July 30, 2010

Upcoming: 3 New Poems by Pam Mordecai

Sometimes unexpected blessings just fall into your lap…

Starting next week Friday and for the next two Fridays, I will be publishing poems from Pam Mordecai’s manuscript, Litany On The Line: Subversive Sonnets in Thirty-Three Suites.

In the first poem in the series, “Yarn Spinner,” Pam reinterprets an irreducible symbol, a woman at a wheel, into a meditation on the creation of art and mortality. But it's so much more. For a poem like this never yields to easy interpretation and paraphrase. 

Some poems trade on one element--a distinctive voice. "Yarn Spinner" combines voice, imagery, word choice (assonance, alliteration, specific nouns, active verbs) into a rich text that yields multiple pleasures.

So set your reminders for the next three Fridays because Pam’s poems will both entertain and educate—as all good poems should—and give you much to consider over the next three weekends.



July 28, 2010

Orca Watching at the San Juan Islands

I used to think that bird watchers were weird. To spend hours in cold, damp weather waiting for a flash of color and then, it was all over. Very strange. That is until I went whale watching in the San Juan Islands.

My daughter, who has lived in Bellingham for the past two years, was coming home, and she needed some help with moving from coast to coast. With my teaching and chairperson duties, the only option was a red-eye reservation. Most of my colleagues thought I was crazy. Or crazier.

I didn't know what to expect. I'd never been to Washington, so my trip was a culmination of assistance and last hurrah. And what a hurrah.

Besides taking care of the paperwork for her lease, my daughter also wanted me to share some of her adventures of living in Washington, so we visited the Space Needle and the Pike Place Market. She also took us to a book store in Fairview, a casino in Nooksack, and the pines surrounding Lake Padden. But the highlight of the trip was the San Juan Islands to see the orcas.

My wife, who had gone ahead and is now somewhere out in the Midwest (they are driving from Seattle to Florida and are amazed at the "amber waves of grain"), had bought the tickets for our excursion. She had also done her usual preparations: buying snacks, sodas, water, ponchos (in case it rained), and Dramamine, so that nothing could spoil our trip on the Fourth of July.

Of course, we woke up late and drove like Mad Hatters to the pier, hoping that the ferry hadn't left us. It hadn't. We were the last on board and as soon as we cast off, we let out a collective sigh.

Once we settled into our seats, we began to see the awe-inspiring beauty of Washington and the evergreen forests that line the shore. After making a few stops at neighboring islands to pick up some other passengers, we were soon in the middle of the ocean waiting for something to happen. Nothing did. Some other boats appeared. Still nothing.

My daughter asked the guide, "If we don't see any whales, will we get a refund?" He told her that she'd get a free trip at another time. She didn't seem very pleased by that answer. I tried to cheer her up. "Darling," I said (the only lullaby that always worked on her was Sam Cooke's, "Darling, You Send Me), "it's like when we used to go fishing and I had to remind you that it's called fishing, not catching." That didn't cheer her up either.

Nothing continued to happen until the guide said, "Over there!" At first, I was skeptical. I didn't see a thing. Then, someone else said "There!" I still didn't see anything. Then, my daughter, eyes wide open, said, "There, Daddy, look!" And she was transformed from this beautiful woman into the curious child with braids who took me to see turtle hatchings on a cold Sunday morning.

And then, it happened. A dorsal fin broke the water and disappeared.

Orcas are an endangered species, so the boats have to keep a minimum distance of at least a hundred yards. But after that first sighting, many of the boats formed a semi-circle around the spot and waited for another miracle.

It happened again.

A dorsal fin and a saddle patch this time.

Things were happening so fast that we had to make a choice between taking pictures or watching them through our binoculars. We chose the binoculars because the sightings were so brief, yet so intense that it would have been better to capture the majesty of these remarkable creatures in our minds than on film. Let me tell you, I have newfound respect for those photographers at National Geographic and other whale guardians in Puget Sound.

I think we made the right choice. For to catch a glimpse of that white spot near their eyes and dorsal fin thrusting through the waves is the sight of a lifetime. And we got to see members of two pods until they moved away.

As the boats left the San Juan Islands and we headed home, I realized that most of the trip--not counting the preparation--was spent going and coming from the San Juan Islands. And the time spent watching the orcas was only a tiny fraction of that time.

But what a fraction! The waiting, the absolute absorption when we heard that flooof from the blowhole of the orca or watching an adolescent breaching near the shoreline--kids do the darndest things--was a memory that I took with me on the long boat ride back and through the fireworks.

