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JAMAICA'S Literary Heritage: Little, but Tallawah.

Updated: Jan 25, 2020

When we started our bookstagram journey January of this year, an idea began floating around in our head. How can we pay homage to the literary genius that also flows out of the children of our island into the world?

When most people think of Jamaica, they think of Bob Marley, Reggae, Dancehall, Beaches, Cannabis Sativa and Usain Bolt. Jamaica has given much to the world by way of our music and our infectious attitudes of loving life and food. But there has also been great minds leaving a mark on the world in other disciplines as well. So for the month of August, when we celebrate Emancipation and Independence, we wanted to shine the light on some of the great literary minds of our island.

Even though we grew up in a country that was heavily influenced by our one time colonizers, we have kept a strong link to our African ancestry. This can be experienced in our music, dance, and stories. The Maroon communities, of course have the strongest link to the motherland, and this can be seen in their way of life and the customs and festivals they hold in celebration of this ancestry. In school, we are exposed to those that worked diligently to secure our independence and ensure that going forward, our island would retain the capability to call its own shots. And even though Jamaica still has its own share of darkness to overcome, we must always look forward to improving the nation.

Miss Lou(Louise Bennett Coverley) was very special to us growing up. She made it her mission to ensure that Jamaican children were exposed to our ancestral stories and in the language we all grew up speaking-patwa. Amina Blackwood-Meeks as well is an advocate for our stories and keeping the oral storytelling tradition alive. Anansi stories were a huge part of our childhood and had many hidden lessons in them. The Jamaican Cultural Development Commission(JCDC) puts on festivals that also celebrate our performing arts, speech, music, dance, drama and traditional folk form.

In this vein, we would like to use this August to focus on the literature coming out of island, so that some day, some of these names will go down as being just as synonymous with Jamaica as Bob Marley or Usain Bolt. And even though we have been exposed to our writers at home and in school, we have just scratched the surface when it comes to literary works by Jamaican authors. So this celebration is as much for us as it is for you.

Here are just some of the literary giants coming out of our "little but tallawah" island (we are also including authors in the diaspora):

Louise Bennett Coverley

Marlon James

Kei Miller

Lorna Goodison

Olive Senior

Claude McKay

Colin Channer

Nalo Hopkinson

Pamela Mordecai

Patricia Powell

Trevor Rhone

Marcus Garvey

Michael Manley

Walter Rodney

Velma Pollard

Linton Kwesi Johnson


Staceyann Chin

Yasus Afari

Andrew Salkey

Anthony C. Winkler

Mervyn Morris

Rex Nettleford

Victor Stafford Reid

Jean D'Costa

Alexia Arthurs

Nicola Yoon

Nicole Dennis-Benn

Carolyn Cooper

Tanya Shirley

Zalika Reid-Benta

Sara Collins

Makeda Silvera

Candice Carty-Williams

Curdella Forbes

Yrsa Daley-Ward

There are more authors that we might have missed, as the list is an exhaustive one. We will be updating this list as we discover more authors.

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