THe Sea in Her Ear



The Sea in Her Ear
By Opal Palmer Adisa

She was drowning, and doing everything she knew she shouldn’t.

She opened her mouth and tried to swallow the sea.

Its ceaseless motion rocked her body; its voice whistled and echoed all around her. Splashing and crashing, its wetness clung to her like weighted cement that attempted to pull her down. The sea had gotten hold of her and was not ready to let her loose.

She opened her mouth to shout for help and gulped more water, then thrashed about frantically, her hands flailing like slender branches forced to dance under heavy winds. She was drowning and knew her survival depended on her relaxing and allowing the buoyance and heavy saltiness of the sea to keep her afloat.

Something about the neediness of the ocean scared her, the possessive way the water draped her legs, the intimate fishy smell that engulfed her nostrils, the roar of the waves locked in the chamber of her ears, the vast emptiness of the sea, slick like oil yet colorless, invisible. God’s Child knew only a fool would try to save someone bent on drowning herself, and she was both fool and self. She knew she needed to conserve her energy, but her heart was another current in the ocean gravitating towards other channels of currents so Yemaja, the great goddess of the ocean, dragged her down and rolled her like a barrel plummeting down a steep hill.

With arms raised above her head and body stiff and straight as an arrow, she flicked her feet and ejected from the water like a cannon. Mouth wide open she gulped for air as her ears thundered. Immediately, she sprang up in bed, spat out seawater and shook her head furiously to dislodge the water somersaulting in her ear. When that didn’t work she opened her mouth wide and yawned repeatedly. She heard Yemaja’s spluttering laughter and her dismissive remark, “Not ready for you yet, but don’t tarry too long.” Then Yemaja dove into the water like lightning, descending to the deep sandy bottom, lost among the seaweed and corals.

The bed was dry. Her skin was gritty as if she’d spent the entire day at the beach, dipping and then drying off under the sun. She was in her room at her house, not pulled under by a current. No prevailing black ocean awaited her. Shaking her head, fully awake, she scanned the room, then cursed. Rass! What the hell you want with me? She could hear the cawing of the sea, six blocks away; and without seeing the ocean, she could tell that it was flat and shimmering as wet glass. One could be fooled into believing it was harmless, but she, God’s Child, knew better.

She knew she had to go. Was it still night? Rolling out of bed, she crawled on her knees to the window, through which she peered, searching the star-filled sky. It was early morning, probably between one and two o’clock. She kept kneeling, even though the tiled floor sent shooting pains through her left knee where she had fallen when the man cursed her. He had set his dog on her as she ran, tripping over a naseberry tree stump, and then the dog had licked her face, and her knee was covered with blood which the dog licked instead of biting, while the man, the owner, stood there watching them before turning away with a contemptuous wave of his hand, saying, “You both deserve each other, but leave me naseberry alone.”

Now she picked up the naseberry from the windowsill, the last that she had taken, and bit into it as she used her right hand to steady herself, turning from the window, dismissing the lazy moon at her back.

The smooth sweetness of the gummy fruit watered her mouth. She chewed slowly, prolonging the pleasure of the fruit and delaying going where she knew she had to go. Hearing the urgent call from Yemaja, she shouted a response, A coming. Water and fish not going nowhere. The puppy that she has stolen, and who now slept by her door, raised its head, its ears immediately alert. Bending down, she picked up the puppy that she named Dream Undone. Hush, she said, caressing his back, is not you a shouting at, is that damn woman in the ocean who drown me awake. Come we go see what she want. Naked as at birth, she pulled her door shut, and with Dream Undone’s front legs over her right shoulder, she ambled down the road, a liquid sound guiding her steps.

Damp sand gripped her toes and squished under her soles, and immediately Dream Undone began to squirm. You too nasty, she said patting his back. Almost a week now you don’t have a sea bath, you well overdue. You can’t let me go to that cantankerous old woman by meself. She held him firmly as the waves ebbed at her feet. The water chilled her, making her tremble as it rose to her knees. Dream Undone yelped softly, trying to climb on her head. You betta behave or me go fling you in mek de fish eat you, she whispered to the dog, his body wound like a scarf around her neck. The water swelled above her waist, and the chorus of the ocean called to her in soft melodious rhythms.

