When Jamaica steps out unto the world stage, it is often via a zephyr fueled by the first-class track and field athletes who dominate that sport internationally. Or perhaps it is on the thick chords and infectious arrangements coupled with raw, truth-telling lyrics as offered by the architects of reggae or their artistic progeny who carry the mantle with commitment across the continuum. It is rare to have an insider turn Jamaica’s dirty laundry inside out to have the world bear witness to the stains and detritus of a society that limped out from under British colonialism only fifty years ago and which still bears the striated scars as do many nation-states which share this history and are carrying the burden of uneven development into the 21st century.
Diana McCaulay’s novel, Dog-Heart, provides a window into contemporary realities that shape the experiences of on-island Jamaicans. She will be hosted for book conversations in a variety of venues during the second week of April, including Long Island’s Best Seller Books. Hosted jointly by Lavern McDonald of Xaymacagal Media Productions and Patrick Payne of Best Seller Books, McCaulay will discuss her work and will sign books for readers. Books will be available on-site for purchase.
McCaulay, long known for her work in Jamaica’s environmental justice movement, is pleased about the recent release of Dog-Heart, which was gestated around the turn of the century and took a number of years to come into being. Published by the Leeds-based Peepal Tree Press, Dog-Heart takes readers into the competing yet intersecting lives of Dexter, a black ghetto youth from the Kingston valley who ekes out a living for himself and his family largely by begging and Sahara, an uptown middle class brown Jamaican whose cosmopolitan lifestyle is articulated via her operation of a vegetarian restaurant in the capital, an initiative started after dropping out of a North American university and inheriting full parental responsibility for her child.
Using transactional English as well as Jamaican nation language, McCaulay brings her readers into the depths of the poverty and marginalization that are the reality of many in that urban space. Not since Orlando Patterson’s Children of Sisyphus and Roger Mais’ Brother Man have we seen similar literary endeavors.
McCaulay’s recent youtube.com interviews suggest that she wrote her first novel simply because all throughout her life she has been moved by the power of novels. Given the high stakes involved in the matter that is the Jamaican economy and the increasingly divergent path between the haves versus the have-nots, McCaulay has added some breadth and nuance to a growing national dialogue, indeed an international dialogue if the diaspora – financially invested to the tune of US $2B in December 2011 per the Bank of Jamaica (even as the metropolitan sending countries continue to weather severe downturns) – embraces the prime opportunity to discuss the gaping rift that threatens to undermine the goodwill and much-desired progress that the populace has worked hard to construct since throwing off the imperial yoke.
See Diana McCaulay in person and get your copy of Dog-Heart at 7 PM on Monday, April 16 at Best Seller Books, 43 Main Street in Hempstead, Long Island.
Xaymacagal Media Productions is the brainchild of New York educator and media expert Lavern McDonald. Raised in Jamaica, Ms. McDonald hopes to lend her skills and resources to advancing progressive agendas of Jamaicans on island and in diaspora.
In its 20th year as a community institution, Best Seller Books is one of the leading independent bookstores on Long Island, and is a critical resource for a wide genre of African diasporic, African American and Caribbean literature.
The bookstore is actively engaged in many community activities, including book signings and discussions, and hosts seminars and workshops dealing with progressive social issues. According to founder Patrick Payne, “The bookstore is deeply invested in matters that are important to the communities we serve.”