Saturday, 2 August 2014

OUR STORIES, OURSELVES: The Gold Anthology offers a fine showcase of pyrotechnic prose

PAGE ONE: Jackson-Miller (right), one of the contributors to the anthology, now available in e-book format.

The next time somebody tells you that no good story collections are coming out of Jamaica, kindly urge that person to pick up a copy of the Jamaica Gold Anthology, a nearly seamless 14-piece set that features well-crafted tales exploring everything from Jamaica's dynamic folkloric culture to the vestiges of colonialism to the idiosyncrasies that so eloquently speak to our African ancestry.

While I wish the JCDC and its publishing partners would hurry up and put out a poetry volume as a companion collection to the prose, the stories here are indelible entries into a literary culture that is far from fulfilling its potential in this modern era. But readers will undoubtedly enjoy the topical diversity that these stories deliver, not to mention the engrossing styles of the scribes who've all bagged gold medals in the National Creative Writing Competition since the dawn of the new millennium.

Pulling double duty, the immensely talented Claudette Beckford-Brady contributes "Fi Wi Mango Dem," a sharply funny take on neighbourly dynamics in rural Jamaica and "Miss African Gem," a wised-up look at race, class and creed from the points-of-view of a put-upon shopkeeper and her young Rastafarian customer. Dionne Jackson-Miller of radio and television fame, meanwhile, sinks her teeth into a rebellion-inflected era of our history with her cleverly spun and energy-filled "Meeting Sam Sharpe." It's one of the book's undeniable surprises.

Veteran storyteller A-dZiko Simba offers the briskly paced "Of Love and Lies." The most compelling raconteurs of the lot, though, is Rudolph Wallace, who expertly demonstrates a gift for spiky humour and textured narrative that recalls early Samuel Selvon, in his two fantastic pieces: "Death Grip," a savage exploration of dreams and cruel intentions, and the laugh-out-loud hilarious "Wherever You May Be," which features the infamous Miss Mary Lee of Lacovia in her own words.

Plato once said, Those who tell the stories rule society, and this laudable anthology is indeed one marked by a sense of authority and regularly amusing renderings of life and livelihood (in times both past and present) in Jamaica, Land We Love. 

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