in the UK
After ten years of living and working in South Carolina, of trying to manage a writing career that spans the USA, the UK and Jamaica, but of hanging onto a Ghanaian passport despite its manifold inconveniences at airport immigration desks, the question of where was home had become for Kwame Dawes ever more insistent. There is a part of him that embraces the New World condition of being Kamau Brathwaite's 'poor, harbourless spade', but America has entered his psyche; he writes poems filled with the landscapes and racial histories of South Carolina, and yet the thought of becoming an American citizen is almost too uncomfortable to contemplate. In this deeply personal narrative, which also addresses the almost universal condition of migrancy, Dawes explores the experiences that bring him to this state of indecision. At the heart lies his relationship with his father, Marxist, Caribbean nationalist, writer, a relationship Dawes has explored in manifold forms in his fiction and poetry, and which in this book, he approaches directly for the first time. In the process, he writes with great thoughtfulness about place (Ghana, Jamaica, Canada, the UK and South Carolina), about race, nation, religion, childhood, family and parenthood, sex and death. This is a rich, rich piece of writing that has the immediacy of a man thinking aloud and the careful structure of art. To its sensuous visions of place Dawes brings a poet's eye, to its narration and its description of people he brings the selective skills of a novelist, and to the conversations he records he brings a playwright's ear. It is a work of intellectual rigour, but also great tenderness in its account of his parents, of his own marriage and fatherhood. It is about the things that matter to him as a writer, and as a husband, father, teacher, church-goer and community activist, and one sees that for Dawes the two zones, the page and the world, cannot be divided. If, in the end, there is a conclusion, it is about embracing the abrasions and joys of difference. In a world where the pressures to homogenise are so great, one realises just how important it is that there are writers like Kwame Dawes around.
Peepal Tree Press Ltd
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