Breaking news: I saw Dreams Beyond the Shore come into my inbox about 3 times recently as one of the books recommend for me by Amazon. I do not know if that was because of my post or because of the publisher’s/author’s promotion. The mystery of algorithms! However that's why it's headlining my blog again.
I am glad that Bocas Lit has added a prize for Children’s Literature. As we also consider the enthusiasm of the young publishers and writers now, I feel as if all we have done over all these years is bearing fruit,
However, we still seem to be out in the wilderness with Young Adult (YA) Literature. I have noted previously the importance of the Burt Award, and that if it was withdrawn from this region to be given to First Nations in Canada, one could not but honour and respect that.
You may recall that as part of the Burt Award process 2,500 copies of each book were to be subsidized and given to schools across the Caribbean. Has this happened? If so how come we haven’t heard anything about these donations, seen pictures of beaming school children and principals with book donations, book covers splashed across front pages of regional newspapers, or if that is too much to ask, tucked away somewhere inside. I am told that with very little fanfare they were given away to charitable organizations, and not so much to the schools. I would love to stand corrected on this. Surely we couldn’t let that opportunity for exposure pass us by. If we did indeed print 2,500 of each and give them out with no fanfare, nor recognition of their significance, then we deserve to have Enid Blyton (now dark-washed for modern consumption) get up out of her grave and write her golliwog stories all over again. And yes, I read them and so did my first daughter, who couldn’t understand why the golliwog was always getting into trouble. That’s when I realized I had to start writing, so by the time the second daughter came along there was other material. We were no longer left to wonder about the connection between ourselves and golliwogs. Subtle racism and colonial indoctrination.
Now it is possible that in the last 2 years we’ve all been made distraught by the pandemic. I may not have heard anything. Therefore I could be wrong about donations of books. Please tell me if I am. However this award had been running since 2014; that was from before covid.
Of course, the students in secondary schools have set books. Why should we care whether they read additional books or not. Why should we care whether young adults read anyway? We did our best with them in primary/prep. The set books in secondary, many of them classics, whether European, American or Caribbean, cover a range of human emotions and experiences. They will soon be adults, and readers will read and the rest won't.
Of what value is the reading our own books to the young adults of our region? Well a clue might be that the same overseas publishers who sell their books to us are also filling the needs of their own target audience. Aha, guys, aha!
I'll look at this further in my next blog.