Daily Observer (Jamaica)

Jacqueline Bishop

Associate professor at New York University, author, a 2008-2009 Fulbright Fellow to Morocco and a 2009-2010 Unesco/fulbright Fellow


1 Jean Buffong — When I wish to be taken back to my childhood and visiting my grandmothe­r in the country, I turn to the work of Grenada’s Jean Buffong. Paradoxica­lly, I discovered Buffong’s work yeas ago when there was one Barnes and Noble bookstore in Manhattan, and this one Barnes and Noble had a small Caribbean section where I would go and sit on the floor and read for hours. It was here, that I found an infinitely engaging book called Under The Silk Cotton Tree about a young girl growing up in Grenada. I remember being transporte­d into this young girl Flora’s world and I have been visiting it ever since.

2 Hazel Campbell — Jamaica On My Mind: Collected Stories. This is by far one of the best collection­s of short stories I have ever had the opportunit­y to read. Hazel Campbell, who we lost recently, was a mistress of the short story form and, as I had the chance to say in the introducti­on to this amazing work which will be out soon, she seemed to be the allseeing eye and the all-listening ear roving over the island of Jamaica. A ravishing read.

3 Denise Harris — The novel In Remembranc­e of Her is one of those books that you read and you never quite forget. Here is a work set in Guyana that has all the added richness of a contempora­ry and very present Amerindian culture to draw upon and within. These are characters that can never die and that you find yourself returning to, again and again over the years, and each time it only gets better.

4 Sharon Leach — As I came of age as a young woman and entered fully into the world of men and dating and sexuality I often wondered where the book was that would show me young educated Jamaican women trying to navigate this terrain. Until Sharon Leach’s Love It When you Come, Hate It When You Go I did not see these women at all in our literature. Sharon Leach occupies a unique position in Jamaican literature in telling the stories of mainly profession­al women living in townhouses and apartments in Kingston and trying to understand

their place in a rapidly changing world. I read Sharon’s stories to see the predicamen­t of women I know intimately.

5 Earl Mckenzie — I am so taken with the sensitivit­y with which Earl Mckenzie portrays such taboo subjects as insanity in Jamaican society, and the corroding effects of bad-mind on the society. The stories in Ernest Palmer’s Dream are some of Earl Mckenzie’s best to date in a very storied career thus far.

6 Monique Roffey — Trinidadia­n Monique Roffey and I share a fascinatio­n with female sexuality and its various expression­s. Consequent­ly I ravaged this novel — The Tryst — which walks up to the line of what is “proper” “decent” and “acceptable” sexual behaviour particular­ly for women. An insightful and delightful read.

7 Jacob Ross — Tell No One About This was a surprise and a revelation to me. These collected stories blew my mind with the sensitivit­y extended, time and time again, towards women. Here you see mainly Grenadian women in their strength but also in their weaknesses; when they are being wise and when they are considerab­ly less so; when they are at home in Grenada, and when they are negotiatin­g the metropolis. From the mythic to the mundane the characters in this book are unforgetta­ble.

8 Simone Schwartz Bart — The Bridge of Beyond tells the story of Guadeloupe highlighti­ng the resiliency of its women in non-didactic terms. The work could be considered magical realism as it is populated with many magical beings and moments, but maybe it just highlights the many realities that we live with here in the Caribbean.

9 Marion Zimmer Bradley — If you wake me up in the middle of he night and ask me what my favourite novel is, it would probably be this retelling of the Arthurian legend from a female perspectiv­e that I read as an undergradu­ate many moons ago. The Mists of Avalon has been a perennial favourite that I return to on a yearly basis and there was a time I could recite that dialogue, that prologue, in its entirety… in my time, I have been called many things...

10 Kerry Young’s work is compulsive­ly readable. In the novels Pao and Show Me A Mountain Young tells the same story but from two different points of view.

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