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In The Spotlight: Independent VoYces Literary Fair

In The Spotlight: Independent VoYces Literary Fair

In The Spotlight: Independent VoYces Literary Fair

By on - Photos by Bookophilia - Comment

Last week in Jamaica... Jamaican books.

Showcase for Jamaican Authors

Authors came out in numbers to support the first Independent VoYces Literary Fair, organized by Judith Faloon-Reid in association with Bookophilia – the innovative Kingston bookstore that has become the favourite meeting place for Jamaican lovers of good books. The fair was organised specifically to support Jamaican authors and self-publishers, a growing field in a country where it is difficult to find publishers willing or able to print and distribute the growing number of locally-written books.  As, especially at a time when books by Jamaicans or with Jamaican themes are topping the home best-seller lists.

Strawberry Fields, the venue, is a beautiful eco-adventure resort at Robins Bay, St. Mary on the north coast of Jamaica, within an hour’s drive of Kingston. The setting was spectacular – a broad, green hillside sloped down to a white sand beach on which huge, white-foam waves crashed into turquoise sea, luring a bather or two. Patrons sat under tents strategically placed on the lawn, surrounded by a building housing the Bookophilia bookstore and crafts booths, while a food court perched on the hillside offered fish, jerked chicken, roast yam, bammy, corn and festival, washed down by coconut water chopped open from a huge pile resting under a coconut tree.


Among the visiting authors were Yvonne McCalla Sobers, Erna Brodber, soon-to-be-published Horace Peterkin and Marcia Forbes who was promoting her new book Music, Media & Adolescent Sexuality – the first-ever examination of the ways in which contemporary music and music videos influence and affect the sexual behaviour of Jamaican youths. The launch of Marcia’s book at the Pegasus Hotel last week was the biggest and most spectacular launch of any Jamaica book, with an excellent speech by Minister of Education Hon. Andrew Holness.

I was impressed by the poems read by dreadlocksed Resident Magistrate Her Honour Lyle Armstrong, who in her other life is a quite an adventuress. Veronica Carnegie had the audience laughing and singing along as she read from her book “The Tie Came Back”, while broadcaster Tomlin Ellis gave a blast-from-the-past with his poetry. Jill Roberts not only gave us a recipe from her cookbook “A Hamper of Recipes from Jamaica”, but offered all a slice of delicious carrot cake, while Mitze McPherson delivered delightfully from her poetry anthology “Words”. It was not all prose, as there were performances by the Jamaica Youth Theatre, as well as a virtuoso musical moment by Joe Tapper & the Speaking Sax. Among the special moments, I cannot forget a spectacular presentation by dub poet Kavel the Psalmist.

All praise is due to the two writers honoured at Independent VoYces. First was Hon.Melita Samuels, who was awarded the Order of Distinction in the recent Jamaican Honours. The second honouree was Dr. Jennifer Keane-Dawes, a former journalist now Dean of Graduate School at the University of Maryland, who made her literary name writing a weekly column of Letters to Jamaica in our native patois dialect, while studying in the USA. Her book ‘Dear Jamaica” is a compendium of the funniest and most popular of these columns written between 1991-2008, andis  a welcome addition to the growing number of books that celebrate and acknowledge our native language. She tells how, homeless and with a baby to support, she slept on the floor with her son on a pillow, while mopping floors to support her studies for a degree at the University.

‘One day I was so lonely, I began to cry. And then I started writing the letters. The more I wrote, the better I felt. I continued to write the letters, commenting sometimes on the difficulties facing me. Whispered a proverb: “Learn fi stay pon crooked an cut straight’. In other words, Do not complain, make the best of the opportunity that presents itself.”

Bookophilia is to be congratulated for presenting Independent VoYces. The day was full of laughter, good vibes and friendly encounters in a venue that was a beautiful place to be on a bright, sunny Sunday. We authors all agreed that we look forward to next year’s event, which we are certain will be bigger and better. I can’t wait.

Meantime, I will return to Strawberry Fields to relax in its cosy cottages, ride the adventure trails on horseback, shower in the waterfall and swim in the beautiful seaside beach.


My book GROWING OUT: Black Hair & Black Pride, was launched last week by Mrs. Beverley Anderson Manley, former First Lady of Jamaica and my former London flatmate. I have been fortunate to receive some complimentary comments about the book. Here are some:

"Growing Out is Blake-Hannah’s wry compendium of her life-altering experiences, wit and vivid storytelling." TALLAWAH Entertainment blog

Growing Out“In the Liv-ication she says this book is not for white people because it will surprise and anger us. I think this book is written precisely for us, so that we understand and overcome any prejudices we still have and forgive our parents and ancestors for their mistreatment of Jamaicans and other non-whites. I am very much aware of my British ancestry here in Jamaica and fully aware of the inequalities of the past finding myself wanting to apologize for past injustices. We should be shocked and angered at our crimes."  BUNTY HAMILTON,  in her online blog.

"Growing Out is very good indeed. Its only in the last ten years or so that memoirs have come into vogue in Jamaica, and in that still-growing field, this tome stands out. Fluid, witty and heart-felt, Growing Out is important for the present generation of Jamaicans (adolescents included) who have little or no clue of the travails endured by Jamaicans who went to the UK in the 50s and 60s, nor of the breadth of their impact on that society. Memoirs are also distinguished by inside info, and whether its on the BBC, London High Society or the international marketing and promotion of The Harder They Come, Growing Out succeeds in this regard. Poignant too, are the scars of racism that overlie the book, as well as the “backstory” of Mr Jones that runs concurrently." MICHAEL EDWARDS, journalist & reviewer.

Thank you all so very much.


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