narratives or into the reworkings of myth (the treatment of brotherly rivalry in Jacko Jacobus, the exploration of ‘madness’ in Prophets) is returned to as seeming autobiography (though one should never take Dawes’ storytelling at face value) and dealt with explicitly. The word secrets runs like a thread through Impossible Flying, the keeping of them and the sharing of them.

 

Caribbean writing and Constructs of Childhood

But if Caribbean literature is a rich source for such descriptive material about childhood, what constructs do Caribbean writers bring to its portrayal? For behind the autobiographical elements in such portrayals and the adult author’s attempt to reconstruct the child’s way of seeing, there are inevitably ideas (mostly implicit) about the nature of childhood and the psychological and moral world of the child. Ideas about childhood are, of course, invariably contested. For instance, it is evident from many accounts of West Indian childhoods and in particular West Indian schooling, both fictional and non-fictional, that their authors do not share the apparently popular view of some parents and teachers that the child is a distinctly unregenerate being whose wickedness needs beating out of them. As Milton Sober’s mother tells him in Austin C. Clarke’s Amongst Thistles and Thorns, “I going beat you now so the judge don’t have to hang you later”. Caribbean fiction has a good many accounts of beatings that are positively Dickensian in their sense of outrage. George Lamming’s In the Castle of My Skin, Jan Shinebourne’s The Last English Plantation and Lakshmi Persaud’s Butterfly in the Wind all have distressing scenes of schoolroom beatings, to the point where children lose all control of bladder and bowels. Carl Jackson’s Barbadian novel Nor the Battle to the Strong suggests disquietingly what might be the origins of this propensity towards the violent disciplining of children when the reader is drawn to see the connections between the whippings suffered by slaves and the beating of children long past the end of slavery.

Whilst in general Caribbean authors have not bought into the most sentimental versions of childhood as some special prelapsarian place (the inheritance bequeathed by Rousseau and the Romantics) the notion that children can have ways of seeing that are privileged by an innocence as yet uncontaminated by adult prejudices is not uncommon. In poems such as ‘Young Harpooner’, ‘Lonely Near Educated Water’, ‘Walking on Lily Leaves’, ‘Pelting Bees’ and others, in Jaffo the Calypsonian, McDonald writes jewelled poems that describe childhood as a period of untarnished innocence. In ‘Son Asleep at Six Months’ and ‘Georgetown Children’ he conveys a feeling but unsentimentalised adult concern for the quality of childhood ‘skip-and-free’.

The view of the child as a being of more open consciousness before adult prejudices have had a chance to restrict vision (and an unprotected vulnerability that goes with it) is the premise of both Cyril Dabydeen’s Dark Swirl and Denise Harris’ Web of Secrets, though in neither is this offered as a general view of childhood. In Dark Swirl, Josh, is a sensitive, observing, sickly child, whom other children bully, and his parents and other villagers regard as odd and vulnerable. When a European explorer comes to the village to find out whether the local legend of the massacouraman has any basis in zoological fact, it is Josh who is most disturbed and attracted by the European’s presence, because all along he has been most open to the ominous presences signified by the myth. Josh becomes a bridge between the villagers and the European, playing a shamanistic role. In Web of Secrets (1996), Margaret is the conduit through whom her middle-class mulatto family are brought to confront their denial of blackness, their desperate hanging onto their sense of privileged place in 1960s Georgetown assailed by riot, racial conflict and literal conflagration. Margaret, at 14-years old, is regarded by her mother and aunts as wilfully staying in the world of childhood. Margaret, indeed, has two ‘imaginary’ friends: Arabella to whom she confides all (Arabella, we discover is a parrot, whose liberation from its cage by Margaret becomes the symbolic freeing of the family from its burden) and the backoo of Guyanese folklore, whose explosive threat Margaret tries to keep confined in its bottle by ever more desperate acts of propitiation. It is Margaret who does not dismiss her grandmother’s visions of cracks appearing in the walls of the house as fantasy, whose attempt to get to the bottom of the family’s secrets brings them to confront their past, though, like Josh, at the expense of her own psychic health.

