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H.G. de Lisser was a prominent figure in Jamaican society. Working

upward from relative poverty he became editor of the Jamaica Daily

Gleaner -- a post held for forty years. His series of novels reveal a

 knowledge of West Indian history and understanding of Jamaican dialect.


Kenneth Ramchand, ed. West Indian Narrative: An Introductory Anthology

Nelson Thornes Ltd; Rev Ed edition (June 1980)

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West Indian Narrative: An Introductory Anthology

Edited by Kenneth Ramchand

Part II


Herbert G. De Lisser -- Born 1878 in Jamaica. Died 1944. Publications included Jane's Career: A Story of Jamaica (1914), Susan Proudleigh (1915), Triumphant Squalitone (1917), Revenge: A Tale of Old Jamaica (1919), The White Witch of Rosehall (1929; 1960) Under the Sun (1937), Psyche (1952), Morgan's Daughter (1953), The Cup and the Lip (1956), and The Arawak Girl (1958).

H.G. de Lisser was a prominent figure in Jamaican society. Working upward from relative poverty he became editor of the Jamaica Daily Gleaner -- a post held for forty years. His series of novels reveal a knowledge of West Indian history and understanding of Jamaican dialect.

The White Witch of Rosehall sets on a slave plantation in the early nineteenth century. The owner Annie Palmer is an Irish woman who used to live in Haiti, a mysterious island.

From England Robert Rutherford comes to Jamaica to be a book-keeper at Rosehall. He is sought after by both Annie Palmer and Millie, a free native. Annie uses witchcraft and casts a spell on Millie, which leads Takoo, a Guinea man and Millie's grandfather, to intervene.

Takoo's magi fails and Millie dies. Rutherford realizes Annie is a ruthless woman and is about to expose her when an insurrection breaks out. The Europeans put down the rebellion but Takoo strangled Annie Palmer. Rutherford is sickened by Jamaica and returns to England.

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Claude McKay -- Born in Jamaica, Died 1948. Educated in Jamaica and United States. Publications include Songs of Jamaica (1912), Constabulary Ballads (1912), Spring in New Hampshire and Other Poems (1920), Harlem Shadows: The Poems of Claude McKay (1922), Home to Harlem  (novel, 1928), Banjo  (novel, 1929), Gingertown (short stories, 1932),  Banana Bottom (novel, 1933), A Long Way from Home   (autobiography, 1937), Harlem: Negro Metropolis (1940),   Selected Poems (1953).

Compare to McKay's  Banana Bottom, de Lisser's The White Witch of Rosehall is "reactionary and insignificant in West Indian writing." The White Witch ends with "a rejection of the West Indies, McKay's is an assertion of West Indian life and manners. Banana Bottom is also a "protest  against the insensitive imposition of European values on West Indians." McKay was a great contrast to de Lisser: he was black and poor and he was forced to leave Jamaica in order to seek a living.

In  Banana Bottom, the heroine is Bita Plant, a black West Indian. Brought up by missionaries Reverend Malcolm Craig and his wife Priscilla, Bita is sent at their expense to an English university, a continental tour included. Bit becomes a disappointment as a religious experiment: she does not return to Jamaica and marry the local pompous Herald Newton Day, the promising student at the Tabernacle Theological College.

Instead, Bita trips herself of the acquired European polish which she finds "unnatural and irrelevant in a west Indian context. Ritually, she destroys the photographs of her university and "marries the good and strong workman Jubban." Banana Bottom provides a "vivid picture of Jamaican life in the 1890s." The "honest values and a spontaneous openness to experience," characteristics of a true Jamaica, make Bita's "rejection of European fastidiousness and inhibition a credible act of emancipation."

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Cyril Lionel Robert James -- Born in 1901 in Trinidad. Died 1989 in south London (Brixton). Educated Queen's Royal College, Trinidad. Publications included The Life of Captain Cipriani (1933), The Case for West Indian Self-Government (1933), Minty Allen (a novel, 1936), World Revolution, 1917-1936: The Rise and Fall of the Communist International (1937), A History of Negro Revolt (1938), The Black Jacobins: A Study of Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1938; 1963), Mariners, Renegades, and Castaways: Herman Melville and the World We Live In (1953), Party Politics in the West Indies (1962), and Beyond a Boundary (1963).In McKay's Banana Bottom the author's awareness of Europe leads to the assertion against it of a vital and spontaneous local culture: in "La Divina Pastora," a short story by the Trinidadian C.L.R. James, it is as if the author is unaware of Europe. The story is set in Trinidad and is based upon a local custom. The author takes up the stance of neutral narrator of an extraordinary tale. Already in 1928 in this story by James, as in his novel Minty Allen published in 1936, James introduces the "unselfconscious . . . local life in West Indian narrative."

