Jamaican author Pauline Binder talks about her new book titled “Doin’ Hair”. The novel is about two Jamaican immigrant women who own a beauty parlor. Pauline has a B.A. in Sociology and was a social worker at New York City’s Metropolitan Hospital and New York State’s Psychiatric Hospital on Wards Island. Now retired, she has been writing short stories, poetry, op-ed pieces, and letters to the editor. Here is our conversation with Pauline Binder.
What is your connection to Jamaica?
I was born in Chapelton, Clarendon, and grew up in several places in Jamaica. My mother died when I was three so I was raised primarily by two aunts. I first came to America in my teens on a medical visa for eye surgery. I attended and graduated from Taft High School in the Bronx. Upon graduation I returned to Jamaica for a year. Being born and raised in Jamaica informs my writing. It makes me who I am and for which I am very proud. My late brother, Gilly, who lived in Canada and I used to say our Jamaican roots taught us how to navigate this complicated world successfully.
Congrats on your new book. Tell me about this book?
Thank you! Doin’ Hair is the story of two Jamaican immigrant women who are proprietors of Neva and Charlene’s House of Beauty located in the Bronx. It also tells the story of Duquan the male manicurist to whom they rent space in their beauty parlor to conduct his manicuring business. Neva is a young lady with a temper “hotter than a scotch bonnet pepper” but is kindhearted and a true friend. She speaks the Queen’s English but is fluent in Jamaican patois and uses it often. Charlene is more mild mannered, is the mother of two and has a rather complicated love life. They take tuns telling each others story as well as their own. The customers are mostly West Indians who have their own tales to tell in their own colorful
ways. In this book there is heartbreak, happiness, humor, fulfillment as the characters pursue their American Dream. The reader will be entertained.
Where did you come up with the characters in the book?
The characters sprouted from my brain fully formed, however I used to get my hair done at a beauty shop on White Plains Road. I wrote the first chapter and submitted it to the Bronx Council on the Arts where it was a winner. That was quite some time ago. I finished the book and, to make a long story short, I have published it.
Will we see this book become a movie production?
I think this book is perfect for a movie production! To that end I will be contacting folks in the industry. I am crossing my fingers and knocking on wood that someone will respond positively.
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing as long as I can remember. I remember my friends and I putting on a play on our lunch break at Alpha Elementary on South Camp Rd. I still have poems I wrote in high school.
What inspires you to write?
Sometimes I am inspired by people. For example, I saw an old couple holding hands walking along, that inspired me to write the poems Autumn Bloom and The Couple. Sometimes I am inspired by Nature. My husband and I frequent the NY Botanical Garden where we observe beautiful birds. That inspired me to write the poem Flying. For fiction, I may have the germ of an idea and start writing and the characters literally show up.
What is next? Are working on book number 2?
Next I am working on a book of original wedding vows. I hope to have it ready by early next year.
What are your 2 favorite books of all time?
There are so many books to choose from. But I’d say The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran and Sula by Toni Morrison.
Seven days, six nights, all-expense paid, my vacation destination is…
My destination would be Oho Rios!
My favorite guilty pleasure is…
jerk chicken and rice & peas!
Growing up my hero was…
Growing up I had two heroes: Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley. From the little I knew at the time, they both fought for the rights of workers and pulled us out of colonialism. I know that to adore both of them was verboten but even back then I had my own mind.
On behalf of the readers of Jamaicans.com thanks for providing us with this interview. Do you have any closing thoughts for our readers?
I’d like to say keep reading whatever it is. Getting lost in books has taken me to places and expanded my mind. To jamaicans.com I say thanks so much for bringing us stories about Jamaicans everywhere and the great and wonderful Jamaican recipes!!!