Towards the end of a long and astonishingly full life, whose scope and variety most of us can only dream about, Jan Carew began writing his memoirs. A global, multifaceted man, they cover his multiple lives as Guyanese/Caribbean novelist, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist activist, the early shaper of Black Studies in the United States, actor and playwright, painter, agricultural evangelist, advisor to Heads of State in Africa and the Caribbean and theoretician of the Columbian origins of racism in the Americas. They take in his political awakening in colonial British Guiana, his sojourns in Communist Eastern Europe, his life as a writer in London, Paris and Amsterdam, his return to the Caribbean in the nationalist 1960s and his presence as a reporter in Cuba at the time of the revolution, his years in Africa and role as an advisor to Nkrumah in Ghana and his restless coming to rest in North American academia and the struggle for Black self-definition. There are points of disillusion, times when hopes were thwarted, but, throughout, Carew’s inextinguishable commitment to human possibility and resistance to oppression burns bright.
Sadly, as Carew grew older his original plans for writing this book could not be realised without the assistance of his wife, Joy Carew. As well as what Jan Carew was able to write, the memoir was constructed from taped, transcribed material – which brings us closer to Carew’s compelling speaking voice – and where there are gaps, Joy Gleason Carew goes back to some of the vivid, eye-witness journalism Jan Carew wrote in those heady days of hope and struggle.