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In Praise of Love and Children

After false starts in teaching and social work, Melda Hayley finds her mission in fostering the damaged children of the first generation of black settlers in a deeply racist Britain.


Beryl Gilroy
United Kingdom, Guyana
Date published
1 Jul 1996

But though Melda finds daily uplift in her work, her inner life starts to come apart. Her brother Arnie has married a white woman and his defection from the family and the distress Melda witnesses in the children she fosters causes her own buried wounds to weep. Melda confronts the cruelties she has suffered as the 'outside child' at the hands of her stepmother. But though the past drives Melda towards breakdown, she finds strengths there too, especially in the memories of the loving, supporting women of the yards. And there is Pa who, in his new material security in the USA, discovers a gentle caring side and teaches his family to sing in praise of love and children.

Adele Newson writes in World Literature Today: 'Gilroy’s novel hails from the tradition that celebrates community rather than the individual. Traditions are insular in spite of cultural disruptions. This is clearly marked by comparisons of culture throughout the novel. As Melda observes: ""People came to the Caribbean for holidays, but we went nowhere except to family parties, excursions and funerals for ours. Talk and song were holidays to us. We believed, as the old folk had done, that it was better to be bitten by your own bedbugs than those from the beds of others."" In Praise of Love and Children is a celebration of culture, traditions, and change. It is painful in its confrontations while liberating in its veracity to human nature.'

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Beryl Gilroy

Born in what was then British Guiana, Beryl Gilroy moved to the UK in the1950s, part of the Windrush generation. She was the author of six novels, two autobiographical books, and she was a pioneering teacher and psychotherapist, becoming London’s first black headteacher.

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