Barbadian lawyer writes about race, class, murder in first book

Book cover of ÒHow The OneÐArm Sister Sweeps her HouseÓ by Cherie Jones.
Book cover of “How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps her House” by Cherie Jones.

Barbadian lawyer and author, Cherie Jones, while discussing her first novel “How The One–Armed Sister Sweeps her House” on Good Morning America, (GMA) last Friday, said that it was important to acknowledge that “we are that picture perfect paradise that everyone sees on post cards.”

However, Jones, whose volume is GMA’s February Book Club pick, noted that “for some of these characters, yes, there is the beautiful beach, but there are also the problems, that people in any other country in the world would experience.”

The fiction explores race and class, murder and grief, all set against the backdrop of wealth, British tourist, and working class Bajans, while telling the story of 18-year-old Lala, torn between two worlds.

The author said being an attorney helped her to develop certain skills, such as the ability to ask good questions. “And I like to say, the characters, who are willing to talk to me don’t always tell the whole truth.”

She said the process started when she was working in the United Kingdom. “While traveling home on the bus, during the last stage of my commute, it was very cold, and basically this character popped into my head, and started telling me her story, and by the end of the bus ride I was convinced that this was a story I needed to write,” shared the author, who has been influenced by authors including Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou.

Jones, a past fellowship awardee of the Vermont Studio Centre and a recipient of the Archie Markham Award and A.M. Heath Prize from Sheffield Hallam University (UK) delved into the complex daily lives of a family of women, their associates and lovers, as they navigate the harsh reality of abusive relationships.

The story that looks into sexual abuse and domestic violence, Jones said, was difficult to write to the extent that she had to put down the volume, before picking it up again. “But it was also a compulsion to finish writing,” she said, adding that telling the story of Lala was therapeutic, and through her own words, Jones, a victim of abuse, found healing.

“These women are doing the best that they can, based on what they have experienced. For me, the connection between the sense of dis-empowerment and depression, is very much like losing a voice, and I thought that was a very good way, creatively to portray the trauma that some of these women face.”

“I do hope that in reading this story, there is at least one person perhaps, who find some value,” she said, advising them, “to share the experience, the trauma, the difficult, because it is only in speaking up and out that transformation is possible.”

Jones who is working on a novel set in Trinidad post-emancipation, as well as a collection of flash fiction, said Barbadian superstar, Grammy Award-winner, Rihanna, and Award-winning movie star, Viola Davis, are her picks to record the audio version of “How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House.

The novel that Entertainment Weekly called ‘devastatingly good,’ Refinery 29 described as ‘unforgettable,’ and Good Housekeeping called ‘transporting,’ has been critically acclaimed by several publications including the The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post.

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