She knew she had to take the plunge but hesitated, scanning the water, till she lost her balance and fell, splayed. Dream Undone escaped her grasp and she saw him swimming frantically away from her towards the shore, and she was listening now. Was ready to hear what Yemaja wanted to say to her. Closing her eyes, she allowed the currents to embrace her, taking her under into their chambers.

Her body relaxed into the arms of the ocean, and God’s Child felt herself floating like a plastic Buddha, bubbles like diamonds circling her face.


Love’s Promise is a new short-story collection in which the narratives are set in Jamaica, but the reader comes away not feeling that Opal Palmer Adisa’s book is solely about Jamaica and Jamaicans because the writer’s storytelling craft is such, as it should be with all successful writers, that the stories cannot help but resonate with international and Caribbean readers alike. The title forecasts and signifies what the stories offer. It portrays the different kinds of love with which we are familiar: erotic love; love of family and friends; self love; love of neighbour; and even love as healer—what P.M. Rowntree defines as the “redemptive, joyous, and life-enhancing character of love” (Dictionary of Ideas, 319). It is also about promises fulfilled, broken, and deferred whether to others or ourselves. The latter two kinds of promise entail being able to forgive, which is among the major foci of the collection.

I read a recent social media post by Maria Popova regarding our capacity to love, in which she states that an illustrated poem titled “My Heart” is “about love as a practice rather than a state, about how it can frustrate us, brighten us, frighten us, and ultimately expand us”. Adisa portrays this idea in her seemingly effortless, superb wielding of story and plot, voice and perspective, narrative structure, techniques of characterisation, and literary devices such as metaphor, symbol, and particularly simile which abound throughout each narrative. Effortless because the characters and situations presented are so familiar because we have encountered them at some time or another in our own lives and experiences, or witnessed or heard of them in the lives and experiences of others.

Our Caribbean literary tradition has its share of classic coming-of-age narratives by our renowned writers, and also contemporary ones by our new and emerging writers who are contributing to an exciting time in what I can only describe as a renaissance in our literature across the region.  There is also renewed and burgeoning scholarly and critical research in Caribbean children’s literature and Young Adult (YA) fiction. With its exploration of what one can deem to be adult issues like marital infidelity, domestic violence, incest, and abortion, some may not at first consider Love’s Promise as being categorized as YA literature.  But the book does, and was intended by the author, to belong to that genre because not only do stories like “Love-Bush”, “Bus Stop”, “Love’s Promise”, and even “Trio”, for instance, depict characters who mature from childhood or adolescence to adulthood, but we are in an age of information and awareness where provocative and taboo topics are being addressed more openly with young people and in the classroom. Most evident in the opening story “Love-Bush” is the humour conveyed in the thought presentation of the protagonist during her teenage years—a character who feels impatience and sarcasm towards adults because she is certain they cannot understand what it is like to be in the throes of a first and unrequited love.  The nature, differences, and stages of infatuation versus love, courtship versus marriage, are highlighted in this initial story with its thematic focus analogous to the structure of the collection in the way that it begins with young love and ends with a mature manifestation, appreciation, and acknowledgment of what love really is.

Joan Elliott and Mary Dupuis, editors of Young Adult Literature in the Classroom: Reading It, Teaching It, Loving It observe regarding choice of reading material that “[y]oung adults are interested in books with main characters they can relate to—people of similar ages, facing similar problems” (3), and indicate that with respect to topic selection:

A few topics that attract YA readers focus on individual issues in growing up, such as potential career choices, parents and their expectations, relations with siblings, and sex and developing sexual attractions. Other popular topics focus on the reality of adult life: death and dying; drugs, alcohol, and substance abuse; divorce; spousal and child abuse; race, and class discrimination. The list could go on. All of these issues are full of moral and ethical questions.  As adolescents struggle to understand how different people and cultures deal with the issues that are important to each of us, they can explore a range of options through YA literature. (2)

