Lynette Alli -Children’s Author

[Edited for content]

Lynette L. Alli was born in British Guyana (now Guyana), South America. She is a graduate of the Guyana Teachers’ College, specializing in Infant/Childhood Education.

She started writing children’s stories fourteen years ago and so far, has published six of them. Lynette Alli Headshot 3Oct2019 (1)

Her first two books were published in 2014. My Grandmother’s Basket is based on family values of love, respect, trust and happiness. A Message From Allan was written to help children who are victims of bullying. In 2016 she published her third book: Seven Little Words in a Journal, about mistakes children make and the impact on their childhood and later years. Her fourth book: A Gift of Love and Honesty, published in 2018 is a sequel to Seven Little Words, and deals with the thinking and observations of a small child who helped her brother and an elderly man. She followed this up the same year with her fifth book: Note Cards for Everyone from Tiny Hands, about children in a hospital playroom, writing little notes that convey meaningful messages expressing their thoughts. In 2019 she published her sixth book Smart Little Me which deals with the readiness of infants and toddlers to identify themselves.

Lynette continues to write children’s stories.

 



Lynette, thanks for taking the time to do this interview for my readers.

Q. You’ve written ten children stories, so far, and published six. What is it that drives you to get these stories out? What is your motivation?

A. My children’s stories all have a moral behind them and they attempt to teach about life. My Motivation: to teach and prepare children for the lessons they will need as they stroll through the rocky road that is called life.

Q. You’ve said that a very early age, you were exposed to one of your father’s treasured books—Thomas Nelson’s “The Royal Reader” and your father read stories and recited poems, presumably from that series of books. Did you have a favourite story or stories in that book? Please share the reason behind your enthusiasm for these.

A. My two favourite stories were: The Pet Goat and Tell the Truth. When I was a little girl, we had a goat called Margaret. This first story taught me to be kind to animals and people. Tell the Truth is about a little boy named George who, while he was taught to make an excuse for the wrongs he did, felt that he should always tell the truth. This story was a great example for me and my siblings to always tell the truth.

Q. The Preface to the Nelson Reader states that “the book is designed to interest young people and induce them to read…for the pleasure of the thing.” Do you think your books have accomplished this? If so, how?

A. I believe my books do accomplish this since they are designed to interest a wide audience—children, parents, grandparents, care givers and others, and they all convey different messages that make my books timeless. They teach about morality and deliver lessons which will help children become responsible adults and guide them through life with a sound foundation to deal with grownup problems.

Q. Were you a precocious reader? At what age did you start to write?

A. As a child I scripted stories in my mind, something like writing on imaginary paper. If that describes precociousness, then I suppose I was. Those stories remained with me and when they were later transferred on paper they became the essential elements for the books I’ve written so far.

Q. Tell us what authors have influenced the books you have written so far and how?

A. Authors that have influenced my books: 1) Mark Twain, The Prince and the Pauper. The young child who became a prince never forgot the lessons he learned when he was a Pauper. 2) Louisa May Alcott’s, Little Women. Four sisters, who were different in many ways but shared their pain and happiness when growing up. Reading these authors made me realize that children learn through direct experiences and can overcome suffering with trust, respect, kindness and love. They are universal themes and they never change.

Q. Your first book My Grandmother’s Basket, was written in 2014,. Did writing get any faster and easier subsequent to that? Please explain.

A. After My Grandmother’s Basket, my writing did not get faster, but it became easier to write. My time frame for writing is based on the contents and the storyline which can vary from story to story. My writing style is the same, but it got easier.

Q. How long did it take you to write My Grandmother’s Basket and how long to get it published?

A. I took about three weeks to write My Grandmother’s Basket, and it was published many years later.

Q. Of all the books you’ve written so far, Is there a favourite? Why is that a favourite?

A. My favourite book is, My Grandmother’s Basket. As a child I used to look out with anticipation for my grandmother every morning although she only visited once every month. She usually came on the morning train and she would always have a basket of goodies. I was very happy to have hugs and kisses from my Grandmother, and the goodies were secondary. Part of this story was written on imaginary paper, when I was a young child.

Q. What was the most difficult of the ten books to write? Please explain.

A. The most difficult book was, A message from Allan. It was painful to write about my vicarious experiences with bullying which occurs daily in real life, and is a universal problem. In keeping with that, this book is to inform little ones not to be afraid and to confide in an adult if they are being bullied, something that results in physical and emotional pain if they don’t. The objective of this book is to help children who are victims, and at the same time, children who inflict hurt on others.

Q. What period of your life do you think has influenced your writing most of all—child, teenager, young adult, adult? Can you expand and tell us more.

A. As a child, I sat and gazed around me and then crafted stories in my mind. Those stories were about children, trees, birds and frogs. I suppose you can say, then, that my childhood influenced my writing most of all.

Q. What kind of research did you do for your children’s books and how much time does it take? What are your sources, typically?

A. I researched child development—the growth and behaviour of children, and this helped to revive the memories I had stored away about connected lectures when I attended Teachers College in Guyana. My sources for research are David G. Myers, Psychology and Albert Bandura’s, Social Learning Theory. Of course, my observation of children and people always play an important part in my writing. Add to that, my teaching experiences and my imagination.

Q. How important is the design of the cover and illustrations inside, for a children’s book? Please explain why.

A. The design of the cover is important because it connects the title of the book with the message behind the story, all of which makes the reader eager to pick it up the book and want to know more about it. The illustrations inside are also critical since they make my story interesting and appealing, especially to young minds.

Q. What is the most difficult part of YOUR artistic process in completing the cycle for one of your children’s books?

A. I would have to say that the most difficult part of the process in my artistic cycle is the creation of characters that are necessary in conveying the message in my book, along with the design of objects that will complement that message in a meaningful way.

Q. Have you ever read any children’s (or other) books that made you cry? If so, which?

A. Yes, Christoph Von Schmid, A Basket of Flowers. A girl was being punished for telling the truth and this had a profound effect on me and influenced my writing enormously, since I knew by experience, how children are impacted by this.

Q. What do you consider the mark of success for a writer of children’s stories? How does she know she’s been successful?

A. Success is an individual thing; I view success as achieving my goal.
But I think the mark of success for a writer of children’s stories is her ability to entice children to read and listen to her stories, and most of all, to feel the impact of the message behind the story, and acting on that message.

Q. What’s the most difficult stumbling block for you in writing books for children?

A. The conclusion. There is never an end when lessons are given to children. I really feel there is always more to add.

Q. Is writing for children cathartic in any way for you? If so, how and why?

A. Sometimes, depending on the story, emotions can be a factor.

Q. Is there a central theme in all your children’s books? What is the common message to the reader?

A. The central theme in all my children’s books is, “All children are beautiful, and words that they hear and learn are displayed in their voices, thoughts and hearts.”

