On Decency

A relative who I won't name for fear of embarrassing her, recently called me, concerned about the nature of my book. She had heard through the Jamaican grapevine that my book was slack, which compelled her to flip through the stories herself. She wanted to know: “How do you expect decent Jamaicans to read the book?” I said something to the effect of, "But decent Jamaicans have read the book." She had a counter: “But how do you expect these stories to be taught in schools in Jamaica?” I tried to explain that this hadn't occurred to me, that I wanted to be true to my characters’ lives—how they speak, the things they would do. She seemed disappointed but resigned.

Sometimes I feel shy when I hear of older Caribbean people reading my book. Someone will tell me that they gave the book to their mother. It's similar to how I feel when I think of my very religious mother and other relatives reading any of the stories. Half-seriously, I always imagined that I would annotate the table of contents for my mother, out of respect of her, so that she’d know which stories she’d feel most comfortable reading. I also imagine that a similar rating system could be helpful for parents wanting to know which stories are appropriate for children. So today, I annotated the table of contents mostly for fun and because it seemed like an interesting way to spend a few minutes. But I found the process to be confusing because rating the stories felt like simplifying them. I had the feeling that I was reducing my stories in a way that had nothing to do with me. I soon turned to something else. I was too bored to continue. I couldn’t even bother to correct the misspelling of cussing haha.


P.S. I’ll offer my mother “Mash Up Love,” “Mermaid River,” and “How to Love a Jamaican”  

Maria Mergal