November 11, 2011

Marcus and the Amazons in The Miami Herald

By Howard Cohen


Geoffrey Philp’s newest children’s book, Marcus and the Amazons: A Story of Resistance (Mabrak Books; $18.99), is an all-in-the-family effort.

Philp’s son Andrew helped with the graphics and his son’s best buddy, Patrick Pollack, did the illustrations on a book that merges the teachings of Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King into a story of a courageous ant who saves his colony from a nefarious tyrant.

Pollack, 20, came to the Philp’s North Miami Beach home 10 years ago to play basketball with Andrew and never left the house,” Geoffrey Philp laughs.

He grew up with the family, spending holidays and life-events like christenings with the Philps. But one day last year Pollack asked “pops” why he had never been asked to help illustrate one of his many books like the other children had.

“He felt left out,” Philp, 53, said. A quandary.

“I did what I normally do when faced with inspiration or crises, I put on Bob Marley and, quite by chance, the song was Rat Race.” The song suggested an idea for a book about rats versus mice but Philp, who was raised in Kingston, Jamaica, took it to another dimension: ant colonies invading and enslaving other colonies.

The idea “represented this trope of fragility and resistance in Caribbean literature and the whole thing came together, we’ll have ants versus ants,” he said. The overriding theme, like King’s lesson, would promote the idea of nonviolence. “I read over again Dr. King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail and from there everything flowed. I’m seeing a lot of parallels with the Occupy Movement because both are trying to dramatize what Dr. King talked about in his Letter From Birmingham which dramatized the attention between both parties that have a disagreement but, by doing it nonviolently, it shows the inherent respect and dignity for both sides.”

Though Marcus and the Amazons is pitched to ages 9-12 adult readers have posted favorable opinions on the Amazon book site.

“Even though I write literary fiction it must work first as a story,” Philp said. This time around, his book changed a life closer to home.

“Patrick did an excellent job. I’m so proud of him and it has done wonders for his self-esteem,” Philp said, laughing when he tells a story of how Pollack, who works at a Hot Topic clothing store, would keep a copy of the book in his bag so that when his bosses would search employees’ bags at the end of a work shift they would see his name on the book.

•   Geoffrey Philp and Patrick Pollack appear at 11 a.m. Nov. 20, Auditorium, Building 1, First Floor, Room 1164.

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