Q. If you were to pass on one particular piece of advice to an upcoming writer of books for children, or other books, what would it be?

A. I believe in aspiring to do what you want to do, and work towards achieving your goal. My advice to upcoming writers of books is to believe in yourself, focus and follow through. If you fail the first time, think of the failure as a learning experience. Never give up on what you aspire to do or be.

Q. What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
EMAIL: lynettel.alli@hotmail.com
OTHER: website: http://www.childrenstimelessbooks.com

 

Lynette Alli Book Covers (1)

Anitha Robinson -Author

Animal lover and writer Anitha Robinson is thrilled to create stories about animals and the environment. Her experiences volunteering with organizations like World Wildlife Fund and local animal shelters, along with visiting animal sanctuaries nearby and faraway, have inspired many story ideas. Anitha is the author of a young adult trilogy.

Anita Robinson

The first book, Broken Worlds, was released in 2014 by CBAY Books. Broken Promises and Broken Dreams followed in 2017 and 2019 respectively. Recently, Anitha created a KINDNESS IS EVERYTHING blog. She collects and shares uplifting stories of people showing kindness to animals and each other. Her hope is to inspire others or at least bring joy to someone reading her posts. Her blog can be found at https://anitharobinson.com/blog/.

She graduated from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario with a Bachelor of Commerce and went on to become a Chartered Accountant. Though accounting and writing seem like polar opposites, she has combined these two worlds by offering ‘Tax Talks’ to writers. Anitha lives on a hobby farm in Ontario with her husband, two children, and many animals. She hopes one day to turn the property into an animal sanctuary. Anitha is represented by Tanusri Prasanna of Foundry Literary & Media.



 

Anitha, thanks for taking the time to do have this conversation with me. I’d like to talk about your book BROKEN WORLDS, released in 2014, and your writing life so far.

Q. What kind of research did you do for Broken Worlds and how much time did it take? What are your sources, typically?

A. The idea for Broken Worlds came to me in a dream, or more accurately, a nightmare. Normally, when I wake up, the details of the dream are long gone and at most I’m left with a vague, fuzzy memory. Not this time. I clearly recalled the details of this nightmare—being alone at night, chased by two men, the sound of their footsteps getting closer. I was terrified when I woke up. I was taking a writing class at the time and it was my turn to share a piece with the class, so I started writing about the nightmare. At this point, there was no research. But as the story unfolded, the characters came to life, and the plot took shape, and that’s when I started to research things like the layers of the atmosphere, the colours one would see as they pass these layers, the sounds of the forest, to name a few. Research takes a fair bit of time and varies from project to project. I can’t pinpoint an exact amount of time. For this book, my main sources were the internet and my husband, who helped me with the medical aspects of the story.

But for my middle grade adventure story and picture books about endangered animals, in addition to the internet, I also contacted people who help save these animals for their input.

Anitha Robinson Broken Worlds

Q. Broken Worlds is written in the First Person, the voice being that of the protagonist Kalli. Why did you decide to write this book in First Person? And why Kalli?

A. I wrote it in first person, because I was writing about myself in the nightmare. This POV allowed me to express what I saw and felt.

Q. You chose to write Broken Worlds in the present tense, as the action unfolds. Why was this? Do you think this is a more satisfying approach to writing? Why?

A. I find writing in present tense heightens the tension. It allows the reader to experience everything with the character in real time. As this was a story filled with action, I felt it was the best way to write it.

Q. What is your approach to writing? Do you plot in advance, perhaps chapter by chapter, or make it up as you go along?

A. I started writing Broken Worlds ten years ago. At that time, I just wrote from the top of my head. There wasn’t a lot of planning. But with the second and third book, I started with an outline and plotted the story ahead of time. It changed a bit as I was writing, but the general trajectory of the plot remained the same.

Q. The surprise in the plot of Broken Worlds comes around the half-way point when Ellis reveals that he is different (spoiler alert!) Was this how you created your plot, or did you suddenly decide on this when you reached that point in the book?

A. From the start, I knew Ellis was not going to be the good guy he seemed. I wasn’t sure what that would mean exactly, until I had written a few chapters, and then it came to me—he had to be an alien.

Q. Do you have any tips for upcoming writers on how to get published, traditional or Vanity publishing?

A. If someone wants to get published there are a few things they should do. First of all, read a lot. This way you will discover the types of stories you like to read which should help you decide the type of stories you like to write. I love reading picture books, middle grade and young adult, hence, that’s what I write. Next, write without expecting it to be perfect. Don’t allow the need to be perfect to deter you from writing. Once the words are on the page, then you can go back and edit. Which brings me to my last tip—find a critique partner/writing group to give you feedback and help edit your story. Sometimes what you think you’ve said isn’t what comes across, and a writing buddy can help sort that out, among other things.

Q. Has writing gotten any faster and easier for you since 2014, considering you’ve followed up with two sequels to Broken Worlds?

A. Before Broken Worlds was published, writing felt like a guilty pleasure, because I was the only one who benefitted. I would fit it in between taking care of my kids, working, chores around the house. But after the book was published, I gave myself permission to write most, if not every day, even for 30-40 minutes. Broken Worlds took me almost four years to write, but I finished the first draft of Broken Promises, in eight months.

I wouldn’t say writing has gotten easier. I think I’m better at it, because I spend more time working at my craft. I attend workshops, belong to critique groups where I give and receive feedback, and I write most days.

Q. Is there a favourite among all the characters in Broken Worlds? Why is he/she your favourite?

A. If I had to pick just one character, it would be Sammy. Even though he died very early on in the book, he was very important to me. I felt protective about him and the difficult life he was forced to live at such a young age.

Q. When Kalli returns to her mother’s house, she is greeted by the smell of curry, onions and spices, an obviously very Asian environment. Does this relate to your background and childhood? If so, how?

A. My parents emigrated from India and it was often difficult trying to blend the two cultures—Indian and Canadian. Especially at school. Being a kid is hard enough. Most of us want to fit in with others, but when you look different, it’s almost impossible. I remember being teased and bullied about the colour of my skin and how my hair and clothes would smell like spices and onions. When I got older, I worked hard to douse myself in sprays and perfumes whenever I went out, hoping it would cover the scent of curry. But it was also a very familiar smell, it was the smell of home, so there was also a comfort in it. That’s the part I wanted to bring out for Kalli—the comforting, familiar smell.

Q. The planet Istriya in Broken Worlds is a bleak, dystopian world plagued with pollution and on the brink of collapse, both environmentally and physically. Do you see this as a parallel to our own problems on earth? Was this a part of your theme?

