Wednesday, 15 February 2017

COVER TO COVER: Three captivating new books in tune with the Black experience

A MAN OF THE PEOPLE: Michael Holgate creatively explored the legend of Marcus Garvey with his brilliant Garvey: The Musical in October, highlighting some painful truths in the icon’s life story. With his provocative new book, Jailing A Rainbow: The Marcus Garvey Case, Justin Hansford is following suit. At just under 100 pages, it’s a thin volume, but it packs a punch. Published by Miguel Lorne Publishers and Frontline Books, the text chiefly tackles Garvey’s infamous mail fraud case in the United States, shedding new light on the various players who helped to thick the plot. There’s J. Edgar Hoover, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who reportedly planted spies at Garvey’s meetings, perturbed by his success at energizing the Blacks. Ransford also puts under the microscope Julian Mack, the judge who presided over the case, and the numerous letters allegedly sent to the US Attorney General, calling for Garvey to be deported. At its core, Ransford’s book champions Garvey’s innocence, while celebrating his groundbreaking work with the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and the Black Star Liner shipping company. But, most important of all, it further elucidates his sterling contributions to the Black consciousness movement, a work that’s still felt to this day. 

PRIME SUSPECT: Crime fiction is a relatively unheralded genre in West Indian lit, but at least one contemporary author seems determined to change that. With his Ross Camaho Quartet Grenada’s Jacob Ross wants to deliver stories laced with “richly observed characters” and “fast-moving narrative”. The Bone Readers (Peepal Tree Press) is the first novel in the series, tackling family dynamics, retribution and secrets with life-altering consequences. Set on the small Caribbean island of Camaho, it follows rookie cop Michael ‘Digger’ Digson, who is determined to find out who amongst a renegade police squad killed his mother during a political demonstration. But another case soon captures the interest of this no-nonsense man-on-a-mission: a cold case involving the disappearance of a young man whose mother is convinced he has been murdered. At 270 pages, The Bone Readers (shortlisted for the 2017 Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year) bears testament to “persistence and the courage to survive,” while compelling reminding readers that “secrets can be buried but bones can speak.” 

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO: In The First Black Society: Britain’s Barbarity Time in Barbados, 1636-1876 (UWI Press), an exhaustive exploration of the brutal course of Barbados’s history, Sir Hilary Beckles details the systematic barbarism of the British colonial project, where the practice of slavery “reached its apotheosis.” A prequel to Beckles’ Britain’s Black Debt, this 320-page text is essential reading for anyone interested in Atlantic history, slavery and the plantation system and modern race relations.






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