The stories in Love’s Promise typify these ‘realities of adult life’ which interest adolescents. Hence, sex education and LGBTQI rights are being addressed more openly in classrooms, albeit as is expected, with resistance, protest, and debate among traditional and conservative elements. And Adisa’s writing, be it fiction or non-fiction, is known to tackle, say, themes of gender and sexuality in frank terms. In the titular long short-story “Love’s Promise”, the unmarried, heterosexual, unattached thirty-year old protagonist who had helped a friend come out to her parents is told by her own mother that “[…] it is a basic human need to want someone else. […] I want you to know your father and I love you, and we don’t care who you end up with, man…or…woman. We just want you to be happy” (83). It fictionalizes how parents allow love for their children to supersede bias and other convictions, religious or otherwise. While there is only a mention of same-sex relationships, and it is not in any way developed in this story or in the collection as a whole, this seemingly negligible fictionalization mirrors reality in the world outside the text and is among the various other literary discourses which deal with the issue in more expansive terms by Caribbean and Caribbean diasporic writers.  

Parallel linkages between experiences of mothers and daughters, and the familiar trope in literature of the mother-daughter relationship, are common threads in the collection. Every story in the collection has a mother and other mother figures be they grandmothers, aunts or neighbours who mete out advice, warning, admonition, and affection. There is as well the ubiquitous trope of the madwoman; but, she too serves a positive role such as in “God’s Child” where she is a guide, and in the story “Mother Mushet” which can be considered an intertext of another famed Jamaican author and poet Olive Senior’s short story “Yu Think I Mad, Miss?”. In “Mother Mushet” the madwoman character who became mentally ill because she was fooled and spurned by her fiancé, is consequently flogged and rejected by her father, and given passive forgiveness by her mother is the one who helps the protagonist—her caregiver—to assuage her own guilt, undo her hate and anger, and reclaim the love she had for her own now-deceased mother who had left her in Jamaica with her grandmother when she migrated to England. This story, therefore, reflects a common aspect of Caribbean reality which is migration and the transnational family, and provides a fictional account of the negative repercussions on young and old members of families because of separation. 

Vital information was concealed

Sexual molestation, sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, incest—sexual misconduct in its various names and forms—are unsurprisingly a matter of fictional investigation here. The socialisation of the female is realistically depicted as one where girls and women still bear the brunt of the responsibility and blame for the violation of their bodies by both strangers, relatives, and others known to them. But, a very redeeming quality is portrayed in stories such as “Matrimony” and “Mother Mushet” in the way younger and older female victims are avenged, protected, and supported by parents and others—both men and women—in the community.

The first-person narration of “Mother Mushet” and “Trio” is a foregrounding technique that reinforces the twists and turns and surprises of the narratives. It allows the reader to discern the narrator’s bias and discover how vital information was concealed until particular revelations are provided at the story’s denouement in “Mother Mushet”, and to judge and/or empathise with the betrayal, egregious and immoral action a mother commits against her own daughter in “Trio”. 

While the stories hinge mainly on female protagonists, there is nonetheless a balanced representation of boys and men who are also main characters. So though we have the wife-beater, the adulterer, the molester half-brother, the fiancé who abandons his soon-to-be bride on the eve of the wedding to migrate and marry someone else who can provide him with educational and employment opportunities, etcetera, there is also the loyal friend, the devoted husband, father, and uncle.  

Metaphors and symbols involving Caribbean food, flora, places, etcetera, assist in the thematic exploration of reconciliation, vengeance, and intimacy. Stories like “Conscience is the Same as Do Right”, “Mattie and Night’s Sister”, “Soup Bones”, and “The Living Roots” include fantasy elements, drawing on the supernatural, the practice of obeah, and Caribbean folklore. Again, these are presented positively in the way, respectively, that folk knowledge and bush medicine are used to help characters deal with their personal challenges and fallibilities; establish stronger communal relations; take vengeance on an unfaithful, abusive husband who reneged on his promises; and come to the realisation during the time of newly acquired emancipation from slavery that it is not mental instability but the actual voices of spirits, elders and those underground in a Maroon colony which are being heard and, hence, highlighting the importance of memory, African spirituality, and history. 