A. I do worry Earth will become like Istriya. Many humans are motivated by profit alone. They don’t look past their need for instant gratification and they don’t take time to consider the detrimental long-term effects of their actions. Earth is our only home, but we are not its only inhabitants. We share this planet with other species, and I don’t believe our needs are any more important than theirs. I believe it’s important when making a decision that we consider—what are the long-term consequences of doing this? What harm will this cause to other species? And is there another way, where the gratification may not be as quick or as large, but it is sustainable for us and other species.

Q. How did you arrive at the names for your characters in Broken Worlds? Is there a science behind this or are names chosen randomly? Is there a connection between names and characters?

A. The main character’s name is Kalyana Farris to reflect her parents mixed marriage. There was no science for choosing the names of the characters for my Broken Worlds trilogy. However, for the middle grade and picture books I write featuring animals as the main characters, I try and choose names that have meanings about those animals. For example, I wrote a picture book about a rhino named Faru. Rhino in Swahili is Kifaru.

Q. What was the greatest stumbling block for you in creating and writing for the character of Ellis—someone of the opposite sex?

A. Ellis was a complex character to write, and not because he was male. Initially, he was manipulative and determined to save his species. But there was also the part of him that didn’t want to cause harm to anyone. As the story continues, he struggles with the realization that his mother is not the good person he thought. He then must figure out a way to save both worlds, his own and Earth. But when it becomes clear he can’t save both, he has to choose, and that was a hard character arc to develop.

Q. Is there a central theme in your three books? What is it?

A. I would have to say there are two themes- is that allowed? The one theme is the effects of greed. The people of Istriya destroyed their planet to the point it became uninhabitable. They were unwilling to change their selfish ways and it resulted in the planet no longer being able to sustain their behaviour. The other theme is love and our need for it and what we are willing to do to find it and then keep it.

Q. If you were to pass on one particular piece of advice to an upcoming writer of Young Adult Science Fiction, what would it be?

A. This is a hard questions, because I don’t consider myself a science fiction writer. The story about Kalli, started as a nightmare, and science fiction allowed me the best vehicle to share it.

Q. Do you have a favourite childhood book? Please share the reason behind your enthusiasm for this book…

A. I love mysteries. One of my favourites as a child were the Meg Mysteries. I have fond memories of sitting on my bed and losing myself in the story.

Q. What other authors and books have influenced your work since then?

A. J. K. Rowling- because I loved reading the Harry Potter series to my kids.

Katherine Applegate- I loved how she brought Ivan to life in The One And Only Ivan. His character, his sad situation, it all just leaped off the page and wrapped around me. I was so desperate to help Ivan. This is the kind of emotion I aspire to create in my readers. I want them to fall in love and care about my characters, so they cheer them on.

Q. Is there a point in your life when you realized that you wanted to become a writer? Please share the circumstances with us.

A. I have always loved writing, but it was never something I considered pursuing as a career. Growing up, I think a lot of emphasis was put on finding a career that would allow me to be financially stable and self-sufficient, and in my family, the arts was never considered a viable option. I wish it had been. I wish I had looked into career paths that involved writing, instead I became a Chartered Accountant. I don’t regret it (well not always). Being an accountant allowed me to work from home when I had my children, so I could be with them. I was able to organize my work around their schedules. But writing was always a part of my life. I would write little stories for my kids. Eventually, I took a few writing courses, devoted more time to writing, and realized how much joy it brings me.

Q. Do you have a fixed routine when you’re writing, or do you wait for the muse to strike you?

A.I try and start each day with yoga. It’s a lovely way to clear my head and I feel good after. I’ve recently decided to cut back my accounting work back to about 10-12 hours per week. I try to get my work done first thing in the morning, so that I have the rest of the day to write or do other things I enjoy.

Q. All the world needs heroes. Tell us about some of the protagonists in your three books. Is there real-life inspiration behind them?

A. The inspiration behind Kalli (other than the nightmare) is all the young girls and women, who are forced to marry someone they don’t want to. It must be frightening to stand up against the pressure to do so, especially if your life could be in danger if you don’t do what is expected.

I feel so sad about the real-life inspiration behind Hadley’s character. She appears in the second novel. She tells her parents she is gay and their reaction forces her to leave her home. During my research, I read that the majority of teen runaways are LGBTQ. They are forced out of their homes because their parents, the ones who are supposed to take care of them, kick them out of the house, for being who they are. It’s heart-breaking.

Q. What is the most difficult part of YOUR artistic process in completing the cycle for one of your books?

A. I still work as an accountant and there are many chores to do around our house- so for me the most difficult part is fitting in the writing, making sure I allow myself time to write.

Q. Do you find the process of writing exhausting or energizing? How do you cope with the physical demands of the profession?

A. I find writing very energizing. I love days when I wake up, knowing for sure I get to write. I don’t find it physically demanding, because I don’t put pressure on myself to write a certain number of words every day. I write because I love it. I think putting pressure on myself would take away the joy and perhaps the creativity.

Q. Is your approach to writing one that encompasses a formula that might meet your reader’s expectation, or do you write to suit yourself?

A. I write about things I care about. I love animals, but since I can’t be like Jane Goodall, who is out there, physically saving the animals, I write about them. I hope my writing will help them in some way.

Q. Did you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people would know of? If so, can you give us a hint?

A. That’s a great idea. Maybe I should start doing this!

Q. What do you consider the mark of success for a writer? How does she know she’s been successful?

A. For me writing is my joy, my relaxation- it’s even a form a therapy. I lose myself in my stories when I write. It makes me happy- and for me that’s success!

Q. Assuming you always think there’s room for improvement, what’s your approach to becoming a better writer?

A. I continue to read, write, and edit. I also find critiquing other writer’s work helps make me a better writer. I can often see my mistakes in their work,

Q. What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

Twitter: @AnithaRobinson.

Website- www.anitharobinson.com

https://anitharobinson.com/blog/

 

Return to Little England by Enrico Downer

Return Little England 20190808_101450

BOOK REVIEW

Return to Little England

A Love Story…and more

Copyright 2019 By Enrico Downer 262 pgs

Published by KDP Independent Publishing

Review by Ken Puddicombe

Author of Racing With The Rain, Junta, and Down Independence Boulevard And Other Stories

In Return to Little England, Enrico Downer’s fourth book, Victor West returns to Barbados on a quest to take his mother’s ashes for burial in her native soil, in keeping with her wishes and, “he feels compelled to spend the rest of his days in the same chattel house close to his mother’s ashes.” In life, Wilhomena West clearly had an overwhelming impact on her son and in death she continues to chart a path for him to follow: “…some inexplicable magnetism seemed to be pulling him back to the spot where he had enshrined his mother’s ashes.” Will Victor also eventually end up with the woman she had earmarked for him?

