Jamaica Magazine

I And I Bob Marley – Book Review

About the Book :

Born in the Jamaican countryside in 1945, Bob Marley seemed special from birth. The curious, intuitive boy had an extraordinary gift for absorbing and interpreting the world around him.

Influenced by his biracial heritage, his island home, and the injustices he observed in everyday life, Bob went on to become a musician and messenger; a poet and prophet of reggae culture. His music echoed from Jamaica all the way across the globe, spreading his heartfelt message of peace, love, and equality to everyone who heard his songs.

Brimming with imagination and insight, I and I Bob Marley, is a multifaceted tribute befitting this international musical legend. Soulful, sun-drenched paintings transport readers to Bob Marley’s Jamaica, while uniquely perceptive poems bring to life his fascinating journey from boy to icon.

Book Review: 

I’m embarrassed by how much I didn’t know about Bob Marley. I have visited Jamaica twice, listened to his music for decades, purchased a 4-foot carved statue of him this spring to feature at our backyard tiki bar and hosted a grad party for my daughter with a Jamaican/ rasta/ reggae theme. I should know this guy. I and I: Bob Marley (Lee & Low, 2009) filled in many gaps in my Bob Marley knowledge. Read Gillian Engberg’s starred review at the link above for a stellar critique.

Medina presents Bob’s life through a series of poems illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson’s bright paintings. The end notes provide more details about the events of each poem and I read them alternately with the poems. Bob’s real first name was Nesta which means Messenger. He became one through his music as he attempted to give voice to the rude-boys, the poor, underprivileged class. His songs were not initially played on Jamaican radio stations due to their strong political content so it was popularity in England that first brought reggae to the world. His songs also included messages of love, peace and unity. In fact, the title of the book reinforces this. One of the meanings of “I and I” is an alternate term for “we” in Jamaican grammar, signifying that we should not think of ourselves as individuals but as part of a larger community. Medina also explains that one possible origin for the name “reggae” comes from the Jamaican patois word for rude-boys: the “streggae.”

After a childhood as the local palm reader, in 1969 Bob predicted he would die at the age of 36. His prediction came true after a soccer injury in his right toe developed into cancer, for which he refused treatment. In April I was disappointed that our big statue did not survive the airline’s rough handling and arrived with the right foot broken off. After reading the bio, I’ve realized that our statue is now a more accurate tribute to the man.

Add this picture book verse biography to your high school and middle school collections and promote it with the reluctant readers who gravitate to the Tupac and Selena slim bios. Better yet, just put it on display and the attractive cover will keep it in circulation.

Reviewed by Cindy Dobrez from Bookends.com

About the Author
Tony Medina was born in the South Bronx, raised in the Throgs Neck Housing Projects, and currently lives in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. He is the author of twelve books for adults and children, the most recent of which is the poetry collection, Committed to Breathing (Third World Press, 2003) and Follow-up Letters to Santa From Kids Who Never Got a Response (Just Us Books, 2003). Named by Writer’s Digest as one of ten poets to watch in the new millennium, Medina’s poetry, fiction and essays appear in over eighty publications (including anthologies and literary journals) and two CD compilations. His children’s books, DeShawn Days and Love to Langston (both illustrated by R. Gregory Christie) have garnered several awards, including the Parent’s Guide Children’s Media Award (2001), the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People (2002), and the Rhode Island Children’s Book Award (2003). Among his three anthologies, In Defense of
Mumia won The American Booksellers Association’s Firecracker Alternative Book Award and Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam was named a Best Book of 2002 by The Washington Post’s Book World. His work has recently been published in African American Literature (Penguin Academics/Pearson Longman), edited by Keith Gilyard and Anissa Wardi.

Medina, who has taught English and Creative Writing at several colleges and universities for fifteen years, has earned his MA and PhD in Poetry and American and African American Literature from Binghamton University, SUNY. Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Howard University in Washington, DC, Medina is featured in Dr. Joanne V. Gabbin’s documentary film Furious Flower II: Regenerating the Black Poetic Tradition: Roots & First Fruits/Cross-Pollination in the Diaspora/Blooming in the Whirlwind (California Newsreel, 2005). Medina is featured in Poets Against the Killing Fields (Trilingual Press, 2007) and he is an advisory editor for Nikki Giovanni’s anthology, Hip Hop Speaks to Children (Sourcebooks, 2008). Featured in the Encyclopedia of Hip Hop Literature edited by Tarsia L. Stanley (Greenwood Press, 2008) and Cited (under the category of “Hip Hop Literature”) in the Encyclopedia of Rap and Hip Hop Culture by Yvonne Bynoe (Greenwood
Press, 2005), Medina’s forthcoming children’s book is a biography in verse entitled, I and I, Bob Marley (Lee & Low Books, 2009).

Where to Get the Book:
I And I Bob Marleyis available at Amazon.com

About the author

Staff Writer