What is on Bajan Reporter’s bookshelf? History, Horror, Sexuality & Barbadian books with Barbados-based authors!

Karen Lord is a graduate of the EBCCI's George Lamming Master Class in Fiction-Writing

Usually this feature is halfway through the year or close to Christmas time… The year, which has been a glider on a thermal in a narrow mountain pass so far, did not allow for me to do what I usually do so if there are any late-shoppers or Grinches & Ebenezers with last minute Epiphanies out there? These are some possibilities you can use to beg forgiveness depending on the folk in your life…

Let’s pound the home drums first, remember when 2010 was still appearing bright eyed, bushy-tailed and not in need of Botox or an enema? There was a Bajan fantasy novel which caught our eye, and it finally made Bajan shores – got your copy? Redemption In Indigo from Karen Lord is based on Senegalese folklore but treated completely different, here’s the trailer;-

Thomas Armstrong, while Canadian, is married to a Barbadian and they have two kids. This book in a previous version won 2nd place at the Frank Collymore Literary Awards.

In NIFCA her book was in excellent company competing for Gold, however the coveted accolade went to “Of Water & Rock” by Thomas Armstrong, which is a chillingly accurate depiction of race and its complexities in 70’s Barbados. Thomas understands how a temperate clime person will feel that you are pushing against a 24/7 furnace-blast when you initially arrive but then the heat seeps in your bones and then 72 degrees Fahrenheit seems like a night to whip out two flannel blankets!

The book was cleverly edited by Robert Sandiford (50% of ArtsEtc – what happened to your Independent Press website? Miss it, man!), here’s a portion of the interplay which encapsulates this period of Barbados’ evolution (Or should that be devolution? Have we really changed?);-

{Edward is the protagonist, fresh from Canada, descended from Bajan stock and inheriting a St Philip cottage. He’s arguing with Benjamin, a white Bajan who is condescending without even realising it – a true portrayal of many a Caucasian Barbadian, well set to pen by Thomas and well honed by Robert… Edward starts the excerpt rolling here…}

I think you’re wrong. The woman I just spoke to is a friend of mine, and she’s achieved more in her life than I have or ever will and she’s not alone. If you took the time to know some of these people, you would realise that, apart froma few lucky breaks in life, they are no different than the rest of us.”

Benjamin laughed.

Please Edward, I have more black friends than you will ever meet. It’s not about individuals. Really – OK, look. You’re a visitor to this island, and, quite frankly I like you, but you should temper your view of the place. This holier-than-thou attitude is very tiresome.”

For Edward, it was all about individuals. He regarded Benjamin as a child of privilege. But Edward also realised that was true of himself. The thought tempered his view of Benjamin somewhat. Yet their views were different, and he felt more strongly that that man’s attitude toward the local blacks were bigoted and unjust.

Unfortunately, you won’t find this award-winning novel at any branch of Pages – Cave Shepherd‘s supposedly trendy bookstore chain. According to certain sources – they do not feel it fits their clientele’s needs. Perhaps if enough readers demanded for Thomas Armstrong’s “Of Water And Rock” then Pages would smell the coffee – which is ironic since most branches have a cappuccino bistro next to them.

Dacre Stoker, Ian Holt, with Danny Baror and Ken Atchity at the Royalton Hotel after meeting with Brian Tart of Dutton's to plan October 2009 release of Dracula: The Un-Dead. {COURTESY - THE STORY MERCHANT}

Edward is not only the name of the hero in Thomas Armstrong’s debut novel, it’s also the name of the moody & pouty, pale, fangless, glittering creature purported to be a vampire in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. The far sexier vamps were found in HBO’s interpretation of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series (Book 12 is due May 2011) which earned a parody on a children’s tv programme. But the very first vampire came from further back than that and was long thought to be evaporated in sunlight, but it seems we were all wrong?

Dracula the Un-Dead” is co-authored by the leading historian on the fictional bogeyman and a direct descendant of the original author. Bram Stoker’s great-grandnephew Dacre lives in South Carolina, while Ian Holt resides in Long Island. The literary duo fly forward to a quarter century after the Master Vampire was defeated, why are the people who brought Vlad Tepes low suddenly dying one after the other? Quincey Harker, child of Jonathan and Mina, is now in a race against nightfall to learn if the deaths are vengeance and if so, from a follower of the undead killer or is it… The impaler himself?

When Thomas Glave spoke in May earlier this year, the UWI amphitheatre was PACKED, some folk did not even want their pictures taken!

Some people see Vampirism (especially True Blood) as a metaphor for Homosexuality, bringing in ‘converts‘ and deciding to be open. While they decide if there is an allegory there somewhere, others decide to be more open than that… Earlier this year, Professor Thomas Glave of Binghamton University and co-founder of J-FLAG/Jamaican Federation of Lesbians And Gays was in Barbados looking at Sexual Identity.

In his view, marriage is a heterosexual ritual and not necessary for either gays nor lesbians – he wrote a number of fiction and essays on the topic including The Torturer’s Wife. the title story looking at a subject Eve Ensler examined in depth in her Vagina Monologues – when soldiers not satisfied at raping women violated their definition of Femininity with atrocities so vile, one can only wonder how they live with themselves? In this 2008 collection released now, this exactly what Thomas explores to the ultimate denouement.

Discrimination to the point when genocide looms is one of the most evil forms of repression around if the opposing side has done no more than to exist or live a different lifestyle than another segment of humanity. When a body decides to champion the oppressed even at their own personal debilitation, then they live up to Jesus Christ’s assertion that there is no greater love than those who will set aside their joy of living and embrace death to defend those they consider their true friends.

Not Morgan Freeman nor Matt Damon, these are the real folk who inspired the cinematic homage - Nelson Mandela & Francois Pienaar {IMAGE COURTESY: Ambassador Serajul Islam's Political Blog}

Is there another better example than Nelson Mandela? Locked from family and living a true life for his beliefs in that all humans are equal and his inability to appreciate living for three decades? No wonder while Invictus in the USA has a chilling reminder (This was the final quote from allegedly Christian minded terrorist and bomber Timothy McVeigh), for the South African leader once-inmate at Robben Island it was a call to arms for the indomitability of the human spirit under the most inhumane of circumstances.

Invictus, both a film from Clint Eastwood and a book from respected international journalist John Carlin, shows how Mandela did not stop at leaving jail, becoming President or defeating racism – he united ALL of his peoples using Sport as a springboard to forge the bonds of togetherness, where Rugby, once viewed as a hated white man’s sport, suddenly was a declaration of one’s pride in all of South Africa and the incorporation of Shosholoza as the official theme song with the then white-dominant Springboks was proof of the integration seeping through all strata of South African society.

However, the thrill was the journey and not the destination – you need to get the book so as to truly re-live the process!

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