Resentment thrives in the book, from all sides. In a farewell thrown by his company, an African-American tells him: “I never did like West Indian people…you people come here to my country and…you wanna take over…” Victor faces this dislike because he’s come to America and succeeded. But when he returns to Barbados the young immigration officer chides Barbadians for leaving in the first place: “Maybe they shoulda stayed home an’ put their shoulders to the wheel like the rest of us.” Success, it seems, breeds resentment, even in your homeland.

Victor stops in the Bojangles Bar prior to his return to Barbados. It is where he and Mickey “…anointed the floor with a few drops of Mount Gay (rum) Eclipse.” This seems to be a prevalent practice in the British Caribbean. On the same page, Mickey: “Man I been t’inkin’ o’ goin’ backhome f’r de last twenty-five yeas o’ my life an’ look I still here” is the cry of many of the Caribbean diaspora who long for the warmth and comfort of the land of their birth but continue to brave the cold climate of North America with all its related drawbacks, in order to attain the wealth unobtainable in their native land. For many, tied to their new country, returning home permanently is a dream they gave up a long time ago.

Victor is unapologetic for the four loves he will experience in the book. His mother, Wilhomena, who had a profound influence on his plans, his career and his integration into American society at a time when “race was raising its ugly head.” Valerie, his first love who gave herself freely to him. Zelda, who performed above and beyond the call of her nursing duties. And Barbados, unable to get out it of his blood stream, creating a longing that causes him to hear his mother’s voice “whispering over and over that it was time to go home…time to return to their little island in the sun, the island she called her Little England.”

Our hero thinks of himself as being like “Odysseus coming home after decades of battling the rigours and frictions…” At the time that he left, “Barbados was not free of this rigour and friction…caused more by a class structure and divide between dark and fair…” While abroad, “he longed for his home-grown fare of sweet potatoes…” with a nostalgia that opened up an unquenchable thirst for such fare. Victor is typical of many native sons who are blind to their country’s many appealing features, only to yearn for them when abroad and eventually re-discover them on return.

Barbados gained independence in November 1966 when British colonies around the world were negotiating theirs. Victor finds when he returns four decades later that the situation has not changed much. Valerie tells him: “We Bajans still have our hang-ups. Sometimes I am a white woman and sometimes I’m black and sometimes I’m neither.” The colour gap is alive and well in Barbados. This divide and overt bias also seems to be consistent among many Caribbean societies, at home and abroad. Colorism, described by Alice Walker in her book In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens: Womanist Proseis “Prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group. [my italics].” Valerie was “welcomed…in the banking industry in Bridgetown (the Capital) where white was almost as stellar a qualification as any other.” Caribbean and Guyanese societies, it seems, are still fascinated with and ruled by the old dominant colonial era policy of colour and creed, similar to the Divide and Rule doctrine.

Victor comes from a long line of strong, proud and independent women. His maternal grandmother traced her treeall the way back to (sugar) plantation workers and “she kept a bamboo-framed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation hanging above her bed…” His mother Wilhomena, an enterprising woman, leaves for America when she is in her 40’s, a bold and courageous step by any measure. And Victor, himself, at the age of 13 goes to America and is in his 50’s when he decides to leave all he’s worked for in the land of milk and honey and head back to a country with which he’s not kept in touch, and an environment with which he is no longer familiar. The entire West family, it seems, an enterprising lot, are not afraid to explore new horizons.

But Victor finds what he sees on the island doesn’t fit with his memories—“the roads had shrunken, and distances seemed half of what they used to be. People…standing still…this air of lassitude as if the island had been taking a break…” The risk every re-migrant faces—the drastic change in pace and the difficulty in adapting. “He was still possessed with that intractable sense of urgency…the frenetic rush of big city life was still in his blood.” Can he adapt? Only time will tell. He will also find that the village of Seclusion is not the same, the older folks he knew (the cobbler, the tailor, the carpenter) have all passed on and have been replaced with two new generations in the four decades since he left. There is also a hint that the changes in the society have not all been for the good since “Windows and doors were reinforced with decorative steel bars…not how he remembered them as a boy.” Victor has to face the challenge of coping with local jealousy over the perceived new-found wealth being brought back with him; add the bitterness of a local population faced with the vicissitudes of a post-independent uncertain economy and political structure. And “they told him the streets at night were riddled with crime and fights between the young broke out with frightening regularity.” In this, Victor’s challenge is no different from any re-migrant in every Caribbean island, and Guyana. Has he replaced the hectic pace with insecurity? Is there really security if he has to keep looking over his shoulder in his environment?

Author Downer paints a picture of a rural Barbados—like so many other societies— controlled by superstition and living with customs and mores that rarely change in time. “A black sheet had been placed across the mirror of her (his mother’s) bureau to frustrate the evil spirits that visited Bajan houses at night…” In a scene later in the book, “It suddenly dawned upon him (Victor) that the woman was not real flesh and blood, that she was an evil spirt.” Even after his four decades abroad, Victor is enthralled by the spirts that haunt his old country. Will he ever overcome this propensity to believe in the occult?

Downer’s picture of rural Barbados also includes no indoor plumbing and “Every morning…his (Victor’s) first chore was to grab two galvanized buckets and head off to the standpipe three blocks down…” Even on his return he finds the same conditions, heading to the same standpipe, relieving himself in the “doorless outhouse.” It’s a brave soul who would desert the comfort of his amenities in America to return to this!

Victor soon explores his native land and finds “rolling hills of green and quilted fields in the valley that reminded the English of England.” Indeed, with over a million visitors to the island every year, half of those come from the mother country. “His homeland had awoken from her spell, but his people had not yet thrown off the cloak of Britishness they had worn from birth…One-armed Horatio Nelson was still standing on his pedestal…(in) the Square of Heroes (which) was once Trafalgar Square.” But Victor also recognizes that “the crush of visitors” have driven the “400 thousand-year-old coral floor…sea anemones…on the way to extinction.” Will this move away from industry and agriculture and growing dependence on tourism, like so many Caribbean nations, result in an eventual Paradise Lost?

Panama is a recurring theme in the story. Close to 20,000 Barbadians (10% of the population and about 40% of adult men at that time) worked on the Panama Canal in its heyday. The effect on the economy of Barbados in the 1904-14 period of canal building cannot be overstated, nor can the impact of father-less households when Bajan men didn’t make it back to the island. Fifty-six hundred workers died on the project, about 4,700 of them West Indians and Bajans must have figured prominently in that death toll—the reason Victor’s father never made it back to his homeland. In Barbados, it was the mother who had to set the tone of discipline and run the household. The bartender in the local rum shop tells Victor: “They was strict, worse than de father, if de chile had a father. Dese mothers use-ed to rule de house like a general. They never spare de rod.” Such a woman must have been Wilhomena West.