I would even take those moments back with me on the red-eye back to Miami and the many meetings on campus. Those moments.

Come to think of it, those bird watchers don't seem so strange after all.


July 26, 2010

New Book: I and I Bob Marley

"I and I, Bob Marley is a work of creative nonfiction. In this case, Medina's series of beautifully-written poems provide a factually accurate narrative of Bob Marely's life from his childhood in Nine Miles, Jamaica and his youth on the streets of Trenchtown, Jamaica, to his rise to international fame and stardom. Like Marley's music itself, Medina's verses are highly poetic, evocative and cut right to the soul. The language of the verses sometimes lapses into unpretentious Jamaican and the poems often "lash" with the griotesque nuances of the reggae tongue. I was personally taken aback by the richness of the imagery in the poems, by Medina's ability to wax poetic about cold, hard facts and history in a way that children can appreciate and understand. The poems, like Watson's rich acrylic illustrations, strikingly capture the Jamaican landscape in all its beauty, harshness, and startling contrasts:"

For more, please follow this link: Caribbean Children's Literature


July 21, 2010

Christian Campbell: Nominated for Forward Prize

Christian Campbell has been nominated for the Forward Prizes' Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection with his collection Running the Dusk.

Other nominees include Seamus Heaney for Best Collection and Julia Copus for Best Single Poem.

Peepal Tree writer and poetry editor Kwame Dawes previously won the award for Best First Collection in 1994 with Progeny of Air.

You can read one of the poems from the collection here.

For budding writers, Christian Campbell will be delivering a poetry residential at the Arvon Foundation's Totleigh Barton Centre, Devon, from 18th to 25th October. He will be accompanied by fellow poet Nii Parkes

More information is available here.


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Accepting Submissions: Caribbean Mothering

Demeter Press is seeking submissions for an edited collection on Caribbean Mothering

Editors : Dorsía Smith Silva and Simone A. James Alexander 
Publication Date : Fall 2012

This anthology will examine the diverse and complex experiences of motherhood and mothering from a broad, interdisciplinary perspective. We welcome submissions that explore the major cultural, political, historical, and economic factors such as migration and transnationalism that influence the lives of Caribbean mothers. Further, we encourage writings that represent the relationships between Caribbean mothers and their children, perspectives of single Caribbean mothers, relationships of extended motherhood in Caribbean communities ; and colonial, post-colonial, and modern representations of Caribbean motherhood from literary, historical, biological, sociological, political, socioeconomic, ethnic, and media perspectives. This incorporation of a variety of disciplines and methodologies will give insight to the issues on mothering within the Caribbean context and provide a space that recognizes the significance of Caribbean mothering.

The aim of this volume is to foster work on mothering that integrates the disciplines of feminist ideologies, literary criticism, and cultural analysis as well as represent the diversity of the Caribbean islands and Caribbean diaspora. We hope to include a range of academic writing and some narrative essays.

Topics can include (but are not limited to) : 
gender, transgender, cultural, family, communication, and Diasporic studies ; sociology ; Caribbean Studies ; Postcolonial Studies ; feminist theories ; personal and reflective essays ; ethnographies ; mothering done by nannies, siblings, aunts, grandparents, co-parents, fathers, non-biological parents, stepmothering ; surrogate mothering ; literary representation ; mother activists and activism ; constructions of identity ; queer mothering ; childcare ; Caribbean/mothering in global and transnational contexts—i.e. migration, diaspora, citizenship, national identity, embodiment theories ; feminist philosophies of mothers and mothering ; film and media representations ; mothering issues, especially as related to gender, family, economics, sexuality, race, nation, employment, community, education, law, activism, and politics and public policy ; ideological and social debates and tensions ; mothering critiques ; health, health care, reproduction/reproductive rights ; the role of web communities and technology ; spiritual, cultural, emotional, communal, or social influences ; support services and institutions for Caribbean mothers ; ideologies in Caribbean communities

Submission guidelines: 

Papers of 4000-5000 words (15-20 pages) (includes notes and sources) will be due by September 15, 2010 and should conform to the MLA style.   Please also include a 50-word biography.