A History of Pan-African Revolt (1995)  / Facing-Reality  (2006)  /  C.L.R. James on the Negro Question  (1996)  /

Marxism-Our-Times-Revolutionary-Organization   (1999)  /  State Capitalism & World Revolution   (1986)  / 

 Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution  (1978)  /  A Majestic Innings: Writings on Cricket  (2006)

C.L.R.James: A Life (2001)  /  Beyond Boundaries: C.L.R. James: Theory and Practice (2006)  /

Special Delivery: The Letters of C. L. R. James to Constance Webb, 1939-1948  (2007)

Rethinking Race, Politics and Poetics: C.L.R. James' Critique of Modernity (2007)

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Source: Kenneth Ramchand, West Indian Narrative: An Introductory Anthology. London, 1966

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Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

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The Flowering Rock Collected Poems, 1938-1974

By Eric Merton Roach

Black Yeats

Eric Roach and the Politics of Caribbean Poetry

By Laurence A. Breiner

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Ghosts in Our Blood

With Malcolm X in Africa, England, and the Caribbean

By Jan R. Carew

Carew, an activist, scholar, and journalist, met Malcolm X during his last trip abroad only a few weeks before he was killed in 1965. It made such an impression on Carew that he felt compelled to search out Malcolm's family and friends in order to flesh out the family history. He interviewed Wilfred (Malcolm's older brother) and a Grenadian friend of Malcolm's mother named Tanta Bess. Comparing his family's experiences with that of Malcolm X, he gives the most complete picture yet of Malcolm's mother. Carew also offers a tantalizing glimpse of Malcolm X's transforming himself into El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, a man less blinded by his own racial prejudices yet as committed to the betterment of his race as ever. Just before his death, Malcolm X became convinced that a U.S. agency was involved with those trying to kill him, and Carew here reveals the evidence Malcolm X gave him to support these beliefs.

The mystery of Malcolm's death remains unresolved, and we are once again filled with regret that he was cut down before he could fulfill the promise of his later days. While this book will not replace The Autobiography of Malcolm X (LJ 1/1/66), it is an important supplement. All libraries that own the autobiography should also purchase this one.—Library Journal

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.”

Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.WashingtonPost

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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.” 

His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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Natives of My Person

By George Lamming

Natives of My Person focuses on slave traders of the sixteenth century. The novel reconstructs the voyage of the ship Reconnaissance, which is led by a character known as the Commandant. To atone for his past cruelties and barbarism, the Commandant plans to establish a Utopian society on the island of San Cristobal. The enterprise fails for many reasons: fighting amongst the crew, loss of interest, greed, and an inability to erase the past. The novel argues that an ideal society cannot be built by those who have committed moral atrocities and unnecessary bloodshed in their past. . . . Although Natives of My Person has a historical setting and deals with the voyage of the Reconnaissance, a vessel ostensibly engaged in the slave trade, a specific historical phenomenon, it is only partly accurate to describe it as a work of historical realism. Its realist component is not to be found in its fidelity to period costume, living conditions, or similar revealing detail. Instead of the veneer of verisimilitude that such usages provide, the novel locates its realism in the way in which it elaborately recapitulates an outlook.

George Lamming: Contemporary Criticism

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Season of Adventure

By George Lamming

First published in 1960, Season of Adventure details the story of Fola, a light-skinned middle-class girl who has been tipped out of her easy hammock of social privilege into the complex political and cultural world of her recently independent homeland, the Caribbean island of San Cristobal. After attending a ceremony of the souls to raise the dead, she is carried off by the unrelenting accompaniment of steel drums onto a mysterious journey in search of her past and of her identity. Gradually, she is caught in the crossfire of a struggle between people who have "pawned their future to possessions" and those "condemned by lack of learning to a deeper truth." The music of the drums sounds throughout the novel, "loud as gospel to a believer's ears," and at the end stands alone as witness to the tradition which is slowly being destroyed in the name of European values. Whether through literary production or public pronouncements, George Lamming has explored the phenomena of colonialism and imperialism and their impact on the psyche of Caribbean people.

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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel.

Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered. Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong.Jamie Byng, Guardian / Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 2 August 2012




Home Inside the Caribbean   Toussaint Table

Related files: MAWA 2003  West Indian Narrative-- Part One  Part Two   Part Three  Part Four  Experiment in Haiti    West Indian Narrative    Eric Roach and Flowering Rock 

Kam Williams Interviews Colin Roach   Shake Keane   Filmmaker Molefi K. Asante, Jr.  Jan Carew  George Lamming and New World Imagination  Toward the Seventh PAC