Olive Senior – An Outstanding Contributor to Caribbean Literature

Photo: JIS Photographer

Olive Senior is an internationally acclaimed Jamaican writer and poet. Her works have earned numerous prestigious awards.

Born in December 1941, Olive Senior grew up in the parish of Trelawny, in rural Jamaica. She was educated in the neighbouring parish of St. James at the Montego Bay High School. She then attended the Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, in 1964, where she studied journalism.

Career

After graduating, she worked as a freelancer in public relations, having had previous experience as a journalist with the Jamaica Gleaner in 1960. She then became an editor, first at the University of the West Indies (UWI), then the Institute of Jamaica. Senior also served as managing director at the Institute of Jamaica. In 1989, she travelled to Europe and, over a period of three years, lived and worked in the Netherlands, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. Following this she moved to Canada.

Senior has produced several works of literature, including poetry collections, short stories, and novels. Her works include:

  • A-Z of Jamaican Heritage (1984)
  • Summer Lightning (1986)
  • Working Miracles: Women’s Lives in the English-Speaking Caribbean (1991)
  • Encyclopaedia of Jamaican Heritage (2003)
  • Over the roofs of the world (2005)
  • Arrival of the Snake-Woman (2010)
  • Anna Carries Water (2013)
  • Dying to Better Themselves: West Indians and the building of the Panama Canal (2014)

Awards

Ms. Senior has received several awards, including:

  • The Commonwealth Writers Prize, for Summer Lightning in 1987
  • The F.G. Bressani Literary Prize for Gardening in the Tropics in 1995
  • The Norman Washington Manley Foundation Award for Excellence in 2003
  • The Institute of Jamaica’s Musgrave Gold Medal in 2005
  • The Isabel Sissons Canadian Children’s Story Award in 2011
  • The OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature (overall winner) in 2016

Ms. Senior now resides in Ontario, Canada.

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