Please send the documents to Dorsía Smith Silva and Simone A. James Alexander at caribbeanmothering@yahoo.com


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July 20, 2010

Book Review: The Fullness of Everything by Patricia Powell

The Trip to Bountiful
By Geoffrey Philp

The Fullness of Everything, by Patricia Powell
(Peepal Tree Press, ISBN 978-1845231132, 240 pp)

"Simple acts. They add up. They add up until they become a life. A life filled with complications, setbacks, betrayals, and sometimes a little happiness. And from birth, this one life joins a web of family, friends, and acquaintances which extends to those who have yet to come and those who have joined eternity. “The unity is submarine,” as Kamau Brathwaite said in another context, the closest description I can apply to Patricia Powell’s fourth novel,The Fullness of Everything, a meditation on the intimate connections among relationships of blood and compassion, rendered in exquisite prose."

For more, please follow this link:  Caribbean Review of Books


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July 19, 2010

Guyana Folk Festival: Ninth Annual Symposium and Fourth Annual Literary Hang

The Guyana Cultural Association, NY, Inc. /Guyana Folk Festival issues a call for presentations at its Ninth Annual Symposium and Fourth Annual Literary Hang. The theme of the GCA/Guyana Folk Festival for 2010 is Diversity in Our Villages: Harmony in Our Culture.

This year these two events come together in a glorious celebration of the village and the book.

This event will be held at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, 13 Jefferson Ave., Brooklyn, NY on Saturday, September 4, 2010, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Fourth Literary Hang

Authors are invited to participate in this section of the event by exhibiting and reading from their works. Readings are limited to ten (10) minutes. The sale of books is permitted. Authors may sign any books that they have sold.

The Ninth Annual Symposium

Papers and presentations are invited on any aspect of village or extended village life. These aspects include may include, but are not limited to any of the following:

The village as keeper of the flame
School and society in the village
The role of the church in the village community
Icons in the history of the village
Reflections in music; the rhythm of the village
The meaning of dance and movement in the village
Reflections of the ancestry: historiography embedded in the spoken word
Myth and legend: linkages
Ceremonial expressions and the role of village etiquette
Cantankerous takings in the life of the village
Village architecture and landscape design
The art of storytelling in the village
Village foods: beacons of history and memory
Bush tea and tinin cup: recalling and reflecting on village basics
Crossing the waters: retaining village tradition in a new homeland
Diasporic circling: the village as link

Papers should be no longer than 10 - 15 minutes. Poster exhibitions and video presentations are encouraged. Video presentations should be no longer than 10 - 15 minutes.

Submit your abstract/summary for a paper, video or poster presentation on or before July 31, 2010.

Send all submissions to:

J. Emanuel
c/o Guyana Cultural Association, NY, Inc. 
1368 E 89 St.
Brooklyn, NY 11236

Please see also guyfolkfest.org for this announcement.


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Book Review: Goree: Point of Departure by Angela Barry

Unresolved traumas always come back to haunt us. From hidden infidelities to atrocities on the ocean, they linger in the private and collective consciousness like a tumor that can become malignant in a second. Or they grow undetected, their poison infecting the vulnerable members of our families and communities. In Goree: Point of Departure, Angela Barry muses on the enormity of the Atlantic holocaust through the fractured relationship of Magdalene Joseph, a St. Lucian filmmaker, and Saliou Wade, a Senegalese doctor, and their children, Khadi and Maimouna.

Although the plot unfurls inauspiciously, a “chance” meeting of Magdalene and Saliou—coincidence is the bane of fiction—what kept me reading was the vitality of the main characters and the beautifully shaped language:

“A tender grey light lifted the blackness from the waves. All was tranquil, the silence disturbed only by the quiet swishing of the surf, the gurgling of water in hidden caves and the first fluttering of early swallows. Between the darkness and the light, the sea and the land, there was a whisper of benediction” (22).

By the second chapter, however, the tumultuous relationship between Magdalene and Saliou, who suspects that his wife has had an affair with his best friend, takes center stage and the effects on the children, Khadi and Maimouna, become evident. Khadi, the rootless daughter, is at first wary to return to Senegal because her first memories of Senegal/Africa are of victimization:

“I’m just little. Four. I’m asleep under my mosquito net as usual and I wake up to find that I’ve wet the bed. I start to cry…Finally Mum comes. She’s in a hurry and throws a blanket over my wet nightdress…There’s a car waiting outside our gate and as soon as we get in, the car moves off” (35).

The trauma of Khadi’s abduction by her mother and her Saliou’s best friend, Antoine, affects her relationships and she seeks refuge in therapy: “The doctor’s voice was smooth. “You’ve told me the facts. What you haven’t told me is your experience of that memory which has become a recurring dream” (35).