In the days following his return to his native land, Victor will find, like so many re-migrants who’ve spent a life time abroad and are like salmon fighting an upstream battle to return to their spawning grounds—that only the bravest and most resilient will make it. While he lost a mother he gained a wife; lost a lover and gained a son…left the rat race behind and settled for the peace and calm of an island he couldn’t get out of his blood. Will this lead to true happiness? The reader will discover.

AMAZON LINK FOR Return to Little England

https://www.amazon.com/Return-Little-England-Love-Story-ebook/dp/B07QHJGJG6/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=return+to+little+england&qid=1564245944&s=gateway&sr=8-1

Under The Tamarind Tree by Rosaliene Bacchus

UNDER THE TAMARIND TREE

 Copyright 2019 By Rosaliene Bacchus 284 pgs

Published by Lulu Press, Inc. USA

Review by Ken Puddicombe

 

Front Cover - Under the Tamarind Tree

The fruit of the Tamarind Tree holds a puzzling allure to people in the tropics, its tangy and acidic fruit devoured obsessively, even as it stimulates the taste buds with spasms of unpleasantness that last long after the fruit is consumed. The tree becomes a symbolic forewarning of all that befalls the colony of Guiana and its main protagonist, Richard Cheong—taste at your peril, because there is a price to pay!

The book is filled with images that evoke this obsession with the tamarind tree, like when Richard “looked up at the bright green tree, towering over him like a vengeful judge. The way their fine feathery leaves folded up at dusk used to fascinate him as a kid. No more.” The Tamarind Tree reminded him of the guilt (over an illicit affair) and shame (that he had lost his son and heir). Richard’s best friend, Wesley describes Richard’s sister Mildred, who is Richard’s main foil in the plot: “She’s like tamarind: sour-face with a hard soul like the tamarind seed.”

The book starts in 1953, when Guiana is still a colony, the only British possession in all of South America. Nationalism is rearing its head in British colonies around the world and Guiana is no exception. The colony is a polyglot of languages and cultures: Hindi and Urdu from India; Chinese mainly from Hong Kong and some from the mainland; Portuguese mostly from Madeira, all of these passed down by the older generation of indentured workers brought to the colony by the British planters as a deliberate ploy to supplant the African slaves (after the abolition of slavery in 1833) and suppress wages. Add these languages to the pidgin English of the Blacks already there and you arrive at a creole mish-mash. Along with their languages, these people also brought the rich culture of their homeland. Richard Cheong, the main protagonist is caught between these societies throughout the book which is rich with the cultural heritage of the Portuguese and Chinese Catholics and British Anglicans, the Muslims, the Hindus getting married in their own rites.

Richard is also superstitious, like his forebearers. He has an ongoing conversation with his dead younger brother Eddie and his father. This is almost driving him crazy, and the reader gets into his head as he is thinking of his wife and deceased son: Pa, I don’t know she (his wife Gloria) no more. She want to live in dead people house, like she still holding on to jumbies (evil spirits). This obsession with his deceased son and the yearning to have another will eventually create a chasm between him and his wife. His older sister Mildred tells him: “All you wanted was a stupid son. Did it ever occur to you to ask your wife what shewanted?” At one time, beset by personal problems and conflict with Gloria, he thinks: I should-a know the damn tamran tree was a bad omen. He even threatens the tree at one time: “I going cut you down, limb by limb,” as if this would solve all his problems! He thinks of his wife: An obeah-man had given her control over his (Richard’s) mind. Superstition controls Richard and rules the land.

The book is filled with the Guyanese twang born out of this array of languages that has bred a paucity in the way Guyanese speak, creole like, at a rapid pace that takes liberties in the grammar that many in the English-speaking world would find difficult to decipher. It has a rhythm and meaning all of its own. Like when Richard tells his pregnant wife: “You ain’t sleep good last night. Go lie down. I making breakfast.” Or when he describes the death of his child to Mama Chips: “My baby son dead. The cord cut off he air.” The death of his son is a harbinger for all that subsequently befalls Richard, since his obsession with having a male heir is typical Guyanese male swagger and he grows blind to his wife Gloria’s needs. At one point in the book he even blames himself for his marital problems, but in typical machismo style: “It’s all my fault. I was too soft with her (Gloria). I should-a listen to Lach (his friend) and show her I was the boss…” Spousal and emotional abuse is not outside the realm of showing a woman who is the boss and infidelity is built into the psyche of the Guianese male of the era: He needed Gertrude (his mistress—called an “outside woman” in local terms) [for him] to be a man again…to numb the pain of losing his only son.

In1953 the Guiana constitution was suspended by the British under the perception that the country was threatened by Communism, this at a time when Britain was governed by the Conservatives under Churchill, an avid anti-communist. British troops were sent to “retake the colony from the upstart nationalist socialists/ communists” and the country lost its self-government. In the book the Guiana Labor Party under Lalkumar (actually the Peoples Progressive Party [PPP] under Cheddi Jagan) is swiftly thrown out of office and the leaders incarcerated. The Peoples National Congress (PNC) that was headed by Forbes Burnham is represented by an ambitious Baxter. The third opposition party, United Force (UF), “the newly founded Portuguese party” led by Peter D’Aguiar is headed by the fictional Xavier.

Bacchus captures the upcoming racial conflict, disturbances, racial cleansing (“Some-a-we gotta leave the village we great-grandparents live in and move to a more safe village…”), and insecurity between the two main races: Indians and Blacks. The riots and conflagration in 1962 when arsonists burnt down the business section of the city was a turning point in the security and stability of the country, a time after which police had to carry arms.

In a moment of lucidity, when his daughter Lizzie asks, “Why are blacks and East Indians fighting?” Richard replies: “I think it got something to do with old hurts. From the days when slavery did end. Trouble start when the white people start bringing ships full a East Indians to work in the cane fields.” And she, in a moment of precocious perspicacity, says: “But that was a long time ago.” It does not explain that this inherent hostility handed down through generations had something to do with slavery being replaced by an indentured system tying East Indians to the land. Nor does it account for the resentment of freed slaves that the hoped-for fair wages they sought from the plantocracy disappeared into thin air due to the cheap wages paid to those indentured workers.

Tamarind Tree is also a nostalgic walk through the yesteryear of a former British Colony where some of its inhabitants still yearn for the good old dayswhen they feel they were able to walk the streets safely, where they can claim things were much better off under the British. The local girls are said to be enamored with the white soldiers and look upon them as a way out of the colony into a better future. People suffer under the illusion that a move to the mother country is a means to living a good life and the road to independence holds untold risks. Richard’s mother-in-law Dorothy describes her husband, Winston Henry, a police officer and main antagonist: “But you know how father is. He more loyal than the Englishmen.” His is a typical colonial view shared by those who didn’t  think the colony was capable of self-government or independence. And who knows, perhaps the post-independence era might very well contribute to this outlook.