The unboundedness of childhood vision is one of the central themes of Ryhaan Shah’s A Silent Life (2005). In her childhood, Aleyah not only has dreams of cosmic grandeur, taking her to the stars, but sees visions played out in front of her of the events that have led to her grandfather’s suicide and her grandmother’s collapse into silence. She tells no-one about this, not because she feels that there is anything strange about this gift, but because she thinks that everyone can see in this way. At one level this is an imaginative device to tell the back-story dramatically, but Shah is also saying something about the differences between the sensibilities of child and adult. As an adult Aleyah is very much aware of the strangeness of her visionary capacity, and when her marriage in England begins to fall apart over the clash between her ambitions and her husband’s attempts to hold her back, by this stage, her nightmarish dreams can no longer be accepted with the child’s matter-of-factness, and they overwhelm her sanity. Only a return to the womb of her parent’s house in Guyana and a period of return to a childish dependence on her mother can bring her the healing that enables her to resume an adult life.

The connection between psychic phenomena and the disturbed child is also an element in Desiree Reynold’s novel, Seduce (2014), where Gloria as the lonely, isolated child of a prostitute, who hates what her mother does, is host to a noisy invasion of duppies who stand “in corners whisperin an shoutin and whenever I came into the room dem stop what they doing – eating flowers an pieces of sky, singing songs only hearts could hear, dancing with longing for a place no longer home, making love under di tables, cooking food, chopping wood. Dem would turn an smile at me. Then rush to me an comb out my hair, wash me feet an tell me stories bout demselves. I could talk to them widout a sound coming from me mout and dey understood me betta dan anyone else.” But these spirits are not always beneficent, and Gloria’s life is changed when her mother engages in a titanic struggle with the demon squatting on her daughter’s chest, and Gloria herself invokes the power of Jesus to rid the house of them. Their disappearance leaves Gloria empty, and the pious woman the reader meets at Seduce’s wake is a spiritually shrivelled, emotionally null and bitter person.

 

Childhood as Vulnerability

Desiree Reynolds’ image of the child as both open and vulnerable is one that has received a good deal of attention in more recent Caribbean fiction, in particular the vulnerability of primarily, but not exclusively, the female child to sexual abuse. Indeed, in Austin C. Clarke’s Amongst Thistles and Thorns (1965), it is not merely the sadistic beatings Milton Sobers suffers at school and at home, but the assault on his innocence by Willy-Willy one of his mother’s live-in men, and by Girlie, a woman of 35 who has a penchant for boys. Though Willy-Willy tells Milton that Girlie is “worthliss” for “robbing the cradle”, he also tells him, “I going make Girlie give you a piece! Girlie slightly more older than you… but she sweet. And she would give” Girlie indeed abuses Milton in a way that he finds “unbearable”. This theme in the novel, and what it has to say about confused Caribbean masculinities with regard to childhood, is discussed with insight in Aaron Kamugisha’s introduction to the novel in its Caribbean Classics edition.

Jennifer Rahim’s Songster and Other Stories (2007) has several stories that deal, mostly in implicit ways, with the trauma of sexual abuse. In “Stranger”, two kinds of strangers enter the life of the narrating child, Yvonne, and the problem is that her grandmother (her mother has left her behind to go the New York) reads them wrongly. Mr Espinoza with his snake, Pilate, is eccentric but harmless, Mr Roger with his false bonhomie is the real snake. The story ends with Yvonne trapped in the chicken shed by Mr Roger. She sees another “Pilate” pointing at her, and Mr Roger had his finger “pressed to his lips”. The shame of secrecy enforced on the child is explored in a sequence of stories around the character, Moon, emotionally and sexually disabled by what she cannot bring herself to speak of, but which, the story allows us to deduce, may have to do with her father.

There is nothing just implied in the very explicit narratives of Rhoda Bharath in The Ten Days Executive and Other Stories (2014) and Sharon Leach’s Love It When You Come, Hate it When You Go (2014). Rhoda Bharath’s “The Fairest of them All” offers a child’s-eye view of the jealousies and secrecies within an Indo-Trinidadian family, narrated in turn from the perspectives of all three children, where the father in beginning an incestuous relationship with his oldest daughter makes the other children feel unfavoured, until the son blurts out, inadvertently in his parents’ presence, what he has accidentally seen, in the crudest schoolboy terms.Another story, “Breast Pocket”, explores the persistence of the damage wrought by an uncle on the narrator of the story into adult life, but also how she is led towards self-healing.