Maimouna, on the other hand, has grown up in a stable environment with her mother, Ndeye, Saliou’s second wife, and a family that notices her special talents:

“she progressed around the yard, inhaling rosemary and thyme hiding from the sun on a window sill, crying out in delight when she discovered a couple of crusty turtles slowly digging their way into a spot of deepest shadow, stroking the vivid flowers tumbling over the fences, taking care to avoid their sharp thorns” (40).

It’s hard not to miss the metaphorical implications. And when the two sisters meet, there is an instant bond, blood to blood, that takes a fateful turn when they visit the island of Goree: the point of separation for Africans and New World Africans. Berry’s handling of the imagery surrounding the incident on this landmark that has become an icon in the memory of people of African descent is masterful and should not be trivialized by précis.

There are few physical monuments to the Atlantic holocaust. The literary memorials such as Zong! by M. Nourbese Philip and Feeding the Ghosts by Fred D’Aguiar are two of the more recent contributions. Goree joins this list. But Goree is more than a memorial—although that in itself would be an accomplishment. It is a story of bridging distances, both physical and psychic, between Africa and the Caribbean, London and St. Lucia, damnation and redemption in the lives families torn apart by an estranging ocean.


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July 18, 2010

Self-Publishing & E-Books: Revenge of the Gatekeepers

JA Konrath, who has sold over 5000 books on Kindle so far this MONTH, has been receiving a lot of hate mail from editors and agents. But he was was not prepared for the onslaught from fellow writers. 

Here's his appraisal :

"Unless I'm reading this wrong, a lot of authors believe that the only worthwhile writing is the writing that has earned the stamp of approval by a NY Publishing House. If an author is selling a lot of self-published ebooks, that is only because the gullible public doesn't know any better. Soon, a flood of pure shit will saturate the ebook market (some say this has already happened) making it impossible for "real" authors to sell their books.

Sorry. You're wrong."

For more, here's the link to his blog where you will find more information about self-publishing from this prolific author: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/07/with-change-comes-anger.html


Related Post: Negril or New York?

July 16, 2010

10th Annual Jamaica Independence Essay Competition

Entries are now being accepted for the 10th annual Independence Essay Competition of the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) in Miami.  The competition forms part of the celebrations observing Jamaica’s 48th anniversary of Independence and Emancipation across the Florida communities.

The contest is open to all Jamaican children, first and second generation, and residing in Florida State, The deadline for participating entries is Friday, July 23, 2010.  The winner in each category will be awarded with a plaque from the Jamaica Consulate General, and a monetary gift presentation from the Partners for Youth Foundation of South Florida.

The merit to the annual Essay competition is to advance community awareness while exposing our youth to their Jamaican culture and heritage.  As they research and prepare the compositions, applicants are given the opportunity to reflect on the nation’s history and culture; look at the impact of their Jamaican roots on their upbringing; and the positive events that have catapulted Jamaica and its Diaspora in the global arena. 

Children in the Diaspora are being encouraged to take interest in the annual Essay Competition realizing that the occasion would inspire young Jamaicans to consider more seriously learning about the island of their origin.

Essay topics are as follows:

1.         Talk about your experience in Jamaica as a tourist.  Briefly share your adventure about one of the favorite places visited – for example a place of recreation, a historic landmark or even time spent with a Jamaican family.

2.         How do you think Jamaican youth in the Diaspora can best contribute to Jamaica’s economic development?

3.         Do you know of a Jamaican group or Jamaican individual who has made an outstanding contribution to their community or attained an outstanding achievement? If so, write about their contribution or achievement and its impact on the community in which he or she resides.

4.         What is your opinion of reggae music today, and explain the role that this genre of music has played in Jamaica’s social, cultural and economic development.

5.         Explain how the process of “Brand Jamaica” can be promoted through the export of our cultural heritage including art, music, folk culture, entertainment, food, etc.

6.         Briefly describe the significance of Jamaica’s six national symbols.

7.         There are several prominent Jamaican landmarks (e.g. Port Royal, Devon House, Rose Hall Great House, Spanish Town, National Heroes’ Park, etc.). Choose any Jamaican landmark that you know and explain briefly its context to Jamaica’s rich cultural heritage.

*      *      *      

Each entrant must choose only one topic. T
he response must NOT exceed two pages and should be double-spaced.

Essays can be emailed to
jismiami@bellsouth.net or mailed to the Jamaica Information Service, 25 SE Second Avenue – Ste 609, Miami, FLA 33131.  

The contestant’s name, address, telephone number and age must accompany each entry.  There are three age categories for entrants: five to eight (5-8); nine to twelve (9-12); thirteen to eighteen (13-18).  The deadline for entries is Friday, July 23, 2010.

