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The Stranger Who Was Myself

In this memoir, Barbara Jenkins writes with wit, vividness and insight of growing up in colonial Trinidad, a migrant life in Wales, and her return to Trinidad with her husband and first child in the post-independence era.

Barbara Jenkins
Wales, Trinidad and Tobago
Date published
15 Sep 2022

Barbara Jenkins writes about the experiences of a personal and family-centred life in Trinidad with great psychological acuteness, expanding on the personal with a deep awareness of the economic, social and cultural contexts of that experience. She writes about a childhood and youth located in the colonial era and an adult life that began at the very point of Trinidad’s independent nationhood, a life begun in considerable poverty in a colonial city going through rapid change. It involves a family network that connects to just about every Trinidadian ethnicity and their respective mixtures. It is about a life that expanded in possibility through an access to an education not usually available to girls from such an economically fragile background. This schooling gave the young Barbara Jenkins the intense experience of being an outsider to Trinidad’s hierarchies of race and class. She writes about a life that has gender conflict at its heart, a household where her mother was subject to beatings and misogynist control, but also about strong matriarchal women. As for so many Caribbean people, opportunity appeared to exist only via migration, in her case to Wales in the 1960s. But there was a catch in the arrangement that the years in Wales had put to the back of her mind: the legally enforceable promise to the Trinidadian government that in return for their scholarship, she had to return. She did, and has lived the rest of her life to date in Trinidad, an experience that gives her writing an insider/outsider sharpness of perception.

This is writing that displays wit, empathy, a questioning spirit, a vivid sense of place and an unerring capacity for finding the telling detail.  The scope of the material takes the reader deep into both a personal story and one that throws so many different searchlights into the character of Trinidadian society through time. This is a book that will offer enlightenment to Trinidadians about themselves and tell a story with universal resonances for many readers.

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Barbara Jenkins

Barbara Jenkins was born in Trinidad. She studied at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and at the University College, Cardiff. She married a fellow student, and they continued to live in Wales through the whole decade of the sixties. In the early seventies they returned to Trinidad.

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