Sharon Leach’s “All the Secret Things No-one Ever Knows” is altogether bleaker, a full-frontal assault on the sickness lurking behind the respectable bourgeois front of one particular Jamaican family, where the father has repeatedly raped both his son and his daughter. Told by the daughter, the story is an acutely insightful and chilling representation of the psychology of the damaged child still inside the young woman, and how she determines that she will not be the victim of her father’s abandonment once she has ceased to be a child. This story clearly represents an abnormal family, but other stories in the collection suggest that Leach sees the father’s behaviour as having its roots in wider aspects of male sexual behaviour, in the connection between misogyny and sexual power. “Independence”, for instance, portrays a road-trip the girl narrator makes with her divorced father, whom she still idolises for the laid-back way he treats her, in contrast to the restrictiveness of her mother. The father treats her entirely properly, but incidents on the trip begin to feed into the girl’s later perceptions that her father has been “an unapologetic Jamaican loverman” with no moral compass.

Other writers who deal with the sexual abuse of the child include Jacqueline Bishop in poems such as “The Smell of Mango” and “Snakes” in Fauna (2006), and Opal Palmer Adisa’s “Children Must Be Seen and Heard” in I Name Me Name (2008), which is a combined essay and poem that explores several instances of sexual abuse in childhood. The piece focuses on how much abuse was simply shrugged away and how the voice of the child is ignored.

Perhaps the most subtle and richly understanding of the narratives about sexual abuse is Curdella Forbes’ story “Requiem” in A Permanent Freedom (2008) where the complexity originates in the fact the perpetrator is a much loved uncle, who is making her the gift of his supreme story-telling skills at the same time as he is abusing her. What the story traces with great sensitivity are the stages that Girlzel passes through in her responses and her understanding of them.

It is not just from men that girls suffer sexual abuse, though most of the writing discussed above questions the role of mothers or aunts who fail to see, or turn a blind eye to, the abuse of the girls in their care. Malika Booker’s poetry collection, Pepper Seed (2013) confronts the puzzling image of a grandmother who either with her words, as in “Red Ants Bite” or in the deeds of “Pepper Sauce” (a poem that stuns audiences into long silence when they hear it) is capable of sexually sadistic cruelty to her grand-daughter and her niece.

 

Questioning the Romantic view of Childhood

The temptation to romanticise the child as visionary or sentimentalise as vulnerable (which I don’t think any of the fiction discussed above actually does) is wittily ironised in Alecia McKenzie’s story ‘Planes in the Distance’ in Stories from Yard. Eleven year-old Elaine unwittingly begins to undermine her art teacher’s sense of self-worth by producing paintings of brilliant originality. Then Mr Fitzpatrick discovers that Elaine is disablingly short-sighted. She is sent to the optician and fitted with glasses. Thereafter she paints what she sees with mediocre competence – much to Mr Fitzpatrick’s satisfaction. In ‘Terminus’ from the same collection, there is a further ironic reflection on the supposed nature of a child’s vision. Jeri, naïve, sheltered schoolgirl, just on the cusp of sexual awareness, appears, in the earlier part of the story, to stand apart from her fellow bus passengers by refusing to fall in with their hostility to one of the ‘madmen’ who haunts the bus terminus. For her, he is another human being, deserving of sympathy. However, when Jeri’s madman is taken off the streets, cleaned up, and dressed in new clothes, she looks at him in quite a different, calculating adult way: “You know, is too bad him mad,” she tells her friend. “He look so damn good now.”

If some writers are tempted by the Rousseauesque image of childhood, the images in Kwame Dawes’s work tend towards the Hobbesian. In Progeny of Air, he explores memories of a Jamaican education at Jamaica College. Poems deal with the capacity of children to bully, to be viciously homophobic (‘Yap’) and racially abusive; with sexual awakening and the associated rituals of masturbation and getting ‘off the mark’; and with adolescents’ callow, sexist judgements of adult, particularly women’s lives (which contrast with the actual humanity of the poems as character vignettes of the teachers concerned). A similar treatment of a childhood/adolescent propensity to cruelty and duplicity is found, as suggested above, in Geoffrey Philp’s fiction, particularly in stories such as “First Love” and “Who’s Your Daddy?” in Who’s Your Daddy and Other Stories (2009).