Cheryl Wynter (305-374-8384)


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July 15, 2010

The 7 Links Challenge

Darren Rowse is sponsoring a 7 Link Challenge over at his web site and I thought I’d give it a try. Here goes!

1.         Your first post:
"Why Do I Continue to Write?": A bit of throat clearing. But for the most part, I’ve stayed true to the initial vision.

2.         A post you enjoyed writing the most:
"Chicken Soup and my Family': One of the first posts in which I talk about my mother’s influence on my life.

3.         A post which had a great discussion:
“Another Presumptuous Post About Calabash 2009”: The future of the Calabash Literary Festival seemed to have been in jeopardy, so I joined with several other writers and wrote an open letter to the Hon Bruce Golding, Prime Minister of Jamaica. I was singled out for a scorching private e-mail by one of Jamaica’s leading critics (who shall still remain nameless) who repudiated me for my "presumptuousness."

4.         A post on someone else’s blog that you wish you’d written: “Patriarchy damages men too… no really”
A healthy discussion with quotes from two of my favorite authors, Audre Lorde and bell hooks, about the limiting views of masculinity and the detrimental effects on men, especially black men. Besides the humor in my latest collection of short stories,
Who’s Your Daddy? And Other Stories, I hoped reviewers would be able recognize a similar theme that runs through the collection: What does it mean to be a Jamaican / Caribbean man?

5.         Your most helpful post:
The Top Ten Things Every Writer Should Know.” Hands down the winner. As a published writer from the Caribbean, this is my giving back to younger writers in the hope that they will keep the faith.

6.         A post with a title that you are proud of:
Big Wheels Keep on Turnin’.” I loved signifyin’ of this great song by Tina Turner to describe my reading from Who’s Your Daddy? And other Stories in Jamaica @ the Calabash International Literary Festival.

7.         A post that you wish more people had read:
“Estimated Prophet: Version” is a sonnet about the BP Oil Spill that uses influences from William Blake, Derek Walcott, and Burning Spear to describe the environmental disaster. This poem is included in my forthcoming collection of poems, Dub Wise.


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New Book: Till I'm Laid to Rest by Garfield Ellis

In this compelling novel, Till I'm Laid To Rest , Garfield Ellis' first novel with Nsemia Inc. Publishers , we meet Shirley Temple Brown a young woman who has survived some of the hardest social and political times Jamaica has seen. But now she is finally tired of just surviving, she wants to thrive and she knows she must leave Jamaica in order to do so.

She makes the decision to leave Jamaica for a new start in Miami. Not long after arriving in Miami, she begins to see what the glare of the sun and the bright lights have kept hidden: elderly American retirees living out their last days in the warmth and comfort their youth never afforded them, while being cared for by complete strangers; drug dealers hungry for their slice of the American dream, sexual predators, con artists and murderers.

Alone in a place where standing still is sure death, Shirley is determined to succeed or be laid to rest!

About the Author

Garfield grew up in Jamaica, the eldest of nine children. He studied marine engineering, management and public relations in Jamaica and he completed his Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Miami, as a James Michener Fellow.

He is the author of four other books: Flaming Hearts, Wake Rasta, Such As I Have and For Nothing at All . His work has appeared in several international journals, including: Callaloo, Calabash, the Caribbean writer, Obsidian III, Small Axe and Anthurium. He is a two-time winner of the Una Marson Prize for adult literature; has twice won the Canute A. Brodhurst prize for fiction and the 1990 Heinemann/Lifestyle short story competition.

Till I'm Laid to Rest (in manuscript form) was 1999 winner of the Una Marson Award for Adult Fiction.

Here is what others say about Till I'm Laid to Rest:

"Ellis writes with grace and power." ~ George Lamming

"This story reveals much about the culture of poverty, human nature and survival ... The author handles contemporary social issues with such skill that there is no detraction from overall enjoyment. The proverb 'stealing from thieves makes God laugh' comes alive in the events. The author's sense of time and place is powerful and convincing." ~ Jennifer Amoah

"Where this story is original is the way it weaves a love story with someone who is involved in illegal activities and a woman torn between whether to stay with him or leave." ~ Sarah Kibaalya

"It is clear that these characters want the same things those who continue to leave their homes, families, communities and even their countries want: the chance to improve their futures. What separates us from these characters is the lengths to which they are prepared to go in order to improve their circumstances." ~ Patricia J. Saunders

"Garfield Ellis makes us see and hear people distinctly. In scene after scene character and tension are communicated in nicely nuanced dialogue." ~ Mervyn Morris


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July 14, 2010

New Book: Days of Laughter by J. R. Singh

Days of Laughter depicts some of the childhood experiences of many who lived in Guyana during the 1950s and 60s. The sequence of events in this narrative will not only bring back memories of the past, but it will also give today’s adolescents an opportunity to look back at the happenings of an earlier period.

