Caribbean Cultural Theatre is a New York based organization involved in the business of organizing and promoting activities in celebration of Caribbean arts – and especially Caribbean literary arts. I’m on their mailing list, and recently this one came in.
“Do you remember title of the first novel or poem by a Caribbean writer you ever read (had to read)? It most likely happened during primary school. Probably the first time you realized that someone who looked, acted; sounded like you could actually be in a book!
We really would love to know what was the novel, or poem, and why it was so memorable (after all these years)”
I couldn’t think of a SINGLE book. Does calypso count as a poem? Because I grew up listening to tons of those, and now in my grown up years as a writer and workshop facilitator have used calypsos from my childhood like King Obstinate’s Wet You Han, a story in calypso form, when discussing character, setting, atmosphere, dialogue, and more in workshops. I’d been introduced to Caribbean fiction, I think, through Anansi and village/true life and jumbie stories (informally, at home and in school) and short fiction (in school) – I remember this one story about a snobbish girl named Millicent who lorded her privilege over her peers, but I don’t remember much else about her; I remember reading Miguel Street which, I think, my older brother who was already in secondary school at the time, might have been studying; I remember enjoying excerpted stories from Michael Anthony’s Year in San Fernando; I remember reading a Selvon (one with a character named Tiger, not Lonely Londoners which would later become a favourite) over the summer – and really digging the writer – only to have them drop it from the reading list by the time the school year rolled around; and I remember Annie John – I was in Antigua State College by the time I read this one (it wasn’t being taught but outside of class we were discovering this and debating her other book A Small Place) and maybe this was the transformative one because by then I already knew I loved to write but couldn’t even begin to form the words to say I want to be a writer – and though it didn’t happen as it does in movies, a sudden and sharp epiphany, but this story of a girl I recognized from a world I knew by a writer from Ovals, a community right next to and much like my own Ottos community, my consciousness started to turn to the idea of it, that maybe writers could come from where I’m from and tell the stories I had dammed up inside. So maybe allahdat is the answer. Not a SINGLE thing but a progression. I feel like I’m forgetting something crucial but that’s what I have for now.
Anyway, I decided to share E. Wayne – that’s the CCT’s artistic director’s – email here and I figured you could share your stories with him as well. So I decided to ask him what the purpose was. He replied that he wasn’t sure-sure, just that he was “hoping to do something around:
•A trajectory of Caribbean (young readers) literature (c. 1950 – present)
•Getting parents introduce kids to Caribbean (young readers) literature (both old and contemporary)
•For our WORDFest (June) or Brooklyn Book Festival (Sept)
•Might be a one-off or a season-long project
•Prob have live, online and archival components”
So, there you have it. If you have a memory to contribute, email him: firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t post them here, eh, send them directly to him. Cool? Cool.
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