 

The Child Made Bad and the Possibilities of Redemption

How much is the propensity to cruelty an innate capacity of the child, how much the shaping of circumstance is the theme of several works of Caribbean fiction. In ‘Jacob Bubbles’ in Singerman (1991), Hazel Campbell writes vividly of the childhood of the gangster-to-be, one of the street children, ‘unclaimed urchins’ cast out to fend for themselves. He is undernourished, bang-bellied, without dreams or hopes; he survives by begging and later finds a home in the Suckdust Posse. By the age of fourteen, he ‘could handle a ‘dog’ or a beretta… better than the police with their formal training’. In Opal Palmer Adisa’s story ‘Bad-Boy’ in Until Judgement Comes: Stories about Jamaican Men (2007), the fictive narrator prefaces Devon’s story by saying that ‘poor Devon didn’t have a chance’, that she has quarrelled with the boy’s mother who protests that she “try to beat the badness out of him”, by saying “Maybe you beat the badness into him.” The story itself traces Devon’s inexorable slide into becoming the runner for a local don. Diana McCaulay’s more recently set Jamaican novel, Dog-Heart (2010) is all the more heart-breaking because for quite some time the trajectory of Dexter, at ten, is moving towards rescue by Sahara, the middle-class single mother who comes across him begging in a car park and sets out to give him a different possibility of life. Dog-Heart is told in the voices of child and adult, and through their contrast it becomes apparent how little Sahara really understands the world Dexter lives in, and how little space the private school system is really prepared to allow him.

The truth of Philip Larkin’s immortal lines, “They fuck you up, your mum and dad./ They may not mean to, but they do”, is shared by Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw in Mrs B. (2013), where we see the eponymous anti-heroine visiting the same self-centred demands and essential emotional coldness on her own daughter that she has suffered at the hands of her insufferable mother; and in Jan Lowe Shinebourne’s The Last Ship (2015), Mary Wong does not really understand why she is drawn to treat her younger daughter, Joan, so badly. She produces pseudo-rational reasons in terms of the need to invest family resources in Lorna, the older sister, because the local headmaster has identified Lorna as the bright child. Mary knows her own childhood was unhappy, when she was fostered out to a black woman who treated her with great unkindness, but she cannot understand the connection between this experience and the way she treats Joan. Only the intervention of Mary’s sisters, who had happier childhoods, and Joan’s self-inspired success start to break the cycle.

The tough realism of Dog-Heart and The Last Ship in their narratives (with space for a little hope in Dexter’s last deed of kindness to Sahara and Joan’s level of self-understanding) is not the only persuasive vision. Marcia Douglas’s Notes from a Writer’s Book of Cures and Spells (2005) has at the heart of its metafictional poetics a story about the redemptive power of love in broken childhoods. The lives of the Donovans are no less on the edge of survival than Dexter’s family in Dog-Heart. Daddy Clive and Mama Milly just manage to keep their family in food, Clive through selling honey from bees he keeps in the cemetery, Milly through her unremitting toil. But then both are shot dead in a break-in to their rented house, and there is nowhere for the children to take refuge except the cemetery. There they survive through the occasional kindnesses of people visiting their family graves and through the services of an enigmatic woman called Bad Rice who sells the honey on their behalf. The children are separated when social services eventually tracks them down, and the novel charts the circuit  of their separation until they are brought back together in the healing yard of Madda Shilling and her garden. There, in a space where there is “a natural mystic flowing through the air”, Madda Shilling’s love begins to heal hearts. Whilst by no means a novel about childhood, Patricia Powell’s The Fullness of Everything (2009) places a child, Rosa, at the centre of the novel’s themes of forgiveness and self-understanding. When the main character, Winston, on his return to Jamaica from many years away in the USA, discovers that he has a half-sister, yet another of his brutal father’s crimes, an outside child who is the product of rape, it is Rosa’s capacity to forgive that teaches Winston and his estranged brother, Septimus, how they too must find love where anger has been.