Another major preoccupation of Love’s Promise is shame—shame arising out of neglect, self-centeredness, loneliness, betrayal,  failure, inaction, rejection, and loss, among others. In “Love-Bush”, one reason for a character’s shame is the failure to pass the Common Entrance examination which is not only a private wound that negatively impacts a friendship but a public vulnerability because the results are published in newspapers. This leads to trauma, migration, and a lost friendship. The story is therefore also reflective of a real-world reality involving debates about student potential, multiple intelligences, and calls for change and improvement in our educational systems. But, as in all of Adisa’s writing, there is hope, vindication, and reconciliation. In a somewhat meta twist, the “failed” student becomes a successful writer, a gift he had always possessed, and writes a book called Love’s Promise. In the process a gap is bridged, a friendship healed.  

A highly recommended read. 

Geraldine Skeete is a lecturer in Literatures in English at the University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine, Trinidad. She co-edited The Child and the Caribbean Imagination (UWI Press, 2012).

Kwanzaa, A Model For Life

I have been celebrating Kwanzaa for the last 40 years and throughout the time I have introduced it to many friends and family members. By celebrating Kwanzaa I am connected to a larger concept, rooted in African history even though this celebration was created by an African American.

From the very beginning, when I was first introduced to Kwanzaa in California, it spoke to me, not merely as an alternative to Christmas but because of its principles which I believed then, and still do now more than ever, are essential for the development and survival of African people on the continent as well as throughout the Diaspora.

We seem to be losing ground, many are willing to accept a foreign god, to give up our countries, to denigrate and forget about our ancestors, and are seemingly contented to not study or learn about ourselves

The seven principles (Nguzo Saba) are sound practices to live by throughout the year; they provide guidance and solution to strengthen families and communities. They encourage reflection and setting goals as individuals as well as a family.

I love setting up my Kwanzaa altar, lighting the candles, having family and friends gather in a circle and articulating what each principle means to them. I love having people gather, share their goals and break bread.

Happy Kwanzaa from my family to yours. ASÉ


Rockstead to Ska to Reggae: Hail to Toots

The first ever Ska concert that I attended was at Carib Theatre, when my mother insisted that I, a pre-teen, tagged along with my older sister and her friends. I remember the frenzy when Toots came on stage, and his vibrant energy that pulled me out of my seat, to climb on it, so I could see him dancing across the stage, his face beaded in sweat.

I remember the rhythm and joyful energy in his festival winning Rockstead song, “Bam-Bam,” a precursor to Reggae, the tail-end of Ska. The lyrics of which says, “I am the man who fights for right not for the wrong…” In the early period of Jamaica’s independence the music was positive and singers were affirming Peace for themselves and for our society. Toots represents that tradition and drive for solidarity.

Toots’ personality on and off stage was always positive and easy. He took things in stride, and used his life as the basis of his music. He never allowed stumbling blocks to hinder him, so when he was arrested for ganja in 1966, his first hit after his 18 months release was his jail number.

This picture of Toots and I were taken by my daughter Shola, and I took the others at the National Gallery in Kingston, Jamaica this February. I was so excited to have my daughter meet him, and to take this photo with him. I had hoped to interview him, but COIVD happened.

His legend will live on as will his many hits, and he will always be indelible in my memory as my first music idol. He was one of the runner ups in this year’s festival with his song, ” Rise Up Jamaicans” which calls on all Jamaicans to rise up with love and peace. He also just released his first studio album in a decade, entitled Got To Be Tough. He was tough and enduring, a giant who for 60 years made great music.

Sing forever Toots in the land of the ancestors. Asè


A Children’s Book about our Caribbean Culture: Dara, Ms. Mae & The Oil Down

dara and friends - oildown book cover 1 (1)

I have observed that many of our children are not familiar with the trees and fruits of the Caribbean and I strongly believe your book will inspire more interest. However, what needs to be done at the curriculum and culture level to promote greater appreciation for local and regional Caribbean culture? 

