Caribbean literature reflects the natural beauty of the region and highlights the struggles, dialects, and cultural practices of the people stemming from their shared past.
The genre is universally recognisable. Jamaica has produced many important writers. Among these are four notable Jamaicans, who are the focus of this article – C.
Everard Palmer, VS Reid, Kei Miller, and Una Marson. These writers have made a significant contribution to Caribbean literature and paved the way for others to do the same.
Cyril Everard Palmer Born in Kendal, Hanover in 1930, C. Everard Palmer studied at The Mico Teachers’ College (now university) in Kingston in the early 1950s. His writing career started in journalism at The Gleaner Company, also in Kingston, shortly after leaving college. He was a crime reporter.
Palmer’s first short stories were published in The Gleaner newspaper. His first book was a novel for adults, called “A Broken Vessel”, and was published in 1960. He later ventured into writing children’s books and created several novels.
Children’s Books by Palmer
• “The Adventures of Jimmy Maxwell”, 1962
• “A Taste of Danger”, 1963
• “The Cloud with the Silver Lining”, 1966
• “Big Doc Bitterroot”, 1968
• “The Sun Salutes You”, 1970
• “The Hummingbird People”, 1971
• “A Cow Called Boy”, 1972
• “The Wooing of Beppo Tate”, 1972
• “Baba and Mr. Big”, 1972
• “My Father, Sun-Sun Johnson”, 1974
• “A Dog Called Houdini”, 1978
• “Beppo Tate and Roy Penner; The Runaway Marriage Brokers: Two Stories”, 1980
• “Houdini, Come Home”, 1981
• “A Time To Say Goodbye”, 2006
Palmer was honoured locally for his work in the children’s literature:
• Certificate of Merit by the Jamaican Reading Association for contribution to Jamaican Children’s Literature, 1977
• Silver Musgrave Medal for Literature from the Institute of Jamaica, 1977
Victor Stafford Reid
Victor Stafford Reid hails from the Jamaican capital city, Kingston. Born on May 1, 1913, he was educated at Central Primary School and Kingston Technical High School. He entered the world of work as a farm overseer, then ventured into writing – first as a newspaper reporter and later as an editor at the weekly newspaper, Public Opinion, in Kingston.
His first published novel, “New Day” (1949) earned him the honour of being the first West Indian writer to have a work published in the local language. His 1958 novel, “The Leopard” earned him another distinction – that of being the first Jamaican writer working in the island to have a book published in the United States of American and England at the same time. Between 1967 and1985 he published a series of novels for West Indian teenagers:
• “The Young Warriors”, 1967
• “Peter of Mount Ephraim”, 1971
• “The Jamaicans”, 1976
• “Nanny Town”, 1983
• “Horses of the Morning” (A biography of National hero, Rt. Excellent N.W. Manley), 1985
V S Reid received several awards for his contribution to Caribbean Literature:
• The Institute of Jamaica’s Silver Musgrave Medal in the Field of Literature, 1950
• The Non-resident Canada Fellowship, 1958 and 1959
• Gold Musgrave Medal in the field of Literature, 1976
• Order of Jamaica, 1980
• Norman Manley Foundation Award for Excellence for his contribution to Literature in Jamaica, 1981
Kei Miller was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1978. His interest in writing began early. He enrolled as an English major at the University of the West Indies and later left to study Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University.
His first book was a collection of short stories, “Fear of Stones and Other Stories”, published in 2006. He continued to write and produced books of poetry, as well as novels.
• “Kingdom of Empty Bellies”, 2006
• “There is an Anger that Moves”, 2007
• “A Light Song of Light”, 2010
• “The Same Earth”, 2008
• “The Last Warner Woman”, 2010
• “Augustown”, 2016
Miller was awarded the United Kingdom Forward Prize for Poetry in 2014.
Born in 1905 in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, Una Marson became the first woman in Jamaica to own and edit a magazine, The Cosmopolitan. It was published in 1928. In the 1930s she formed the Readers and Writers Club, the Kingston Drama Club and the Poetry League, which aimed to develop and promote young black artists.
She was involved in the formation of the Pioneer Press as well as the Jamaica Publishing House, which published works in the Jamaican language.
Marson was the first black woman to work as a broadcaster with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
Throughout her work life, she moved frequently between England and Jamaica writing poems and producing plays that supported her views as an activist and feminist.
She produced several works of different kinds and generated a strong literary presence in 1930s England.
• “Tropic Reveries”, 1930
• “Heights and Depths”, 1931
• “What A Price”, 1932
• “The Moth and the Morning Star”, 1936
• “London Calling”, 1937
• “Pocomania”, 1938
• “Towards the Stars”, 1945
Marson received several awards, some of which included:
• The Institute of Jamaica’s Silver Musgrave Medal for Literature, 1930
• Blue Plaque Award for being the first black female broadcaster and producer at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 2005