Though both Marcia Douglas’s and Patricia Powell’s novels have magical realist elements, what they portray is also shown in a wholly realist, autobiographical way in Edgar Nkosi White’s Deported to Paradise: Essays and Memories where he records his life as a Montserratian child abandoned to very untender merciless beatings of an aunt and passed around from one uncaring “foster” family after another in “The Guard” and how “all that good correction served to do was turn me into a criminal”. He is redeemed, though, by the kindness of one of his carers who is shown in the piece, “God’s Mercies”, to recognise that all the boy needs is some love and trust.

 

The Poetics of Writing about Childhood

Beyond the attraction to writing about childhood for itself, in some novels you can see childhood being used as an heuristic device for writing about society in fresh and dynamic ways. The world as actively discovered and experienced by the child offers a way out of the sometimes flat sociological exegesis that sometimes breaks into the narratives of conventionally written adult-focused works. For instance, Jan Lowe Shinebourne’s two novels, Timepiece and The Last English Plantation, both deal with the familiar patterns of the child’s experience of the conflict between home and the wider society, but they go further in using the child’s perception to reveal the nature of social processes with a particular directness and acuteness. The young June Lehall and the rather older Sandra Yansen are both very conscious of being forced to choose between the values of country and city, between different notions of what is the appropriate destiny for a girl, between the closeness of her father to the rural Hindu world and the ambitions of her Christian Indian mother to leave ‘coolie backwardness’ behind. She experiences very intimately the underlying class structures of society in her conversation with her friend Ralph Bridglall, noted above. June has a sudden baptism into the ethnic divisions that are about to tear Guyana apart when on her first day at high school, African and Indian children begin abusing each other with stereotypes that haven’t yet invaded her more integrated village. The stresses are so great that June’s working-class black friend runs away from the school and June herself suffers a psychic crisis that only the wisdom of her Hindu Nani Dharamdai sees her through.

Having a child as the centre of consciousness in the novel offers both difficulties and interesting possibilities for the writer. It raises questions about the authenticity of memory and the relationship between the experiencing child and the writing adult. How far can the world of the child really be seen in the child’s terms? What is to be gained from, what barriers can arise for the reader in the potential gap between the child’s awareness and that of the adult narrator/ implied author? It is an issue that has bothered readers of, for example, Michael Anthony’s Green Days By the River, where the gap between narrative voice and the often unknowing naivety of the main character creates in him a passivity that seems at odds with other aspects of the portrayal. The opposite charge has been made against Jan Shinebourne’s focus on 12-year-old June Lehall as the centre of consciousness for a turbulent period of decolonisation in Guyana. June is sometimes felt to be too knowing, too much the bearer of a sophisticated adult analysis of Guyana’s recent history. It is true that June is remarkably assertive and ‘own-way’ (though her childish vulnerability is also movingly portrayed) but I think her knowingness can be seen as very plausibly as part of her character is a child with ‘big ears’, always listening in to adult conversations and picking up the nuances of their disagreements. Such childhood ‘big ears’ (they are invariably girls) can also be found in the short stories of Olive Senior and in Denise Harris’s Web of Secrets, as noted above. Children such as June Lehall and Margaret are by no means rare in Caribbean fiction. There is, for instance, the preternaturally knowing Olivia in Edgar Mittelholzer’s Shadows Move Among Them (1951), a child “gifted with ghost-sight” whom Rupert Roopnaraine describes in his introduction to the Peepal Tree Modern Classics edition as “an enchantress of concealment and revelation… Olivia is a full presence, our eyes and ears, engaged and engaging... far and away Mittelholzer’s most appealing creation.”

In Sasenarine Persaud’s Dear Death there is a rigorous attempt to keep the narrative close to the limitations of the child’s experience, understanding and fragmented memory, portraying the child’s mystified perceptions of the adult world where shocking and unexplained things happen like the death of a close relative and the shock of his mother’s suicide, and only gradually expanding the main character’s self-awareness as he moves towards young adulthood. Later, he revisits these early experiences with new perspectives, but ones split between his consciousness as a child in a Hindu family and as a schoolboy in the westernising education system.