The people of the Caribbean are comprised of a rich cultural mosaic, emanating from many different religious and ethnic origins. This cultural diversity is seen as one of the strengths of the Caribbean. The regulation and promotion of cultural education is critical to the development of the education system from pre-school to tertiary level. Learning about one’s culture provides “an opportunity to explore and express feelings, to stimulate creativity and the imagination; to develop visual sensitivity to nature and the environment, and to discover the visual and qualitative world,” as stated in Trinidad & Tobago’s Cultural Policy draft, 2018. There is abundant evidence to support the case of culturally responsive teaching being central to the business of educating children;  its ability to integrate and harness all the elements that are part of the process of learning has been documented.

Food is such an important aspect of our life and culture. What advice do you have for teachers and parents about fostering more interest into the local culinary arts?

There is more of a connection between food and culture than anyone may think. We grow up eating the food of our cultures. It becomes a part of who each of us is. Many of us associate food from our childhood with warm feelings and good memories that ties us to our families, and which holds  special personal value. Food from our family often becomes the comfort food we seek as adults in times of frustration and stress. Traditional cuisine is passed down from one generation to the next, such as making oil down. Food  also operates as an expression of cultural identity. We should embrace our heritage through our culture’s food. It’s important to remember that each dish has a special place in the culture to which it belongs, and is special to those who prepare it. Food is a portal into culture, and it should be treated as such.

From idea to inception how long did it take to write and produce this books and what were some of the challenges and insights as a result.

This book took almost one year to be published. I am big on providing good illustrations for children. I would do the first draft, which took a lot of time for me to decide what I really wanted. Then there is the editing process. I have a full-time job so, finding a balance was critical. The ‘Ideal conditions may never arrive’. A book to publish is a commitment, and I always stay up late at nights and write a few pages before going to bed.  As a writer, I find I am usually at my personal best form late at nights and early in the morning. If you have a full-time job it can be difficult to buckle down on a specific time to write.  I recommend STRONGLY, in order to achieve your writer’s dream,  draw up a personal schedule or timetable, manage your time, and STICK TO IT RELIGIOUSLY. Control your time and manage your commitments properly or else they finish up managing you instead.

What’s next for you in terms of books and how can children be inspired and guided to write their own stories.

I love children’s literature and I would like to continue to contribute worthy stories to the genre. I also want to inspire children to read, write, create, imagine, and dream. This adds to my tag line “We become experts by doing.” There’s a writer in all of us because there’s language in each of us. Have we not all shared the same spark of joy in first learning to write our very own name? Writing is self-discovery and self-expression. We begin with a spark. To inspire a child to write we must reignite that very first wonder and delight, and we must hold the spark steadfast with the intention of kindling a long lasting love of language within the child. Psychology tells us that to inspire another, we must first be inspired. Inspiration is contagious! When you discover the power and process of writing, of how words create language, communication, and stories across generations, then you can always tap into the inspiration, and the ideas you pass along will be born from a place of wonder and delight.


 Paper-Based Bookshop – 10 Nook Avenue, St. Ann’s Port of Spain
Scribbles and Quills – 47 Cacandee Road, Felicity
 Academic Plus – Eastern Main Road, Curepe

Aboukir Artists Retreat- Adisa Haven for Artist

“Step into the past, reimagine the future and create your reality…”

Why this site:

Both my paternal grandparents, Ezikel Palmer and Edith Melahado Palmer were both in St Ann, near Aboukir, and it was the first  home of my late father, Orlando Melahado Palmer, when the family returned from Cuba, where he and his sister, Enid were born. My grandfather, Ezikel Palmer is buried in the first church of the area, which he helped to support.  Reportedly, my grandfather who was a tailor and also owned one of the first shops in the area, and was also credited for being the first person in the district to have electricity. Although I did not visit Aboukir much after my grandfather died when I was eight years old, I have fond, if not vague memories of the place. When I learned, about 8 years before my father died. that my father had sold off all the land, except for a small plot which was the site of his first home, and he was about to sell that I asked him to let me purchase it, and he sold it to me for $5000 US. This site represent family history and connection to ancestral lineage. Although it is not large enough to create the residency I envision, it is a start, and I need your help to make this start.