Richard: His dream of breaking away from the Lee-a-Shoo (his employer) family hung out of reach, like a kite trapped atop a coconut palm. It becomes an apt allegory for the colony as it strives for independence, its constitution (one of the most progressive in the British Caribbean at that time) suspended and the drive for self-government thrust decades back. But, ever the entrepreneurial spirit imbedded in him, like his ancestors and many Guianese, Richard starts a chicken farm and eventually strives to break the ties that bind him to his father-in-law, this in parallel with the drive for independence from Britain. His farm is in the outskirts of Georgetown and he ponders over his separate life from his family: Why me and my family gotta live separate like this? This is the price for we independence? His independence, it seems, has to come with a price, similar to the colony.

Elections are held before independence in May 1966 and the system has been changed to Proportional Representation—a deliberate move engineered by the British and American governments to keep the socialist Jagan (ala Lakumar) out of power and hand power over to the opposition parties. British soldiers patrol to keep the uneasy peace. The exodus has begun: “Richard passed people lined up outside the American Embassy in Georgetown.” The business class and the rich have started transporting their wealth abroad. The middle class seek visas for America and Canada and other nations.

There is hope. “…the tamarind tree, glorious with yellow blossoms and pink buds, leaves and blooms covered the rain soaked black earth.” In the end, Evelyn, his sister, tells Richard: “I’m glad you’re finally seeing the light.” It is too late for Richard to find the happiness he desperately sought with Gloria. But he is consoled by the fact that his oldest daughter Lizzie is devoted to him. His business has started to prosper, too. There is hope for his future, but we’re not sure about the future of the Tamarind Tree and the new country of Guyana. Richard says in the 1968 election which was manipulated with massive fraud at home and abroad: “Independence is only a big word. The white people still running the show.” The country is being turned into the world’s first socialist cooperative republic and a dictatorship runs the country, but life goes on.

Under The Tamarind Tree adds to the glorious collection of literature by Guyanese abroad writing about a tempestuous era that is too swiftly glossed over and forgotten in the world of power politics.

UNDER THE TAMARIND TREE CAN BE OBTAINED HERE

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rosaliene_Bacchus

 

 

 

MIDDLEROAD PUBLISHERS

PUBLISHED BY MIDDLEROAD PUBLISHERS


RACING WITH THE RAIN (2012) by Ken Puddicombe

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JUNTA (2014) by Ken Puddicombe

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DOWN INDEPENDENCE BOULEVARD AND OTHER STORIES (2017) by Ken Puddicombe


PERFECT EXECUTION AND OTHER STORIES (2017) by Michael Joll

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PEOPLE OF GUYANA by Ian McDonald and Peter Jailall (2018)

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DANCING MY WAY TO 80 (2019 Private Publication) by Doris Naraine

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WITNESSES AND OTHER STORIES (2019) by Raymond Holmes

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INSPECTOR MASTERS INVESTIGATES PERSONS OF INTEREST (2019) by Michael Joll

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FOR BOOKS PUBLISHED BY MIDDLEROAD PUBLISHERS

GO TO

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Karen Fenech -Author

Karen Fenech is a USA Today bestselling author of romantic suspense.  When Karen’s not writing or spending time with her family, she loves to shop, watch movies, or just kick Karen Fenech -- author photo submitted to International Thriller Writersback in a comfortable chair and read.

Karen, I really appreciate that you have taken time to do this interview for my Blog. I’d like to talk about your writing career, so far.

My great pleasure, Ken. Thank you for inviting me.

Q. You’ve said, in your bio, that you wanted to write since you were eleven years old, and you actually wrote a book based on the Nancy Drew mysteries. What ever happened to that book?

A. Oh, boy. : ) I remember putting those pages in a binder but draw a blank after that. I can’t recall what happened to that binder. It would be fun to take a look at those pages now.

Q. I imagine, as a young girl of eleven, you were heavily influenced by the Nancy Drew mysteries, as is perhaps typical for many girls of that age. What was it about the Nancy Drew mysteries that interested YOU?

A. I loved solving the mysteries along with Nancy and her friends. I loved following the clues along with Nancy.

Q. Your first novel, Unholy Angels, was written over a two-year period and released in 2004. Has writing gotten any faster and easier for you since 2004?

A. Yes, writing a novel now does not take me two years. I’m not sure about writing becoming easier, however. I try to challenge myself with each new book, to push beyond my comfort zone. That makes things hairy at times.

Q. What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? Do you have a fixed routine or do you wait for the muse to strike you, like many writers?

A. I have a work schedule to meet writing deadlines. I find that I need to get business work out of the way before I can write and so I do that first thing and then write in the afternoon. If I’m deep into a book, I will often return to write late at night, continuing into the early hours of the morning. There’s something I love about writing late at night.

Q. You’ve achieved an extensive oeuvre so far in your climb to publishing success. You’ve got three series on the go: The Malice Series, The Protector Series, The Surrender Series. In addition, there are stand-alone books and a Short Story Collection. How do you find the time to keep up with all of this?

A. I know what I’m going to write before I sit down to do the actual writing. I outline each book. I may veer in terms of scenes I’d envisioned in the outline, but I don’t veer from the plot points or when each needs to be presented / revealed in the story.

I know the number of words I need to write each day to meet my deadlines. Things don’t always go according to plan. Life sometimes changes things. I account for that in my writing schedule, just in case.

Q. Who decides whether a series has been tapped out and can go no more, and it’s time to start another—you or your publisher? Can you tell us what factors are employed in determining this?

A. The ones who ultimately decide the fate of a series are the readers. It’s reader interest and support that determine whether or not a series will continue. Fortunately for writers, our readers are awesome and very supportive of their beloved series.

Q. Do you think it will reach the point where ideas for new plots and books will start to tax your creativity? If not, can you share your secret in avoiding this? If you think you might reach that point in future, how do you plan on overcoming this?

A. I don’t think creativity will be taxed. It may seem that way, but I think as we mature as writers, we become more selective of the ideas we choose to turn into books. Life experience and the point we are at in our lives also play a factor, I think.

I love the planning process when all things are possible. I get my creative juices flowing by constantly asking “what if”. I like a nice quiet walk along a beach or a snow-covered path to help me plan.

Q. What kind of research did you do for your books and how much time does it take? What are your sources, typically?

A. Research depends on the plot and the time period in which a book is set. For my historical, I consulted non-fiction books for specific information such as medicines and healing practices of the day.

For every day life, I was fortunate to come across a book written as a journal by people who’d lived during the time period I was writing in. The day-to-day accountings of every day life provided good insight into what it was like to live at that time. I found these accountings lent authenticity to my characters.