Perhaps the two groups of “autobiographical” stories in Barbara Jenkins’ Sic Transit Wagon and other Stories (2013) trace with even greater surefootedness the widening perspectives and point of view of the character who is sometimes a narrating “I”, sometimes not, at two points in her life: in childhood and late middle-age. The skilful unfolding of not only the externals of a life, but also the internal witnessing consciousness is part of the great appeal of the collection (in addition to the wit and quality of the writing). Perhaps the story that best demonstrates the skill with which the stories move between the child’s witness and the organising shaping of the mature writer is the pivotal “I Never Heard Pappy Play the Hawaiian Guitar”. This story narrates the embarrassment of the child sent to collect her absent Pappy’s meagre contribution to the household of his children, and of her growing awareness of the game she has to play to get Pappy to part with his money in front of some of his workmates. The story begins with the memory from the distant past of Pappy’s funeral and the discovery then that he was “the finest Hawaiian guitar player in town”, glides into the child’s present tense account of the visit to him at work, and ends with the vision of Pappy striding off to play the guitar which she doesn’t then know about and will never hear. It’s beautifully done.  Also very much worth mentioning here is a story in Keith Jardim’s Near Open Water (2011), “In the Atlantic Field” in which the boy narrator is not quite a witness to a robbery and sexual assault on his mother, where the story gains its power from requiring the reader to connect his fragmented perceptions and post-event puzzlement.

Similarly, while the narrative voice in Butterfly in the Wind is always more evidently the voice of adult reconstruction, there are conscious and literary shifts in the focus and nature of the writing to mark different stages of the child’s life. The earliest chapters, for instance, are almost wholly focused on the physicality of the very young child: such as the child’s response to a torrential rainstorm, to being massaged and massaging her grandmother, they deal with the puzzling mysteriousness of the first experiences of school, the child’s confusions between the literal and the metaphorical over the first stories she hears (and the remembering adult’s awareness that these stories are being told to shape her way of looking at things), to her awareness that adults are talking about matters they do not wish her to hear. But where Sasenarine Persaud moves from a very conscious plainness in the writing of the earliest episodes in Dear Death, Lakshmi Persaud’s construction of the very young child offers an untempered exuberance that gradually becomes more constrained by a consciousness of what is expected of her as a girl in a Hindu family.

That kind of attempt to find a literary analogue for the child’s experience and perceptions, supposedly unmediated by the adult voice is skilfully realised in Kevyn Alan Arthur’s long narrative poem ‘Things’ in England and Nowhere (1993). The poem is constructed around a recreation of the inchoateness of childhood memory in a helter-skelter of apparently random images that built to create both a vivid picture of a childhood in Trinidad and a passage from innocence (though not that innocent – the child is a four-year-old peeping Tom) to a knowing but still naïve adolescence. Food, race, sex, death, marbles, beatings, dirty pictures, church and confession: Arthur compresses into 500 lines of frank and racy verse what other autobiographies of childhood would have taken two hundred pages of prose to cover. Other poets who achieve the same kind of apparently unmediated visions of childhood (they are, of course, only apparently unmediated by virtue of the withdrawal of the collection’s remembering “I”) include Millicent Graham, in several of the poems in The Way Home (2014) such as “Christmas Was…” and the long title poem; and Roger Bonair-Agard, several of whose poems in Gully (2010), particularly the memories of cricket games in childhood, achieve what Gregory Pardlo describes as the immediacy of “muscle memory”.

Against the overwhelming focus on the child as “I” narrator or bearer of the point of view, Jan Carew’s The Wild Coast (1958) stands out as an interesting anomaly. There are times when the novel cleaves to Hector Bradshaw’s perceptions, but quite frequently the narrative voice is distinctly external to Hector’s, underlining his considerable flaws of character, his selfishness, his misjudgements, the extent to which he is too much his father’s child. It is a strategy by no means uncommon in other bildungsroman (Pip in Great Expectations, for one) but it is a rare approach in Caribbean fiction.