I have been fortunate to have been awarded several residencies that have allowed me to just write and dedicate 100% time to my work. In these settings, also I had the wonderful opportunity to interact with international artists from many disciplines, that would not have occurred outside the context of such residencies. It is because of these opportunities that I want to create a residency in Jamaica, my homeland, that is located in a place that is rich with natural beauty and also the birthplace of many phenomenal figures such as Marcus Garvey one of our national heroes, and certainly one of the most well known Jamaicans, Bob Marley, the reggae superstar.

Given the history of this place, I believe it is ideal for an artist residency. 


To provide an ideal place where six (6) writers and artists can come together over a 2-month period  to concentrate on their work, as well as design a project which should in some way engage the community.  Artists will be required to execute a project that will allow them to interact with members of the community, dedicating two hours weekly.

Every two months, 6 artists, two of whom will always be writers,  and at least from the Caribbean region, will be invited to attend.  The goal will be to bring a diverse group of writers/artist to spend time doing their work and exchanging with each other.

2-months during the summer, June-August,  will be reserved for artists who are single parents with children. Artists/writers and their children will be invited to spend 2 months. The residency will provide childcare, and will limit the number of residency to 3 or 4 participants, depending on the number of children.

Participants will be required to complete a basic application form, submit sample of their work and answer 3 shot questions.

The goal will be to always have a diverse range of artists/writers, in mediums, and varying degree of experiences – emerging as well as professional writers/artists . We will target Caribbean and Latin American artists, as these are most underrepresented areas, and writers/artists from this region has limited opportunities in comparison to writers/artists in the USA and Europe.  Nonetheless, we will also welcome artists from the USA as well as Europe.

Ideally we will have 2 writing studios, 3 studios for visual or multimedia artists and one dedicated space for a performance artist (dance/theatre/music or any other performance base art).

Artists will be required to participate in a culminating activity that will be open to local artists from the island, as well as community members to see their project and hear about the development of their work while at the residency. All artists/writers will be required to do an exit interview.

Throughout the residency, there will be one weekly dinner in which various artists/writers from the Jamaican community will invited to exchange and socialize with visiting artists/writers.

In addition, cultural trips will be planned for artists/writers, which will include visits to natural sites as well as museum/galleries, etc.

 Artists/writers will be selected by a panel that will review resumes/submitted work and artist statements.

History of At Ann:

Located in the lovely parish of St Ann, the largest parish in Jamaica, situated on the north coast of the island, in the county of Middlesex, St Ann is roughly halfway between the eastern and western ends of the island. Frequently referred to as “the Garden Parish of Jamaica” due to its natural beauty. Its capital, Saint ann’s Bay comprises New Seville, the first Spanish Settlement in Jamaica, and which now sports a population of approximately,173,232 inhabitants.

One of the oldest populated areas in the island tracing back to 600–650 A.D. It is believed to be the earliest Taino/Arawak settlement in Jamaica. When Christopher Columbus first came to Jamaica in 1494, he landed on the shores of St. Ann at Discovery Bay, Jamaica. He returned to Jamaica on his fourth voyage and was eventually marooned for one year at St. Ann’s Bay (June 1503 – June 1504), which he called Santa Gloria. St. Ann’s Bay became the third capital established by Spain in the Americas. In 1526, the Spaniards established the first sugar mills in Sevilla.

The boundary between St. Ann and St. Mary is formed by the White River, which flows for 27.4 kilometers. Other rivers like the Dunn’s River appear intermittently, but the main rivers are Negro, St. Ann, Great, Roaring, Cave and Pedro.

Given its historical and natural wonder, such as Dunn’s River Falls and its many beaches, including Puerto Seco, St. Ann is one of the major tourist destinations of Jamaica. There is a cruise ship dock (maritime) on the west shore of Ocho Rios Bay, and numerous hotels and resorts are located in and around the city.

