The American Ambassador, Pamela Bridgewater, very graciously allowed me to present a copy of "Island Princess in Brooklyn" to her on June 4. It was a delightful visit; I enjoyed talking with the Ambassador and the Embassy Officers who sat with us. Ambassador Bridgewater is indeed a warm and charming person.
So why did I think my book should be presented to the American Ambassador? Well, Princess is a barrel child (child left behind with a close relative while her parent - usually a mother – works for financial security so as to have the child join her. The child is often sent barrels of ‘all things good’ while the mother is away). And this is an aspect of our migration to the USA. So I think the book is a symbol of this as well as a story. It is a celebration of all that is Jamaican meeting all that is Brooklyn, New York, USA. Princess McQueen celebrates the many migrants that have become part of the fabric of the United States of America. She also celebrates the welcome that America affords them. And though, as I have said, this book came out of my visits to my older daughter and her family when her husband was doing a fellowship at a hospital in Brooklyn, I think nestled beneath it all is my father’s family, some of whom migrated to the USA before I was born. We heard their tales of the hardship they faced when they first arrived, but we saw that eventually they found their version of the American dream. They would send us a barrel at Christmas (many other Jamaican families got them too - so barrels are not new, just perhaps a bit different). The smell of an American barrel! Anticipation! All sorts of goodies! And when we visited them in New York, what an excitement. Naturally, they had all sorts of things which would only make their way to Jamaica years later. And then there was my 15 year-old self that fell in love with New York on one visit; Radio City Music Hall, snow, wearing my aunts’ coats and gloves; so, so grown up, determined to return to work at the United Nations in New York.
Well, funnily enough, I didn’t migrate. I stayed home and became a teacher /educator and a writer, and raised a family. But perhaps Princess did it for my 15 year-old self.
So I thank Ambassador Bridgewater for her gracious acceptance of a Jamaican gift celebrating Princess McQueen and the ties between our countries and our people.