New Book: “The Stranger Who Was Myself”

The Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival (BCLF) announces the release of Barbara Jenkins’s memoir in the UK, The Stranger Who Was Myself (Peepal Tree Press, 2022). BCLF writes: “The reviews are rave,” sharing the appraisal of Ayanna Lloyd-Banwo (When We Were Birds):

From her childhood in colonial Port of Spain, to becoming a migrant student and young mother in Wales and then returning to Trinidad post-Independence, Jenkins tells her own life story with the emotional sensitivity of a natural storyteller, the insight of a philosopher, the scope of a historian and the good humour of a Trini. This beautifully written and moving memoir will feel achingly familiar to anyone who knows what it is like to navigate race, class and girlhood while growing up in the West Indies, anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.”

Description: Jenkins writes about the experiences of a personal and family-centred life in Trinidad with great psychological acuteness, expanding on the personal with a deep awareness of the economic, social and cultural contexts of that experience. She writes about a childhood and youth located in the colonial era and an adult life that began at the very point of Trinidad’s independent nationhood, a life begun in considerable poverty in a colonial city going through rapid change. It involves a family network that connects to just about every Trinidadian ethnicity and their respective mixtures. It is about a life that expanded in possibility through an access to an education not usually available to girls from such an economically fragile background. This schooling gave the young Barbara Jenkins the intense experience of being an outsider to Trinidad’s hierarchies of race and class. She writes about a life that has gender conflict at its heart, a household where her mother was subject to beatings and misogynist control, but also about strong matriarchal women. As for so many Caribbean people, opportunity appeared to exist only via migration, in her case to Wales in the 1960s. But there was a catch in the arrangement that the years in Wales had put to the back of her mind: the legally enforceable promise to the Trinidadian government that in return for their scholarship, she had to return. She did, and has lived the rest of her life to date in Trinidad, an experience that gives her writing an insider/outsider sharpness of perception.

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