Jamaican Author Safiya Sinclair’s New Book ‘How to Say Babylon’ Shares Fiery Take on Rasta Lifestyle

In conversation with Philadelphia Poet Laureate Airea D Matthews Hailed by Tara Westover as “Dazzling. Potent Vital. A light shining on the path of self-deliverance,” Safiya Sinclair’s memoir How to Say Babylon recounts her struggle to break free from her rigid Rastafarian upbringing and her father’s repressive control, set against the backdrop of a larger story of colonialism in Jamaica. Sinclair is also the author of the acclaimed poetry collection Cannibal, winner of a Whiting Writers’ Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award in Literature, and the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry, among other honors. The recipient of a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the Poetry Foundation, MacDowell, Yaddo, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, she teaches creative writing at the University of Arizona. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, The Nation, and Kenyon Review. Airea D. Matthews is the 2022–23 Philadelphia Poet Laureate and directs the poetry program at Bryn Mawr College. Her collection Simulacra won the 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize and her work has appeared in The New York Times, Best American Poets, Gulf Coast, Harvard Review, and VQR, among other journals. Matthews’ other honors include a 2022 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship, a 2020 Pew Fellowship, and the 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award. Addressing themes of income inequality, commodification, and conventional economic theories, Bread and Circus combines poetry, prose, and imagery to tell an intimate story about the author and her family.