Fifty years ago, Perry Henzell’s “The Harder They Come” took Jamaican music and patois to the world. Yet, Jamaican writers and filmmakers are still finding their voices muffled by mainstream media and publishers. Jamaican writers are asked to eliminate or water down dialogue that is in patois. It’s tough to find literary agents, publishers, and producers who are willing to represent our work.
Apart from a few Jamaican writers like Marlon James, Nicole Dennis-Benn, and the late Andrea Levy, few have secured traditional book deals. Andrea Levy’s “The Long Song” was made into a TV series that aired on BBC and PBS…without watering down the patois.
There clearly is an interest in our culture and a market for our work. Yet, even successful writers like Marlon James won the 2015 Man Booker prize for “A Brief History of Seven Killings” faced resistance. His debut novel was rejected by over sixty literary agents. He became so frustrated with the process that he deleted it from his computer and had to re-construct “John Crow’s Devil” from e-mails. He published with a small press and the rest is history.
Not to be shut down by resistance and rejection, most Jamaican writers self-publish and the majority of Caribbean filmmakers’ self-produce. We usually have to market our own work. Think Trevor Rhone, Chris Blackwell, Dickie Jobson, Lennie Little-White, Roy T. Anderson, Jeremy Whittaker, Sudz Sutherland, Jennifer Holness, Devon Haughton, and Guyana’s Ryan Singh.
“Jamaican Storytellers”, a free book bashment, will take place in New York City under the umbrella of the American Foundation for the University of the West Indies. It will showcase the work of seven Jamaican writers from a variety of genres including fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.
Participating writers include Lynda R. Edwards who wrote “Friendship Estate” Andrene Bonner, an award-winning author, and Dale Mahfood who created his own imprint to get his work out there.
The literary talent to be showcased includes Burnett Coburn, the Brooklyn-based Pan African poet, Lorel G. Morrison, Faith P. Nelson and Dawn Forrester-Price who recently released the historical fiction“Run to Freedom”.
“Jamaican Storytellers” will take place on from 6:00 – 8:00 PM at the Consulate General of Jamaica, 767 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017
For more information: https://www.afuwi.org
Toronto-based Anne Thornley-Brown is a Forbes featured team building expert, actress, and writer. Her TV credits include working with Octavia Spencer, Blair Underwood, and Carmen Ejogo in the Netflix series Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam CJ Walker. Anne has written three novels, two screenplays, and pilots for 2 TV series. She is seeking a literary agent, publisher, and producer.