Thursday, 28 August 2014

NO PLACE LIKE HOME: A rhythmic story collection captures the ups and downs of island life

WELL VERSED: The author's new anthology celebrates an island sense of place.

Any mention of the most prolific women writers of contemporary Jamaican fiction must include Claudette Beckford-Brady, who is churning out fascinating new work with impressive regularity. 

After emerging with the sublime first novel, Sweet Home Jamaica, an absorbing tale of family dynamics and migration (its sequel, The Missing Years, followed), Beckford-Brady quickly drew notice for her often keenly observant stories, which have gone on to win medals in the National Creative Writing Competition. Further testament to her storytelling prowess, the author is one of only two writers with more than one story featured in the JCDC-published Gold Anthology. (On the horizon is the marital saga, Return to Fidelity.)

If you fell for those samples of her writing, you're sure to be bowled over by the pieces collected in her latest effort, Yaard and Abroad: From a Jamaican Perspective (Author House), a tight collection of nearly 20 stories tackling the lives and times of ordinary folks like us in the pursuit of happiness. The author's wide-ranging interests are narrowed here to focus, too, on her musings on island life and in the wider Diaspora.

The north-coast-set "Rent-a-Dread," for instance, is a humorous window into the illicit world of sex tourism island style. A pair of best girlfriends at a bar riff on their perspectives on interracial dating in "The White Man". A jilted housewife plots her next move in "Bun" and a woman decides to trade the British cold for some island sunshine - after getting even with her ruthless man - in "Justine's Revenge." 

Then there are entries like "Nah Gah Inglan?", "Reminiscences," "Returning Resident" and "Where Is Jamaica?" that stirringly celebrate that ubiquitous sense of place that lend all the best short stories their firm anchor. 

Also new and noteworthy: 
> Who couldn't use a word of encouragement in these deeply troubling times? Combining historical, cultural and personal examples with Biblical insights, Bishop T.D. Jakes, one of the finest counsellors of our time, has released Instinct: The Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive (FaithWorks Books), his newest motivational tome that outlines for readers "how to discover their natural aptitudes and release the vision of past experiences." 

> This September noted musician Sheila E brings her rhythmic flair to the page with the release of The Beat of My Own Drum: A Memoir (Atria Books). In nearly 400 pages, the legendary drummer offers up what Publisher's Weekly describes as " inspiring story of survival over adversity and fulfilling her potential as an artist."

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