Pao by Kerry Young – review

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive on 2016-04-03 01:42Z by Steven

Pao by Kerry Young – review

The Guardian

Ian Thomson

Young, Kerry, Pao: A Novel (London, Oxford, New York, New Delhi, Sydney: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011)

Kerry Young’s mesmerising first novel celebrates Jamaica’s ethnic melting pot, and the lost world of Kingston’s Chinatown

Jamaica, where Kerry Young was born in 1955, is an island of bewildering mixed bloods and ethnicities. Lebanese, British, Asian, Jewish and aboriginal Taíno Indian have all intermarried to form an indecipherable blend of Caribbean peoples. In some ways, this multi-shaded community of nations was a more “modern” society than postwar Britain, where Jamaicans migrated in numbers during the 1950s and 60s. British calls for racial purity often puzzled these newcomers from the anglophone West Indies, as racial mixing was not new to them. Jamaica remains a nation both parochial and international in its collision of African, Asian and European cultures.

Young, the daughter of a Chinese father and a mother of mixed Chinese-African heritage, came to Britain in 1965 at the age of 10. Pao, her zingy first novel, lovingly recreates the Jamaican-Chinese world of her childhood, with its betting parlours, laundries, fortune-telling shops, supermarkets and (business being a hard game in Jamaica) gang warfare. The Chinese first arrived in Jamaica in the 1840s, we learn, as indentured labourers. Having escaped this indignity, they set up business in the Jamaican capital of Kingston selling lychee ice cream, oysters and booby (sea bird) eggs. Racial tensions developed between them and their black neighbours; mixed marriages were generally frowned on. Ian Fleming, in his Jamaican extravaganza Dr No, wrote disapprovingly of the island’s yellow-black “Chigroes“…

Read the entire review here.

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Ian Thomson: Jamaica was modern before Britain

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2012-10-04 18:25Z by Steven

Ian Thomson: Jamaica was modern before Britain

The Independent
London, England

Miguel Cullen

To mark Black History Month the author of “Dead Yard: Tales of Modern Jamaica” talks to Miguel Cullen about the ways Jamaica is punching above its weight

Jamaica is a country that exceeds its limitations. For example India’s GDP is 180 times that of the West Indian country and Jamaica could fit inside it 300 times. Yet Jamaica won twice as many medals at the London Olympics, 12 to India’s six.

Musically it shines beyond its scope too: between the mid-1950s and 2000 Jamaica had produced one new music recording per 1,000 people each year – making it per capita the world’s most prolific generator of recorded music.

Jamaican culture has long been fashionable and on Google Trends, a means of measuring how highly words feature in the search engine. In the list of most-searched countries “Jamaica” comes a tight second to “Russia,” a country so big it makes Jamaica look like a minnow.

In view of Jamaica’s small financial and physical scale, it’s logical to think of it as a statistical freak of nature, an anomaly, to have such a broad world standing. How could such a tiny island, which is only this year celebrating 50 years of independence from the UK, compete with superpowers like India and Russia?

It was with this question in mind that, on the eve of Black History Month in the UK, I visited the London home of Ian Thomson, the author of the hugely successful (and controversial) Dead Yard: Tales of Modern Jamaica

…The book won the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize, and the Dolman Travel Book of the Year. It combines serpentine, fragile descriptions of Jamaica’s natural beauty with an unafraid look at the horrors of Jamaican violence, in a way that is intransigent and unique.

“Jamaica was modern before Britain was,” Thomson tells me, sitting in his study overlooking the greenery of Alexandra Park. “What fascinated me about these Caribbean countries was that for me they’re the first modern societies – they were the first countries to have intermingling, mixed race people, across the colour bar.”

“When Jamaicans came to Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, they were often very surprised by the conservative reactions to some of them being mixed race – mixed racing had been going on for centuries in the Caribbean. So in a sense you could say that although Jamaica is in some ways parochial, in other ways it’s incredibly forward-thinking.”…

Read the entire article here.

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