In this collection of interviews, Jacqueline Bishop is in conversation with eighteen female Jamaican writers, some of whom have emigrated from the island. This deeply intimate and personal encounter between the writer and artist, Bishop, and those she admires touches on the tensions, reflections and memories one has when writing about one’s birthplace.
Beginning at childhood, each interviewee narrates their fond memories of the Caribbean country with a nostalgia and yearning for a place that is complex and freighted with political, social and racial difficulties. The Gift of Music & Song is a space for these writers to talk deeply about writing back to their homeland; about being female voices from Jamaica, how one should represent the country, its rhythms and cadences, and what it means to be a female writer in the world today.
So much of this collection deals with the duality and questioning of identity that movement and migration fosters. By interviewing many different writers, this book is also about the duties of being a creative individual and the act of writing. How and when does one realise they are a writer, storyteller, poet or artist?
Bringing the book full-circle, Bishop invites her interviewees to interview her, and thus it becomes as much about the art of interviewing and conversation as it is about the content of the interviews. In The Gift of Music & Song are lessons and meditations on writing and making for women and men, old and young, Jamaican and non-Jamaican alike.
What unites the voices in this book is not their country of birth or gender but an unfaltering belief in the power of poetry and poetics. Each writer is faithful to the act of storytelling and the power stories have to promote change.