[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] New York Carib News posted an interview with author Stephanie Ramlogan of the Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival (BCLF) 2019 Emergent Writer’s Short Story Competition. Here are excerpts:
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, Stephanie Ramlogan who hails from Trinidad & Tobago, and read her BCLF short story entry, “ Cashew Heist.”
Share with us a little bit of your background. I am a Freelance Fashion & Lifestyle Writer and Personal Stylist in NYC. People call me the Trinidadian Carrie Bradshaw. Curly-haired and wide-eyed, I moved to New York in 2018 for fashion and writing (and love?). As a fashion writer, I’ve been published in the Caribbean, New York, UK, and Canada, in various blogs, magazines, and newspapers.
[. . .] What is your connection to the Caribbean? Do you have a favorite saying from Caribbean culture? I’m such a Trini; born and raised. I’ve only been in New York for a couple of years. There are so many sayings from our culture that make me giddy with their creativity and nuance! The context has always a special part to play in the meanings of these words and phrases. I could never pick just one. Recently I was talking about how many ways we use the word “skin”; skin up, skin out, big skin, red skin, skin teeth- I love our language!
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). Shivanee Ramlochan actually went to University with me at UWI and we had Spanish classes together. I was in awe of her ever since. Her first book of poetry “Everyone knows I’m a haunting” has moved me more than any other work of its kind. It’s impossible to read in one sitting. It is a potion. Some kind of witchcraft.
The BCLF seeks to create a robust and distinct platform for Caribbean literature as a separate genre in the diaspora. Do you think that this is important and if so, why? Of course it is. We share a space here in this society. And we have an extremely important point of view, with such value to contribute to others’ perspectives. Caribbean people are privileged to benefit from a unique mix of cultures that have resulted in distinct fusions. We have a lot to teach the world when it comes to acceptance of peoples. We are also masters of innovation. If all the world were like us it would be a perfect place haha.
Also, we are hilarious. And passionate. The way we talk, walk, sing, dance, cry, laugh, age, raise children– it’s something great to witness. If even just for enjoyment and entertainment, our stories need a pedestal.
Do you believe that there is any value/advantage in identifying as a Caribbean-writer, or does identifying oneself as a ‘writer of Caribbean-descent/heritage’ limit a writer’s potential in the writing industry, in your opinion? Depends on the audience I guess; how they interpret what being from the Caribbean means. For me, it’s who I am. My writing is in no way separate from my Caribbean-ness. I am a Caribbean Writer. Hands down. Who vex loss. (Another phrase I love!)
In your own words, what makes Caribbean-writing/Caribbean literature unique? The context. Yes, our voice is distinct. We might use our dialect and some green verbs that differentiate us. But it is the context for me that draws me to Caribbean literature. The nostalgia of place names, and daily routines. The small cultural mentions how our public transport functions with a tout and conductor. The insertion of colorism with nonchalance. Our ignorance of political correctness, and the stories that we can relate to so strongly even in the most subtle moments. I’m obsessed with us. Obsessed.