Jamaica Magazine

Jamaican Books: Greenwichtown

Written by Staff Writer

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly
Fay Myrtle’s life begins with her mother and siblings near a Jamaican plantation in Joyce Palmer’s Greenwichtown. She goes to live in the city of the book’s title with Flo an older sister she has never met who turns out to be a source of constant trouble. Fay grows up surrounded by poverty, violence and misery, attending school and later giving birth to twins but she is forced to leave the country to find work in order to support her children. Palmer’s writing is spare and unflinching; while her plot is relentlessly grim, she does offer a glimmer of hope at the end.

The New York Times Book Review
“…a gripping coming-of-age novel in which the upbeat ending feels both believable and well deserved.”

Essence
“[An] inspiring view of a girl’s coming-of-age in a challenging environment.”

Book Description
Set in Jamaica, Greenwichtown is the story of Fay Myrtle, an innocent, young girl who lives in a shack outside a Jamaican plantation. An older sister takes her from the village to live in the inner-city ghettos of Greenwichtown. There she attends school, and her inner life thrives despite abuse by her sister and the squalor surrounding her. As she struggles to come of age, she is caught up in a web of betrayal and is devastated by the death of the man she loves. Unwilling to submit to her despair, especially for the sake of her newborn twins, Fay “goes foreign,” seeking a job as a domestic abroad, and relinquishing her babies to the care of her sister. Powerfully chronicling the lonely and tormented terrain that is the fate of many young island women who leave their children and families in order to financially support them, Joyce Palmer creates a forceful character whose reality transcends the page.

Written in a voice all its own and with the veracity and strength of the best of Caribbean literature, Joyce Palmer writes with raw talent and true freshness, in a voice that’s uncontrived, unselfconscious, and immediate.

Author’s Message:
The book is sort of based on my own life of growing up in a Jamaican ghetto. Like Fay, I am the youngest of my mother’s 9 children. At about 4 years old my older sister took me from the county to live with her in the city of Kingston. It was supposed to be for a visit but she never took me back to my mother and insisted that I call her Ma-just like Fay. My sister was not equipped to raise a child either emotionally or financially. She was very poor and throughout my entire childhood, I shared the same room with her and I always shared the communal toilet with the other tennants. Throughtout my childhood I never had a birthday cake or a Christmas presents because we were too poor to afford such luxuries. Life in Greenwichtown was hard cold and violent. As a child I saw numerous bodies that resulted from disputes. In all honesty, I think that my sister tried her best to give me a better life. She scrimped and saved to send me school. (In Jamaica parents are responsible for purchasing books, and paying for everything else for a child to go to school. If your parent can’t afford it then you simply stayed home.)Like Fay, I also passed my exam to go to high school, and I also became pregnant and had twins at 16 years old, and I was “babyfatherless.” My entire family is still in Jamaica, and out of my mother’s 9 children, I am the only one to have gone to high school and college. Jamaica is a country that pulls at my heart strings. The physical landscape is mesmerizing but the lives of the average perosn is a day to day struggle for the basic necessities of life. Most peaople view Jamaica as a place to go on vacation-an island of paradise where the hot Caribbean sun vapories their troubles and the cool sea breeze caresses their skin as they lie on a white sandy beach. Yes, all of this is there but there is also another reality that sits right along side it in the lap of Fay Myrtle.

Joyce Palmer

 

Joyce Palmer is a 29 year old Jamaican-American novelist who lives in Florida. She is working on her second novel called, “The Love Life Of Senior Citizen Bob WIthers. ” Her email address is: [email protected]

 

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About the author

Staff Writer