While this book is intended to make you smile and reflect on some of the simple joys in life, it is also a gentle reminder of some of the games children played in Guyana, the stories they listened to and the toys they made. In an effort to preserve what many have experienced while growing up in Guyana, this simple story takes account of some well-liked birds, popular individuals in certain villages, some notable places to visit, as well as common Guyanese Creole to remind us of our homeland. 

About the author:

Jagdish R. Singh (Roy) was born June 29, 1953 in the town of Blenheim on the island of Leguan, Guyana. In 1977, he immigrated to Canada where he studied spiritual beliefs and ancient myths. Since then, he has been actively writing fiction and non-fiction themes that are thoughtful and informative. He is the author of the fiction novels Strange Misfortunes, Adventures of the Homeless and The True Self, as well as a collection of essays titled Earthly Tribulations, and fourteen fictional stories under the title Pandora’s Heartaches.
Author’s website: http://www.jagdishraisingh.com


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July 12, 2010

Book Review: A Morning at the Office by Edgar Mittelholzer

When I first held the latest edition of A Morning at the Office between my hands, I did so with fear and trembling. Thirty years ago, I’d read the novel on a Sunday afternoon (when I was supposed to be in church) and the memory stayed with me. In fact, along with Miguel Street by VS Naipaul and Voices Under the Window by John Hearne, Morning served as a model for my own storytelling. Now as a part of Peepal Tree’s Caribbean Modern Classics, I returned to the novel hoping that that in re-reading, it would still have the same appeal.

I am happy to say that Morning is still a winner. Mittelholzer’s story in which Horace Xavier, the black office boy at Essential Products, has fallen in love with Nanette Hinckson, the coloured secretary of Everard Murrain, an Englishman, is still as entertaining as when it was first published in 1950. All of the passions and jealousies of office life are still present. And even the intrigues. So when Xavier leaves a poem from As You Like It on Ms. Hinckson’s desk, the drama over colour, class, and ethnicity unfolds:

“He [Xavier] considered that it was foolish of him to have become enamoured of this lady…he should have remembered that he was only a black boy, whereas she was a coloured lady of good family. He was dark brown; hers was a pale olive. His hair was kinky; hers was full of large waves and gleaming. He was a poor boy, the son of a cook; she was well off and of good education and good breeding. He was low class; she was middle class” (29).

What begins as a young man’s folly of falling in love with an older woman (which young man hasn’t?) quickly evolves into a conflict of race and class which implicates every member of the office. What is impressive, given the time of the original publication, is that Mittelholzer is careful not to present the characters as stereotypes, even though the characters react to each other based on race and class stereotypes. For the reader, Mr. Jagabir, the office accountant, becomes an object of scorn not because of his Indian lineage, but his obsequiousness. However, Mr. Jagabir does not interpret the events in this way. Neither does his coworkers. Nor is he aware that his behaviors encourage the stereotypes that he wishes to avoid. A scene with Mr. Lopez, a Spanish Creole, demonstrates Mittelholzer’s skill:

“He [Mr. Lopez] turned his head as Mr. Jagabir’s chair scraped. He saw the bulge in Mr. Jagabir’s coat pocket – and the grease stain. The grease from the roti had seeped through… (199).”

Whether Mr. Jagabir’s behavior is as a result of frugality or ethnic identity depends on the reader’s biases. However, for many of the other characters, with the exception of Edna Bisnauth, the assistant stenotypist and closet poet, their reactions are based on perceptions of race, class, and ethnicity. The ensuing actions from Xavier’s innocent gesture reveal Mittelholzer's skill, which elucidates the conflicts without falling prey to the inherent constructs.

A Morning at the Office has earned its place in the Caribbean literary canon. For despite Mittelholzer’s dalliance with “telescopic objectivity,” Morning is an artfully plotted story of unrequited love. Xavier, like many of the other characters in the novel, learns that love tests the ego’s defenses to discover worthiness. Morning’s exploration of the race and class demons that haunt our lives is exemplary. But it also proves that every classic must first be a good story.


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