 

But Why so Many?The Sociology of Writing about Childhood

The ubiquity of this focus on childhood, and the use of the child as a centre of consciousness, goes beyond the truism that there is one novel in everyone, though the prevalence of autobiographical naturalism of a conventional kind as, until recently, the dominant form in the Caribbean novel, does rather reinforce that perception. Here, the role of a mainstream publishing industry (formerly Heinemann, Longman, and now McMillan) that has marketed Caribbean fiction primarily to schools is probably influential, both in terms of what has actually been published and in terms of what writers believed might be published. I suspect that there are other factors also intrinsic to the region, including the emigration of many writers. Perhaps one of the consequences of the movement away is a tendency to look backwards, to find in writing about childhood an access to a body of memory that feels authentic, a particular moment of authenticity against which to measure what has followed. Michael Gilkes’s Joanstown, and Marcia Douglas’s Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom both support such a reading. Even where the exile is elsewhere in the Caribbean, it is the physical world of childhood that forever remains the centre. Gilkes’s poetry collection is built around the loss of brightness in the Georgetown of his remembered childhood, forever sacred as the place of first love, contrasted with the faded, decayed Georgetown of adult return. In Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom, there is a very conscious act of writing against the losses, the forgettings, the abandonment of childhood friends and family, against the loss of tongue that migration threatens. This is built into the architecture of the collection that moves from acts of recreation of childhood, of recording the moment of uprooting and of later adult reconstruction. It is a truism that all adult writing about childhood is about exile from that world; but for the migrated Caribbean writer it is a double exile where the remembered world of Caribbean childhood, becomes the touchstone against which to measure the reinventions of diasporic life.

Other reasons for the popularity of the novel of childhood as the most prevalent instance of what I have called the dominant form autobiographical naturalism are perhaps embedded in the plural natures of Caribbean societies. Here, the complexities of difference issue a tough challenge to the writer to try to find ways of representing the workings of whole societies, across boundaries of class, ethnicity and gender. This is a challenge that has been attempted by only a minority of writers. In this respect, writing about the world of childhood may appear to offer a degree of simplicity, though in the work of many of the writers’ work described above, the reality is that it is no less complex than the adult world.

 

Death Register Dwight Thompson
If I Had the Wings Helen Klonaris
The Repenters Kevin Jared Hosein
Take My Word for It Ralph Thompson
Dark Swirl Cyril Dabydeen
Impossible Flying Kwame Dawes
Hurricane Andrew Salkey
The Houses of Alphonso Anthony Kellman
High House and Radio Rooplall Monar
Here Raymond Ramcharitar
The Godmother and other Stories Jan Lowe Shinebourne
Irki Kadija Sesay
Years of Fighting Exile Milton Williams
The Woolgatherer Cecil Gray
The Wild Coast Jan Carew
Web of Secrets Denise Harris
The Way Home Millicent Graham
England and Nowhere Kevyn Alan Arthur
View from Mount Diablo Ralph Thompson
Earthquake Andrew Salkey
Timepiece Jan Lowe Shinebourne
Drought Andrew Salkey
Dog-Heart Diana McCaulay
Difficult Fruit Lauren K. Alleyne
The Denting of a Wave Ralph Thompson
Dear Death Sasenarine Persaud
The Crucifixion Ismith Khan
Cosmic Dance Harischandra Khemraj
Singerman Hazel Campbell
The Coming of Lights Vishnu Gosine
Shades of Grey Garth St. Omer
Seduce Desiree Reynolds
A Season of Sometimes Marc Matthews
Riot Andrew Salkey
Butterfly In The Wind Lakshmi Persaud
Providential Colin Channer
Progeny of Air Kwame Dawes
Pepperpot Sharon Millar
Backdam People Rooplall Monar
Pepper Seed Malika Booker
Of Age and Innocence George Lamming
Another Crossing Khadijah Ibrahiim
Angel Merle Collins
Night Vision Kendel Hippolyte
New Day V. S. Reid
Mrs. B Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw
Against Linearity Earl McKenzie
Moving On Ralph Thompson
Ad-liberation Sai Murray
Limestone Anthony Kellman
The Last Ship Jan Lowe Shinebourne
The Last English Plantation Jan Lowe Shinebourne
Johnson's Dictionary David Dabydeen
Janjhat Rooplall Monar
Jacko Jacobus Kwame Dawes
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