Wednesday, 8 June 2016

CALABASH 2016: Talking C’bean classics with historian and author Dr. Verene Shepherd

THE READER: The author and UWI lecturer shares some of all-time favourite West Indian titles.

Erna Brodber’s timeless novel Jane and Louisa Will Soon Come came in for special recognition at Calabash this year, and Dr. Verene Shepherd couldn’t have been more pleased. A longtime fan of Brodber’s work, Dr. Shepherd, an author and historian of international repute, loves classic West Indian stories in general, and her list of favourites is legendary. As she preps a new collection of essays (about women and the reparations movement) to add to a body of work that already includes I Want to Disturb My Neighbour and Maharani’s Misery, she reveals five of the pageturners she’ll always treasure:

“I like the rural setting. I like the way she writes; the naturalness of her writing and the matter-of-fact way in which she presents the story. In her work she always uses rural characters, rural themes and because I’m also from St. Mary I like her writing.”

2. THE BOOK OF NIGHT WOMEN by Marlon James
“This one is set on a Jamaican plantation during slavery, and [James] allows the women to plot to overthrow the slave system. And I think it’s realistic in the sense of women’s contribution to resistance. In fact, I interviewed him about that book recently, and we had an interesting conversation.”

3. A HOUSE FOR MR. BISWAS by V.S. Naipaul
“At the time I read it, I was researching the age of indentureship in the Caribbean. And I read it as part of the research I was doing because I use a lot of historical novels in my work; sometimes they do reflect history. They take liberties with the history sometimes, but I think they do reflect the period.”

4. TURN AGAIN TIGER by Samuel Selvon
“I just think it’s funny (Laughs). It’s about the experiences of a young man in Trinidad. His family life, the trials and tribulations he went through. A very well-written story.”

“Another very good book. It’s about the Haitian Revolution, but I like the way it is presented, not as a catalogue of historical events. In a sense it was, but the style was literal. And that’s what I like most about it – the very literal style.”

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