The legacy of St Ann’s is also very much connected to music and heroism. The birthplace and launching ground of the Marcus Mosiah Garvey,  one of the seven National Heroes of Jamaica, it is also the brith place of Bob Marley, the greatest reggae star so far, as well birth place to other talented and recognized reggae singers Floyd LloydBurning Spear,Busy SignalBryan ArtRomain VirgoChezidekShabba RanksJustin Hinds, et al.

Natural & Historical Sites:

  • Dunn’s River Falls
  • Green Grotto Caves
  • Ocho Rios Marine Park
  • Fern Gully
  • Shaw Park Gardens
  • Coyaba River Garden
  • Puerto Seco Beach
  • Chukka Cove Adventures
  • White River Rafting
  • Dolphin Cove
  • Cranbrook Flower Forrest
  • Seville heritage park
  • Mystic Mountain
  • Bob Marley Mausoleum, Nine Mile
  • Columbus Park
  • Marcus Garvey Statue, St. Ann’s Bay
  • Edinburgh Castle (ruins)
  • Roaring River

I love Mangoes

IMG_8754To say I love mangoes is really an understatement, and mangoes are but one of my major addictions that keeps me from losing weight.

From I was a tiny girl, able to climb, I would clamber up the mango tree, sit on one of the branches and eat my belly full.

I could never get tired of mangoes, at least so I thought. But having just come in from my yard whereI picked more than two dozen mangoes, from  two of three trees, Blackie, hybrid Bombay and Hairy, I can now say I am over mangoes.  Now way!  Yes.

Since COID 19 and stay at home, I have been eating an average of two Julie mangoes from my friend’s yard, whose season started early and in abundance. Julie and Bombay are my favourite mangoes because they are especially sweet and juicy with relatively little to no string.

We in Jamaica, and the rest of the Caribbean, do not do enough to harvest and preserve mangoes.  The amount that you see on the ground rotting is truly shameful. Since this season began I have had my gardener collect boxes and give away.  I have given dozens to friends and associates, have eaten an average of two a day.  Only this morning I cut up three, Bombay and two Julies into my fruit salad with fresh bananas, papaya and pineapple…A bowl of fruit sugar.IMG_8775

Mangoes are one of the best fruits in the world, “originally from southern Asia, especially Myanmar and Assam state of India,” and with colonial expansion were brought to the Caribbean where we have numerous species as result of grafting.  There are said to be about “234 different types of mangoes, but about 30 are common.”  When I lived in St Croix the US Virgin Islands, they celebrated Mango Mele in July and there were about 49 different types.  In Jamaica we have about 41 variety and the most common ones are “black-greengage, black-sweetie”, “stringy”, beef, Bombay, East Indian, Haden, kidney, lady finger, Number 11, Parry, “pint o’ water”, Robin, Julie, Tommy Atkins, turpentine”. Regardless of the shape or colour of the skin, which varies, inside all mangoes are yellow-orange colour, “due to the presence of carotenoids”.

Apart from being delicious eaten picked fresh off the tree or chilled, or blended into a smoothie or sliced and eaten with yogurt or cheese of on bread in a sandwiches or in a salad, prepared green with salt, pepper and cilantro  or made into chutney or the hundreds of other ways mangoes are used in culinary art, mango has additional benefits such as it helps fight cancer, maintain cholesterol level, cleanses the skin, regulates diabetes, alkalises the body, helps to lose weight, promotes good eyes and is an aphrodisiac — must be the sweet juciness of it.

Mangoes are still on my trees, and I am still eating them.  However, this evening when I went to pick some for friends, I bit into a Blackie, small and sweet, and I just thought I have had enough. I only took three bites before tossing it in the pile of rotten mangoes. I suspect I am not the only one in my neighbourhood, where there are an average of two large mango trees per yard, as I see more and more mangoes on the ground. Sorry mangoes, our freezers and fridges are full and so are our tummies. You have been swell, sweet, luscious mangoes. Come around again next year.


