[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Mellany P (New York Carib News). Here are excerpts of an interview with the author Deborah Buchanan of the Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival (BCLF) 2019 Emergent Writer’s Short Story Competition:
As part of the ongoing CARIBLit series about everything books, we are sharing the shortlisted short story winners from last September’s Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival. Catch the interview below with writer, Deborah Buchanan who hails from Jamaica. Read her BCLF short story entry, “The Best Birthday Party Ever”.
Share with us a little bit of your background. I spent 22 of my 29 years in St. Catherine, Jamaica. Currently, I live in Ontario, Canada. I grew up in an average middle-class home with my parents and my younger brother. I can say I am blessed to have lived the life I lived thus far. Growing up in Jamaica had its challenges but I went to good schools and I got my best education there, in and out of the classroom. That’s one of the main reasons I am who I am today. My family is also, as most Caribbean families are, deeply rooted in Christianity. Right now I’m a mother, a wife, an English teacher and a volunteer in numerous organizations.
[. . .] Do you prefer the novel or the short story, and why? Well, I’d love to write a novel but I find it more exciting so far to write short stories. I enjoy the economy of words and how much I can fit in them, rather than the reverse of trying to fill the space of a novel.
What is your connection to the Caribbean? Do you have a favorite saying from Caribbean culture? My connection is being Jamaican. One of my favorite Jamaican sayings is “Donkey seh di worl’ nuh level”. It basically means life is unfair especially to those who are facing injustice, however, I like it because firstly, it’s one of the most relatable sayings: life is definitely unfair. I also like it because it’s one of those sayings that one can really analyze and get multiple meanings from.
Do you have a favorite Caribbean/Caribbean-descended writer? We would love to learn about a storyteller from your island whose writing has left an impact/impression on you (poet/oral storyteller/griot included). Wow, where do I begin? The first person that came to my mind is Grace Nichols. She is not Jamaican though; she’s Guyanese. However, her collection called I is a Long Memoried Woman is a work that stirred me in some inexplicable ways. She has a way of telling the lived experiences of being a Black, Caribbean woman that I find remarkable and inspiring. I love so many Caribbean writers, especially women, though. So to name a few others there’s the late Louise Bennett-Coverley Olive Senior, Lorna Goodison, Jamaica Kincaid, V.S. Naipaul, Michael Anthony, C. Everald Palmer (now I’m getting an itch to re-read so many works!)
[. . .] In your own words, what makes Caribbean-writing/Caribbean literature unique? Caribbean writing is truly a look inside a kaleidoscopic rabbit hole of experiences. It is to glimpse into the world of people who are perhaps the only people on Earth who are mixed with everyone else and yet are so distinct from everyone else. From the language to the food to the music, Caribbean culture is very rich and impactful. The fact is that Caribbean people can encapsulate so much in a few words that we really are doing ourselves a disservice if we don’t consider ourselves unique. Our literature specifically is unique because even though our identity is linked so much to our ancestry, our present history, and being in the diaspora, there are few persons who can find it difficult to relate to a Caribbean story on a human level. We truly are out of many, one people.