For my contemporary books with FBI and other law enforcement characters, I usually consult directly with specific agencies. I also consult with professionals in a given area where a book is set. For example, I needed to know decomposition of a body over a certain time period in hot weather and reached out to a coroner in that area for that specific information.

Regarding the length of time spent on research, it varies, dependent upon how deeply I need to go into a subject. Sometimes, though, I do get carried away. I find research fascinating.

Q. How do you arrive at the names for your characters? Is there a science behind this or are names chosen randomly? Is there a connection between names and characters?

A. Other than not naming characters after anyone I know, I choose names at will. I feel like a new parent, taking a look at my newborn for the first time and considering what name would suit my child. : )

Q. What is the most difficult part of YOUR artistic process in completing the cycle for one of your books?

A. Declaring a book as finished, I think. I tend to go over the material many times before I’m satisfied with it.

Q. If you couldn’t be an author, what would your career be?

A. I can’t imagine doing anything else. : )

Q. Do you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?

A. If I decided to also write in a different genre, I would introduce a pseudonym to distinguish the books.

Q. Did you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people would know of?

A. That sounds like fun, but, no. That might be something to ask my readers about going forward, to include them in a secret.

Q. There are actors who will not see a movie they’ve appeared in, after it’s completed. Do you ever read your books after they are published? If so, why? If not, why not?

A. I keep notes on happenings in each of the series books, but I always reread the last book in a series before I write the next book in that series.

I also reread the last book to regain the feel for the tone of the series. Each series has a different feel to it and I want to be sure to remain true to that tone.

Q. What do you think are the most important magazines/journals for aspiring writers to subscribe to?

A. When I began, I read Writers’ Digest and The Writer. Since the advent of self-publishing, I think a lot of good information can be found online at sites about writing and publishing. A Google search reveals many good sites to explore. It’s wonderful to have access to so much valuable information.

Q. What do you consider the mark of success for a writer? How does she know she’s been successful?

A. Success differs for everyone. I think happiness = success. If writers are happy when writing their stories, then they can count themselves a success.

Q. What’s the most difficult stumbling block for you in writing characters of the opposite sex?

A. I take time to consider outlook. Though faced with the same situation, people will not necessarily view it the same. I like to take time to put both my male and female characters in that same situation to find those differences.

Q. Is writing cathartic in any way for you? If so, how and why?

A. I’ve read of writers who deliberately write about things that frighten them as a way to work through that fear. I’ve been very fortunate and have never experienced anything that has frightened me to a point where it has stayed with me beyond that moment. That said, I do write through things that are troubling me, be they writing related or personal.

Q. Is there a central theme in your books? Is there a common message to the reader?

A. I hope when my readers close one of my books they feel they have read a story in which women are also heroes, each in her own way, each capable of courage, persistence, strong belief in her own abilities, and of giving great love and deserving of it.

Q. If it’s not giving away any trade secrets, what’s your next project / What are you working on now?

A. I’m currently working on the sixth book in my Protectors series.

Q. If you were to pass on one particular piece of advice to an upcoming writer of Historical Romance Fiction and suspense novels, what would it be?

A. I think to any writer, regardless of genre, I would say, be our own cheerleader. Celebrate each piece of our writing.

Q. Taking into account the massive changes in technology that are spearheading a move towards an electronic medium for books, where do you think the writing profession is heading?

A. It’s a wonderful time to be a writer. We have so many opportunities and outlets for our work. We have the great fortune to be in direct contact with our readers and build friendships. I think this close contact may pave the way for interactive books.

Q. What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

A. I love to hear from readers. Please do reach out to me through my website email. Due to writing deadlines and the volume of incoming mail, it may take a while for a response. I appreciate your understanding and your patience. Thank you to all for writing

WEBSITE: https://www.karenfenech.com

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/KarenFenechsFriends?ref=hl

EMAIL: karen@karenfenech.com

Karen, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Here’s wishing you all the best in your future writing and other endeavours.

Ken, thank you. It’s been so nice spending time with you and your readers.

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Raymond Holmes: Writing

Ray Holmes

Raymond Holmes in Brampton, Ontario.  He writes plays, novellas and short stories. His stories have been published in Unleashed Ink, an anthology created by the Barrie Writers Club, The Northern Appeal, a Simcoe County literary magazine and Commuterlit, a Toronto based ezine. His plays Boris and Hermanand The Lonely Vigil Of Emily Baxterhave been performed at the South Simcoe Theatre in Cookstown, Ontario. The latter play was awarded third prize in the 2014 Ottawa Little Theatre Playwriting Contest. His play The Pooman, will be read at the South Simcoe Theatre in June, 2018. Raymond also enjoys making furniture and playing the violin, although he admits to performing the latter activity rather poorly.

 

AN ENEMY IN OUR KITCHEN 

That incident in 1953 when I was nine years old has festered in me ever since; a malignant thing pressing on a nerve. The curtain of carefree, innocent childhood opened to reveal the occasionally hateful, intolerant world of adults.

At public school that year, Rick Sakamoto sat in the desk behind me. Some kids in our class called him names like “slitty-eyed chink.” His race didn’t matter to me. I liked Rick and wanted him for a friend.

A quiet, polite boy, he possessed a remarkable, natural talent for drawing. Anything I drew appeared stick-like and silly, but Rick and his HB pencil made it look effortless. He could sketch military aircraft and war machines that appeared realistic and I admired him for that ability. World War II had been over for eight years by then, but movies and the army surplus stores along Toronto’s Queen Street kept it alive in our imaginations. It was all heroism and excitement to us.

On several occasions I invited Rick to see my collection of model fighter aircraft, but he always declined, offering some excuse. After my birthday, I asked him again.

“We can have chocolate cake and you can see my collection of lead soldiers,” I said.

He accepted. I felt light and excited.

I thought that mild, October day in the classroom would never end. The hands of the wall clock crept like a puddle freezing over. At last the 3:15 p.m. school bell rang and we ran out through the large double doors of the building to my home three blocks away.

Upon entering through the back porch so as not to disturb Dad in his store-front barber shop, my Mother smiled and greeted us as we walked into the kitchen infused with the fragrant aroma of her cooking.

She cut two slabs of dark, three-layer chocolate cake covered with thick icing left over from my birthday the previous Saturday and poured two tall glasses of milk.

We were enjoying this after-school treat when the kitchen door opened and Dad entered. He started to say something to Mom then looked over at us. His mouth curved down; the face twisted and flushed.

“What’s hedoing here?” he said, jerking his head toward Rick.

Mother’s face warped. “Jimmy—please—don’t—” she pleaded, before being cut off by Dad’s yelling.

“You—get out!” he said to Rick. “We don’t want your kind in this house.”