Lyndsey Ellis’ Forthcoming Novel: Bone Broth

I am proud to claim Lyndsey Ellis, my former student from the MFA program at California College of the Arts, who was determined to complete and have a novel published, and who, after many hurdles, has succeeded. Congrats Lyndsey on completing your novel.  Here is what she says about the novel and her writing journey thus far.Lyndsey Ellis - Headshot I

“BONE BROTH is about Justine Holmes, a widow, former activist, and funeral thief, mourning her husband’s death during the aftermath of the Ferguson unrest in St. Louis, Missouri.

“As family tensions deepen between Justine and her three grown children, –an unemployed former Bay Area activist at odds with her hometown’s customs, a social climbing realtor stifled by the loss of her only child, and a disillusioned politician struggling with his sexual identity–the matriarch is forced to face her grief head-on. By reconciling a past tied to her secret involvement in civil rights activism during the early 1970’s in St. Louis, Justine quickly learns the more she attempts to make peace with her history, the more skeletons continue to rise to the surface.”

Scheduled to be released, May 2021, Lyndsey talks about the process of writing Bone Broth, an engaging title, forth with mystery
OPA: How long has it taken you to write this novel?

LE: I’ve been developing this novel (dare I say it?!) for 12 years.

OPA: Why is this novel important to you and why would it appeal to others?

LE: Bone Broth represents the human side of activists that you don’t hear or read about too much these days. I’ve always wondered what happens –what the frontrunners of civil rights movements do after they have been on the frontlines and then go home. That’s what compelled me to write this…to show that activists are human beings with personal, complicated lives.

OPA: Is this a common story in the Black experience or what is unique about it, your perspective?

LE: This is both a common story and a unique experience in the Black community. It’s common in that it speaks to intergenerational trauma and resilience that resonate in any Black community. It’s unique in that this is a story that sheds lights on Black lives and experiences in the Midwest, which aren’t usually at the forefront of mainstream media. Many persons still believe the Midwest is synonymous with white people and rural life, and this couldn’t be  further from the truth. There are cities here, and communities where people of color exist.

OPA: As a writer living under Covid 19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, how have these two very different social realities impacted you, your writing?

LE: As with most people, COVID-19 has made me take a long, hard look at what actually matters and what’s important in my life and my community, as well as examine the craft of writing more closely. COVID 19 is further complicated by the injustices that many Black individuals are subjected to at the hands of police and other authority figures who abuse their power. This saddens me, but it also propels me want to stand up for Black lives even more and portray these experiences in my writing because words do matter and particularly now in these time, marginalized voices really need to be heard.

St Louis - Bone Broth - Lyndsey Ellis

OPA: Do you think more people will be interested in black stories/novels now?

LE: I definitely think more people are interested in deepening their understanding of the Black experience by way of Black literature now. Recently, I read somewhere that Black-owned bookstores have been selling out of their merchandise due to the high demands for Black stories. This is great and so necessary, and I hope our stories continue to resonate with people.

OPA: What are your hopes/dreams as a writer?

LE: I want my stories to be seen and heard; I write about the experiences of those who are marginalized or voiceless in mainstream media –working class Black people in the Midwest. I want to uplift the voices/stories  so others come to know them and respect their humanity and struggle. We all have a place and all of our experiences/stories matter.

OPA: Have you begun your 2nd novel?

LE: I have begun on a short story collection that I’m looking forward to sharing soon. An idea for a longer work—possibly a novel—is also been in the works. I’m looking forward to continuing both those journeys.

OPA: Finally, what has writing taught you about yourself thus far?

Writing has taught me how to channel my emotions—particularly anger and sorrow—in constructive ways. It’s shown me how to remain open and curious about life. Most of all, I think it’s helped me learn how to be patient with myself, as well as others. It may sometimes take a while but the journey—trusting the process—is totally worth it.

Lyndsey Ellis is a fiction writer and essayist. She earned her MFA in writing from California College of the Arts. Ellis was a recipient of the San Francisco Foundation’s Joseph Henry Jackson Literary Award in 2016 and the Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund in 2018 for her fiction. A Kimbilio Fiction Fellow, her writing appears in The Offing, Joyland, Entropy, Shondaland, and elsewhere. She lives in St. Louis, MO. Her debut novel, Bone Broth, will be published by Hidden Timber Books in spring 2021.