This was my answer to this question over at Book Inc’s Hamlet Hub. Come out of lurkerdom; how would you answer.
What book would you make required reading in school?
In school in Antigua, probably “To Shoot Hard Labour,” which is non-fiction, effectively the post-slavery to post-colonial history of Antigua through the lived experience of Samuel ‘Papa Sammy’ Smith, an Antiguan workingman – a life that spanned 1877 to 1982, by the way. I read it in high school for the first time and it brought the British-Caribbean history I’d been learning all those years – as dates without context, without connection, without the voice or perspective of my ancestors – to life in vivid and unsettling detail. It was suddenly more than words on a page; it was a story of how I came to be here. And I think that’s important, when so much of what you read, even the history that claims to be about you, doesn’t include you.
Also, for all people, but especially so for a country like ours, young in its independence and small in an increasingly globalized world, I think it’s important to understand the foundation on which we stand. Maybe if we all read it, we’d all understand why it’s important to fight for certain values, and for the very idea of freedom. Incidentally, I’d recommend it for readers beyond Antigua as well – we certainly grew up reading stories and histories from everywhere else, good stories travel, and can help spread an awareness, an understanding of our shared humanity.
That said, my favourite book that I did in school, and I still have that copy by the way, is “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. I’d recommend that for any one in or out of school. But you can’t have my copy.
Both To Kill a Mockingbird and To Shoot Hard Labour are on the Cushion Club Wadadli Pen Summer Reading List. Also my own Musical Youth, for which there’s a special prize within a prize, challenge within a challenge thing. Just as a reminder.
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