My mind raced and stomach fluttered. What had we done?

Rick’s yellowish complexion whitened. His eyes widened and stared like a cornered animal; right hand suspending a fork in mid-air; unmoving mouth filled with cake.

After a tense, silent interval, my father jabbed a finger at him and spewed a staccato command like a volley of bullets.

“Get – out—of—here—now.”

I watched horrified as Rick laid down his fork, wiped the milky moustache from his mouth with a shirt sleeve, then got up and left. My body stiffened; the skin on my neck and face crawled.

As the screen door on the back porch clicked shut, Dad screamed through the half-opened window, “Don’t ever come back here again,” before returning to his shop, slamming the kitchen door behind him.

The colour slipped from Mother’s ruddy face. She looked down at the floor; white-knuckled hands scrunching her apron into a white rope.

Things had moved so quickly. The world seemed upside down. I wanted to hide.

“What did we do?  What’s wrong?” I burbled, through tears.

Mom’s chin trembled. “You boys didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Then why did Dad yell at Rick and tell him to leave?”

“Because Rick is a Japanese boy,” she said.

Why did that matter? I thought Rick was Chinese like the people who owned the corner restaurant.

“Why did that make Dad so mad?”

“During the war, the Japanese attacked the Americans at Pearl Harbour in 1941,” she explained. “Canada believed they were our enemies, too. Some people, including your father, still hate all Japanese people even though the war is over now.”

“But Rick didn’t do anything bad. That was before he was born.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Then why did Dad blame him?”

“Sometimes grown-ups do, and say things that are wrong and unfair.”

I glanced at the kitchen door leading to the shop and stiffened. Would my father return and punish me?

~~

The next morning I dreaded going to school. Mom yanked the covers off me and said to get up. How could I face Rick sitting behind me in class? I felt ashamed of what had happened.

I pushed breakfast away. Mom sat down beside me and curled her arm around my shoulder.

“Listen. What the military people in Japan did was bad, but Japanese people living here in Canada can’t be blamed for that,” she said. ”What your Dad did was wrong, but the War caused a lot of pain and suffering. War is just a game to you boys, but many people were killed and maimed for life. Some Canadians, including your father, want to blame all Japanese people for what happened no matter where they were born.”

“But that’s not right,” I said.

“I know, but some people can’t forgive what happened in the past.”

“But the bible says we have to forgive others. I don’t understand why Dad can’t forgive.”

“Sometimes when a person feels wronged by a group of people they seek revenge. Innocent people can be hurt.”

“Will you ask Dad to forgive Japanese people and let Rick come here,” I said.

Mother shook her head with eyes sadder than I’d ever seen before.

“I’m afraid my asking him won’t do any good, son, but you must not act the way your father did. Always treat others the way you want to be treated and speak out when bad things are done to them. Wrongs added to wrongs will never make a right. They’ll just make things worse. Hate hurts the hater too.”

“I’m afraid to tell Dad he was wrong. He’ll get mad at me.”

“I understand,” she said. “Perhaps with time your father will realize that what he did was hurtful. Good people like your Dad still have faults.”

She stood up, bent down close to my face, and put her hands on my shoulders. “I want you to do something very important.”

“What?”

“Apologize to Rick. If you do that, I will be very proud of you.”

What could I say that would make the previous day’s hate and abuse go away?

~~

On the slow walk to class my shoes scuffed along the sidewalk. I saw Rick standing alone against the schoolyard fence watching a group of boys kicking a ball around.

What would he do when I approached? Would he strike out at me? I didn’t have the heart to fight back. I kicked at the black cinders covering the yard, avoiding eye contact.

“I’m sorry about yesterday,” I mumbled. “My father was wrong to say those things and make you leave our house.”

Rick’s shoulders curled in and he bit his lower lip. He wasn’t angry which surprised me.

“He can’t forgive what Japan did in the war and hates all Japanese people for it,” I said.

Rick raised his head. “It wasn’t your fault. We’re used to it now,” he said.

I knew he was bullied, but did you ever get used to it?

“It happens a lot,” he continued. “My parents moved here to get away from it, but last week a man spit at my father and called him a dirty name.”

“Where did your mom and dad come from?” I asked.

“British Columbia. My father was a fisherman. So was my grandfather and great-grandfather. My Dad had a big boat. We have a picture of it.”

“That province is far away in Western Canada. It’s on the map in our classroom,” I said.

“Mom, Dad and my uncle lived near the ocean. My parents said it was nice. There were mountains and lots of trees.”

“Why did they leave?”

“They had to.”

“Why?”

“The government made them go. They said all Japanese people were Canada’s enemies because of the war.”

“My mother told me about that. She said it wasn’t true.”

Ricks lower lip quivered. “They told my parents they couldn’t live near the ocean any more. The government people came at night and took away their house and everything else. A strange man said Dad’s boat was his now. All they could take with them was a suitcase. Mom cried when she left her house.”

A cold dread penetrated me. How could someone take away everything you own?

“Where did they make them go?”

“To a camp far away from the coast. They gave them a small cabin to live in. I was born there.”

“Gee, that’s awful,” I stuttered.

Rick’s head dropped. Sniffling, he went on. “They worked hard all day growing stuff and stayed there a long time. My uncle hated it, hurt himself, and died. After the war, government people said my parents had to go to Japan or move east. They didn’t know anyone in Japan so they came here. My dad works in a factory now, but he’s sick a lot. Mom has bad dreams and pains in her head.”

“Can’t they go back?” I said. “Wouldn’t things be better there now?”

Rick’s face hardened and his voice elevated. “Dad says there’s nothing to go back to.”

 “I’m sorry,” I said.

A defeated look crossed Rick’s face. He wiped his eyes. “Gotta go now—bye,” he said, before turning and walking away to our classroom.

~~

From then on things weren’t the same between us. I felt guilty about what happened in our house and sorry for his family’s ordeal. My father’s words must have cut his heart like a knife. A barrier arose between us; a wall of hurt that saying “sorry” a thousand times couldn’t break down. He still sat behind me, but we rarely spoke, and he stopped showing me his drawings.

Some boys kept calling him names. I wanted to beat them up for that, but they were bigger and tougher than I was.

After Christmas, Rick moved away. I never saw him again and always wondered what his life had been like. I hope it was good.

~~

Decades later the Canadian government issued an apology to Japanese-Canadians for what was done to them and offered compensation. I read that announcement with adult eyes, and memories of that long-ago day returned like the taste of sour milk.

Many of the Japanese people directly affected by those actions were in their graves by then. They were Canadians; born here, who happened to be of Japanese ethnic origin. The idea that Canada could do that to its rightful citizens was chilling. Could it happen again?

Yes, there was an enemy in our kitchen that day, but it wasn’t little Rick Sakamoto.